Smaller Counties Lag Behind on Internet

WASHINGTON (07/18/2000) - In a survey conducted by the National Association of Counties this spring, 22 percent of counties without World Wide Web sites said they have no plans to develop one.

Twenty-three percent, or 714, of the nation's counties responded to the survey.

The results were released Monday at the association's annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

"That's a disturbing statistic," said Costis Toregas, president of Public Technology Inc., a nonprofit technology organization for cities and counties in the United States. "There is no county [that] e-government is not [appropriate] for."

The survey also found that how much a county uses technology often depends on the size of the county. In larger counties, personal computers are available to most employees, the survey found, but not so in smaller counties. Only a third of the counties said that all of their departments have e-mail access.

Nearly 61 percent of counties have Web sites. Of those that don't, 15 percent plan to develop one. Of the 236 responding counties with 50,000 or more people, 211 have Web sites.

Of those counties that have a Web site or plan to have one soon, 48 percent said they plan to use it to provide information. Only 8 percent said they'll use the site for transactions as well.

The few counties dabbling with electronic transactions were most interested in allowing access to county records. The next most desirable activities were Web mapping/geographic information system capability and bid proposals. Next came citizen surveys/polls and voter registration. Allowing the public to pay property taxes, obtain court records or participate in auctions were less popular options.

The main obstacle preventing counties from embracing the Internet is money, respondents said. Other problems include staffing, security, implementation/maintenance, keeping up with new technology and a lack of a technology infrastructure.

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