For most of us, the business of government has been conducted in one of two ways: we came to you or you came to us, live and in-person. While that is the time-honored tradition many still prefer, over the last five years Peoria County government has experienced an explosion of tech-savvy customers who expect their government to reflect their own digitally enhanced, colorfully rendered, on-demand lives. And while we will never take the personal touch away, Peoria County has been steadily investing in technology to help meet all consumers’ changing expectations. These investments focus on improving access to government information and services while, at the same time, making those services more user-friendly.
Many of our popular changes to date have been in courthouse public spaces, the county boardroom and on the Internet. More than four years ago, as an exploratory test of wireless Internet technology, Peoria County launched its “Digital Courtyard” project by installing a wireless hotspot to provide limited free Internet access in the County Courthouse Plaza and the courtyard area. Receiving overwhelming response, we expanded the system into the courthouse, with access points added in the county boardroom, the jury assembly room and the public vending and break area on the ground floor.
Previously, during well-attended county board meetings, visitors would overflow into areas adjacent to the boardroom where they could not hear clearly or view presentations. If meeting participants brought maps or materials, those materials were not readily available to everyone in attendance. In response, Peoria County added an electronic presentation system which now allows participants to show video, audio, digital and paper-based materials on large monitors throughout the boardroom and its adjacent rooms. A byproduct of these improvements is digital recordings which allow for more efficient transcription and posting of minutes.
Peoria County’s greatest technological improvements, however, have been with our online presence at peoriacounty.org. In early 2002, the multitude of pages comprising the entire Peoria County website received little more than 300 page views per month. In the last thirty days, our top five pages alone generated 69,926 page views. To achieve numbers like this, we have acknowledged user needs and steadily improved our presentation and service offerings via technology which allows the county treasurer, circuit clerk and county clerk to conduct major transactions online.
We have also added a selection of information distribution systems for the public and our government partners throughout the county. During the PDC landfill expansion application process, Peoria County conducted one of the most public processes in history by ensuring as many materials as possible were available online. As a supplement to online subscriptions for county news, career opportunities and other pertinent information, audio and video of board meetings are now available both on our website and through podcasts, distributed internationally from the Apple iTunes store.
While it is difficult to predict exactly where technology will lead us in the future, this local unit of government will maintain its high standard of delivering quality services to you, our citizens, through however many gadgets that delivery might occur! IBI