November 30, 2006 10:29 AM PST

America's most digital cities? Think Sun Belt

If you want to live in a "digital city," you might want to start looking to the Rocky Mountains or south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Florida. Arizona. Colorado. Southern California. To some of us, these might sound like vacation destinations or Sun Belt retiree getaways. But according to the Folsom, Calif.-based Center for Digital Government's 2006 "Digital Cities Rankings," these regions are home to some of the most technologically astute municipal governments in the country.

The center, a research and advisory group that looks at information technology policy within state and local governments, focused specifically on municipal efforts. Criteria examined for the study included the ability to pay utility bills, park fees and traffic citations online; the online availability of meeting minutes from city governing bodies; and the adoption or pursuit of wireless infrastructure in public spaces.

Rankings were divided into four categories based on population. For largest cities (250,000 or more residents), the winner was Corpus Christi, Texas. For cities with 125,000 to 249,999 residents, Alexandria, Va., and Madison, Wis., tied for first place.

The category for cities with 75,000 to 124,999 residents also saw a tie for the top spot: this time, it was between Ogden City, Utah, and Roanoke, Va. In the fourth category, consisting of cities with populations between 30,000 and 74,999, the top position was held by Delray Beach, Fla.

East Coast surprises
Of the 50 cities in all four lists (there were 10 ties) the regions most regularly represented were the "Sun Belt" of the South and Southwest--Tampa, Fla., Miami, Phoenix and San Diego joined Corpus Christi in the over-250,000-residents list--and Mountain West states like Colorado, which had seven municipalities on the list. The state with the most "digital cities," however, was Virginia. Eight municipalities from Old Dominion made the list, though none appeared in the most populous category.

One of the biggest surprises was that the northeastern United States, home to major cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia, was left off the list almost entirely. The sole New England municipality to make an appearance on any list was Manchester, Conn., in the 30,000 to 74,999 category.

And aside from the District of Columbia and the eight Virginia cities, the mid-Atlantic was likewise left unrepresented. Equally surprising was the total absence of cities in the Silicon Valley region: the three California cities that made the list were in the southern half of the state.

But that doesn't mean that the San Francisco Bay Area is secretly behind the times. A potential reason for the area's absence could be that local technology initiatives are brought forth by corporations rather than government, like Google's local Wi-Fi in its hometown of Mountain View.

See more CNET content tagged:
Digital City, municipality, city, Virginia, Sun Microsystems Inc.

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Flawed study
Equally missing was an assessment of the need for municipal support for such initiatives. How many of us (cough) antiquarian Bay Area denizens need the city to provide them with municipal wireless and technical services? Last I checked, there was a free wifi cafe within about 5 blocks of almost every mixed or commercial zoned point in SF and Berkeley. If they're looking at the ability to pay parking fines, etc. online, as well, we can do all of that in SF.
Posted by akmckee (2 comments )
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something's flawed, but not the study
CNET's article doesn't do justice to the Center for Digital Government's process. The assessment done by the Center measures a large number of areas, many of which are entirely internal.

But looking at SF's Web site, I see no reason to think they should have been in the top ten. For instance, click on "online services and payments" and the next thing you see is that the City of SF is considering REDUCING their online offerings.

Try to find online rec program registration - It might be there, but I didn't see it. However, I did see a rec schedule - - - FOR 2005! tsk tsk - keep the content current.
Posted by william dover (1 comment )
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