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Collaborative Effort Among UVA, CNU and the City of Hampton Leads to Web-Based 311 System for Local Government

From Vectec News Release
July 23, 2002

Three years ago the city of Hampton attracted statewide and national attention with the implementation of a 311 call center, the first state-of-the-art telephony technology and database system of its kind in Virginia. At the time, it was also one of only a handful in the nation.

The Call Center has helped move the city beyond customer service to “customer delight???and eliminated governmental and agency barriers.  In one call, the center can process transactions and requests for services for a variety of organizations ???acting as an agent on their behalf in much the same way as a Web portal.

Hampton’s hard work has paid off handsomely. Hampton has tripled the city’s accessibility with no increase in personnel since they began operating the off-line 311 Call Center. Prior to 311 city residents could only get answers to their questions Monday through Friday during normal business hours.  Now they can receive service seven days a week ???16 hours a day.

As a result of its efforts the city has won numerous awards, including national recognition by the Center for Digital Government ???a national research and advisory institute ???for its innovative efforts in using digital technologies.

By the end of the year, Hampton hopes to take its 311 system one step further and offer its citizens a Web-based Customer-Request Processing (CRP) System. This brings 311 and Web site technology under one umbrella for easy, interactive public access. The new electronic system is a collaborative effort among the city of Hampton, the Internet Technology Innovation Center’s Internet Commerce Group (InterCom) at the University of Virginia and the Virginia Electronic Commerce Technology Center (VECTEC) at Christopher Newport University.

John Eagle, director of Information Technology for Hampton, approached VECTEC for assistance on the project after the city learned that they wouldn’t be able to just plug in a software package.

“No one had undertaken this sort of project,???said Eagle.  “Current software packages were either too expensive because of the customization involved or would only take care of one piece of the project. The new software application will extend service to residents around the clock.”

VECTEC brought the project to the attention of the Internet TIC and the InterCom group readily agreed to develop the Web system. A $25,000 grant was awarded to the city by the Internet TIC to start the project.

This project demonstrates the power of collaboration between the Virginia university community (UVA and CNU) and the public sector,???said InterCom Professor Alfred Weaver.  “We could not complete it without the assistance of VECTEC.  UVA has the skill set and VECTEC has the contacts and administrative capability.”

“The enhanced 311 system illustrates how the CIT-funded Internet TIC is focusing its efforts on collaboration with communities,???said Karen Jackson, director of e-Business Strategy for Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology.  “The application of e-commerce technologies to traditional government functions will enhance a community’s ability to better serve its constituent base.”

The experts behind the Web-based system are John Baxton and Doug Ross, two full-time programmers who recently graduated with computer science degrees from UVA. Baxton and Ross recently demonstrated phase one of the project that includes the system’s administrative capabilities.  The second phase, slated to begin in September, will include user capabilities.

“We believe the application will have great value,???said Baxton.  “Similar systems could be used in Charlottesville or other parts of the state.  Citizens need to know who to call, write, or complain to.  The Web system is a great way to deliver that information.”

City officials hope the system can be easily adapted to meet the needs of other communities. 

“While each city has unique issues, we all face the same problems and provide similar services,???said Liz Nisley, manager of the Call Center.  “Since September 11, communities are also concerned about homeland security.  There is a real need to have technology that can be a central deposit of information, so agencies can interact in a real-time basis during critical events.???

Cities also will benefit by the system’s flexible design.

“Cities operate over 30 unique businesses that sometimes have absolutely nothing to do with one another,???said Eagle.  “Many off-the-shelf systems are designed with a single line of business in mind.  What is great about this system, is it will work in an environment where there are multiple services being offered ???so any government agency can participate.”

InterCom is proposing to continue development, testing, and deployment of the Web-based 311 system in the months to come.

For more information on the 311 project call Maureen Savage, City of Hampton, at (757) 727-6893, or Michelle Carpenter, VECTEC, at (757) 594-7721.

Original Article | Local Copy


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