When the "other" is YOU...

Dave Reinke
APWA-InfoLink Project Manager

As APWA-InfoLink (www.apwa-infolink.com) continues to grow, the involvement of members like you becomes increasingly important. InfoLink was designed to provide information to the public works professional, and the source of that information is other members.

So how does it get shared? Only if "other" members (that's you) make this information available.

Of the 26,000 members of APWA, all work in a town, city, county, or company that has information to share. Some of these agencies and companies have already established very complete websites, while some might only have a single home page with rudimentary information, and some are not yet sharing information online. But all of them have information that is valuable, and can benefit citizens and fellow public works professionals when shared.

If information is already posted on the web, establishing a link from InfoLink is very easy. The registered user only needs to log in, and under the agency listing add links to each of the categories that break down the site content into specific areas. The user adds the URL (cutting and pasting it from a browser is the easy way), adds a title and is done. If agency information is not yet on the web, it is really a matter of finding the right IT (information technology) person at the city or county that is already working on a site-most will welcome the additional content.

We can look at the City of Sacramento as an example. Out of 17 categories of links on the InfoLink site, Sacramento has 11 of them pointing to content residing on the city's site. And the ones they don't have links for are due to the administrative structure of the department. Citizens can look up complete directory information, solid waste collection schedules, RFPs and design standards. A complete brochure on Winter Preparedness is available for download, with tips and hints, emergency contact numbers, road closure information, and more.

Another example is one APWA member who wanted to know the specs for a wooden-faced guardrail for a project. The North Carolina Department of Transportation's site provided not only the specs requested, but downloadable AutoCAD(tm) files (the PDF format is available as well) of the structure itself. The site even includes notes on installation, cost issues, and other pertinent information.

While the overall economy has slowed, and the media has reported on some spectacular "dot-com" crashes, most companies are focused on making the Internet work as part of their existing business plans and not the final answer. Some that had created separate Internet "spin-offs" are bringing those divisions back into the corporate fold, and "brick-and-mortar" stores are leveraging the presence of their "click-and-mortar" siblings as an additional sales channel, not a replacement. Many communities, having missed (thankfully) the "dot-com" frenzy, are just now utilizing the Internet for the delivery of citizen services and information. This rational and logical approach is well founded; overall statistics show Internet use continues its steady increase, up to 200 percent in the most recent quarter, according to one industry analyst. The number of websites published continues to grow exponentially, and new top level domain names (".biz" and ".info") to accompany the familiar suffixes of ".com," ".gov," ".net" and ".org," are scheduled to be released this fall, allowing the registration of even more sites.

A similar pattern can be observed in the growth of APWA Chapter websites. Where a year ago less than 10 percent had separate sites, now 28 chapters have sites posted, with many more under development. These chapters realize that they can share information about chapter news and events, membership information, and local links. These sites serve as an important step to expand the reach of APWA administrative efforts to individual chapters.

But the chapters' Internet involvement is also important as sources of agencies and companies to join the InfoLink community. Chapter representatives are being identified to help each chapter and its members utilize InfoLink, both in posting information and using it to find information, ideas, sources and new business. These points of contact will work with companies and municipalities from their own states and regions, and help InfoLink respond at a local level.

So once again we ask you to take an active part in APWA-InfoLink, and take part in building a robust, vital workspace. Bookmark the site, and visit regularly to view what your fellow APWA members are making available, and the types of information they are sharing. And don't forget that "others" are counting on your information as well.

For more information on any aspect of APWA-InfoLink, contact Dave Reinke at 202-408-9541, or dreinke@apwa.net.