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Charles County has the most technologically adept government among counties of its size nationwide, according to the Center for Digital Government, a leap from its sixth-place showing last year in the group’s annual Digital Counties Survey.
This year marks the 10th straight year Charles County has made the top 10 list for counties with populations below 150,000.
Contributing to Charles County’s strong showing was a “bring your own device” policy rolled out this year, allowing county employees to be reimbursed for work use of personal smartphones, according to an article on the website of Government Technology, a trade magazine that conducts the survey with CDG, a nonprofit promoting sophisticated computing in government, and the National Association of Counties.
The move neither costs nor saves the county money but spares employees from carrying a county-issued BlackBerry as well as a personal phone, Chief of Information Technology Evelyn Jacobson said. It’s easier for employees to use personal phones, which they’re familiar with, than learning a separate system for work, she added.
“I think it just makes it an easier tool,” she said.
Government Technology also cited Charles County’s new website, rolled out in May, in describing the award, but Jacobson said the survey response was submitted before the site went online. She expects it to be fully considered in the 2013 survey.
“I think that every year we have some advances in technology,” Jacobson said of the county’s staying power in the rankings. “We try to stay current with what’s out in the market. For example, when social media was coming out, we tried to update the website to include various social media outlets. When we had the ability to do streaming video we jumped right on that so citizens could watch meetings at the computer as well as other programs. When the ability came out to submit forms online we jumped on that so our citizens ... didn’t have to come in to the county government building.”
Jacobson took over for longtime county IT chief Richard Aldridge after his retirement last year. Aldridge was named one of the “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers” by Government Technology in 2011.
But filling out the survey was business as usual this year, Jacobson said.
“I believe it’s a matter of completing the survey [that] is involved and trying to focus on all of our technological advances of the last year. Although Dick was very involved with the Digital Counties group, what went in the survey was the work that went on with the entire IT staff,” she said.
Besides the new website, the IT division already has plans to likely take it onto next year’s survey, including helping the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office “go paperless” and replacing financial software that is becoming obsolete, Jacobson said.
Charles County was the only Maryland victor among the smallest counties, but Montgomery County came in sixth among those with 500,000 or more residents, while Baltimore County tied for ninth in the same category.