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Dec. 12, 2001: Government Technology
Residents of several California cities now have the means to file complaints and requests for service online and then track their status at their local government's Web site.
Sometimes referred to as customer relationship management software, the solution allows users to communicate with city staff, get answers to basic questions, receive e-mail updates about problems and to link up with other transactional services, such as business permits or park and recreation reservations.
In Laguna Hills, Calif., pop. 33,000, the city plans to use the software, known as RequestPartner, to enhance services to both residents and businesses by providing round-the-clock access via the city's Web site.
"All too often, residents or businesses identify a problem, but have to wait until the start of the city's business hours to express their concern or interest," said City Manager Bruce Channing.
The service-request software allows a resident to fill out a form on the Internet that is routed directly to the employee charged with the task. The public can also ask to receive e-mail notification of when the job will be completed. Channing said he also likes the software's ability to produce reports about requests from citizens and businesses.
"It will let us easily track the number of communications from the public in regards to requests for service and the timeliness of our response," he explained.
RequestPartner is available from GovPartner, as both a stand-alone software application or as a service hosted at the company's data center. Pricing starts at $5,000 for implementation and $500 per month for cities with a population less than 50,000; pricing increases according to population.
Sunnyvale, Calif. (pop. 130,000) has been using the software as a hosted service for several weeks, according to CIO Shawn Hernandez. The software is currently used to track how the IT department is supporting other city agencies, but will soon be available to the public for service requests.
The city already uses the company's other software applications for online permitting and park reservation management, but this is the first time the city has tried a software program that is hosted by a vendor on its own computers.
"It makes so much sense," said Hernandez about the hosted model. "I don't have to have the resources, or make sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to do, to make the application run smoothly."
A growing number of cities want the benefits of e-government without expensive labor and infrastructure costs. By subscribing to an application rather than buying it outright, they can avoid hardware, software license, upgrade, maintenance and staffing expenses.
Local governments are also eager to develop "automated communications" services with the public, according to Leland Vandiver, GovPartner's CTO.
"Cities and counties want solutions that allow non-technical experts, such as city staffers, to develop and manage a Web dialog with citizens," he said. "They can do that with RequestPartner."
Return to: 2001 Feature Stories