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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

University providing technical training for local governments

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 21 - February 20, 1997

With the dawning of the information age, municipalities with technical know-how are at the head of the pack. Virginia Tech's public service programs, a division of the university's outreach services, helps local governments across the state put technical knowledge to work.

"There's no question technical expertise is a strategic advantage for municipal governments as well as business and industry," said Andrew Honaker, economic-development specialist in technology. "My job is to take the technical research and knowledge being acquired at Virginia Tech and help local and state governments apply it to their benefit."

Since assuming his role in September 1996, Honaker has worked with municipalities across the state on projects such as digital imaging, video marketing of their locality and the creation of maps for Civil War trails. But his main love and area of expertise is computer technology and web training.

"My prediction is that 10 years from now the Internet will be as widely used as the telephone is today," Honaker said. "We're striving toward the delivery of information systems with artificial intelligence. Government agencies and industry that keep up-to-date with this technology will have a definite advantage in the future."

In a recent project, Honaker worked with Arlington County as an advisor on development of the county's web site. He helped representatives plan the site, assisted them in design considerations and advised them on marketing their locality via the Internet.

Another way Honaker assists local governments is by sharing information about VISIT Virginia (http://www.VIRGINIA.org), a unique interactive web system showcasing the entire state. The project, a joint venture of Virginia Tech and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, enables localities to upload information from their region and link with the whole system marketing the state via the Internet. The specially designed web system demonstrates the ultimate in user friendliness for both the person browsing the site and the locality wishing to create a link.

The Virginia Tech design team included expertise from eight different academic departments and was coordinated by Honaker, Charlotte Reed, economic development specialist in tourism and Scott Farmer, computer designer.

"This system is driven by several databases that dynamically create each screen of information requested by the user. There is no other state with a web system like this," Honker says. "It's one of a kind. We're at least three years ahead of our time, and the implications for areas other than tourism are enormous."

In another project currently under way, Honaker is working with Virginia Tech's Economic Development Assistance Center to advise Washington County officials on setting up the site for the county's newly planned industrial park.

In addition to one-on-one client consulting, Honaker conducts workshops for economic developers, government leaders and the public about technology--educating them on a variety of topics including the World Wide Web and how they can benefit from it. As part of a comprehensive repertoire of public service programs sponsored by the university this year, he'll lead seminars on computer technologies, Internet marketing for economic developers, and real-world applications of university research.

For more information, call 1-6913.