Spotlight on Mobile Computing

Cities Go Green with Netbooks

Look around at a public-sector meeting and you may find a netbook on the table.

In order to minimize the printing of required paper documentation, organizations are outfitting members with these low-cost computers so they can view the materials online.

This summer, the city of Stoughton, Wis., purchased a dozen Acer Aspire netbooks for $3,348, along with PDF software. "We were looking for a low-cost way to do this," says Finance Director Laurie Sullivan. The technology investment will save the city $6,200 per year on printing costs for city council meetings alone. For some meetings, the packets can run 80 to 100 pages.

Stoughton departments publish agenda packets in PDF form on a document website, and city council or other committee members download the material to the Aspire netbook to read in advance and refer to during the meeting.

"It's worked really well," says Sullivan. "We're saving money on paper for all our committees." The meeting materials are now available to the public as well through the Stoughton website, improving government transparency -- a direct benefit of the technology.

The Cedar Rapids Airport Commission is also saving trees by ditching bulky binders in favor of netbooks for viewing documentation at its meetings. Printing and distributing paper information packets for commissioners and support staff was expensive and time consuming, notes Eastern Iowa Airport Director Dan Mann.

This summer, Pam Hinman, director of marketing and communications at the city-owned airport, bought and set up seven Acer netbooks. "We absolutely love the change we made," she says.

"The netbooks work great," adds Mann. "The agendas are on them, and you can scroll through them and go back to them as needed." Factoring in the savings for material costs, labor and postage, the $1,946 investment should pay off quickly.


"Total computer shipments are being driven by netbooks."

-- Jeff Orr, senior analyst, ABI Research

"Netbooks won't take up as much space as a notebook when we store them."

-- Clifton Boyer, director, Horry County Memorial Library, S.C.

"Mobile computing improves the level of service we can provide to the community by having officers arrive on the scene a little more educated about what they're coming into."

-- Cpl. Sean Hampton, Queen Anne's County, Md., Sheriff's Department

Phone Friend

Hand your workers a smartphone and you give them more than a communications device -- you grant them the freedom and ability to conduct government business on the go.

The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 is a workhorse for many state and local government organizations. It can be managed centrally from an onsite server, offering more advanced security and control.

The 9000 provides access to voice and data services simultaneously. Using the HSPDA network, it can support fast e-mail attachment downloading, web page loading and mobile streaming for JPEG, Adobe, Excel, Word and PowerPoint files. The device also has expandable memory support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, along with built-in Global Positioning System functionality.

By the Numbers


Portion of mobile phone users willing to pay a premium for an environmentally friendly handset, according to an ABI Research survey


Number of netbooks the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library System in Tallahassee, Fla., will deploy in early 2010


The year in which smartphones will account for 35.1 percent of global handsets, as forecast by RBC Capital Markets

158 million

Estimated worldwide shipments of netbooks in 2014, according to ABI Research. By comparison, the firm had projected 35 million netbooks to ship in 2009

800 to 1,000

Number of BlackBerrys used by the Salt River Project, an Arizona public utility

ImageSource/Getty Images
Dec 09 2009