Annapolis To Go On-line

April 10, 1995|By Michael Dresser and Ellen Gamerman | Michael Dresser and Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writers

An article yesterday about a proposed computer network in Annapolis incorrectly reported the status of a state-owned energy management network. In fact, it is scheduled to be installed this year under a contract approved in November by the Board of Public Works.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The Glendening administration is formulating ambitious plans to create a 21st-century computer network that would connect residents, businesses, universities and government agencies in the 17th-century city of Annapolis in a project it calls "Maryland's Electronic Capital."

The plan would eventually enable residents and businesses to conduct a wide variety of business with city, county and state government agencies, said Major Riddick, the governor's chief of staff. Residents could tap in to the network through computers in their homes, public libraries or other locations.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Mr. Riddick said the trial project would be modeled after a pioneering program launched two years ago in Blacksburg, Va. If it is successful, it could be extended to other communities in Maryland, he said.

Mr. Riddick said the network would make use of an extensive network of underused fiber-optic cable that the Department of General Services installed throughout the capital when it was an energy management system for state agencies several years ago. He said the state would save a significant amount of money by using its own fiber-optic network.

Most details of the proposal have yet to be decided, Mr. Riddick said. The broad concept was presented last week to the state's Information Technology Board, of which Mr. Riddick is acting chairman. He would give no timetable for a public announcement of the project but said that it would be unveiled during the first half of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration.

Even without details, local officials welcomed the planned initiative. "It opens up a myriad of possibilities for the city," said Michael D. Mallinoff, Annapolis city administrator. State officials will meet with the city today to discuss the program.

Rosemary Duggins, marketing director for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., was intrigued by the image of Annapolis as a pilot city in the computer age.

"There are so many things we'll be able to do on-line," she said. "I don't even think any of us understand the possibilities yet."

Some clues to how an Annapolis network might be used can be found in Blacksburg's program, which was launched in that southwestern Virginia university town in 1993. The experimental project is a joint effort of the town, Virginia Tech and Bell Atlantic Corp.

For $8.60 a month, Blacksburg residents who own a computer and modem can send and receive electronic mail and get unlimited access to the Internet, an international network of computer networks.

They also can print out city and county government forms to apply for licenses and permits to conduct a parade or hang a banner. They can look up the e-mail addresses of their school board members, all of whom are on the network, or they can read the minutes of the last Town Council meeting.

Businesses ranging from accounting firms to garden supply stores to realty companies post information about their services on the network. Dr. William T. Hendricks, a local physician, offers free medical information on everything from acne to ulcers.

Cortney Vargo, information manager for the Blacksburg program, said there are about 14,000 users of the system out of a town population of 35,000, with new users signing up at the rate of 125 a month. People who don't have computers can gain access for free through a bank of computers at the public library.

Joseph Wiencko, project manager for the program, said the network has received extensive media coverage, bringing inquiries from all over the country from communities interested in launching similar projects.

Michael Langrehr, chief of information technology at the Maryland Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning, said Annapolis was chosen as the test-tube for the Maryland project because it brings together city, county, state and federal agencies, as well as universities, in a relatively small area.

The state would like to introduce the project in three phases, an approach similar to that used in Blacksburg, Mr. Riddick said. In the first, users would be able to go to the network for information about the government and copies of forms. In the second, they would be able to fill in those forms and send them back to the government. In the third, they would actually be able to receive permits and licenses over the network.

Mr. Riddick said it was not clear whether the state would have to seek a corporate partner for some aspects of the system. If it does, he said, the administration will give an equal opportunity to a variety of telecommunications companies, including Bell Atlantic and its prospective rivals in the cable television industry.

Tom Roskelly, the city public information officer, said that he hopes the state's program will tie in with the city's own efforts to get on-line. Mr. Roskelly said he hopes to have an Annapolis database up and running by July, complete with pictures of local city officials and information on everything from building permits to liquor licenses.

Nevertheless, the city only allocated $25,000 out of next year's fiscal budget for the project and plans to put a half-time staffer to work. With a Blacksburg-sized population of 35,000, Annapolis could make a "big leap" if the state were to lend a hand, Mr. Roskelly said.

"We could create something that would be really beautiful," he said. "It would help us make the next big leap forward in personal communications."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.