Derby City Council has improved online access to council services for both the pubilc and its staff by installing a virtual private network.
The remote connectivity project was developed with suppliers Capita and Lynx Technology to extend secure access for the Derby community.
The council provides services to 250,000 citizens and wanted to provide access through a wider range of channels.
The pilot project involved the deployment of a VPN to cover three main areas: the provision of remote access for council members by a standard PC, internet connection for a mobile school library service, and improved services for internal officers.
The mobile library service now has access to the council's main library system via a GPRS connection. This enables library requests to be processed from any location in the city.
The council used Microsoft's Internet Security and Acceleration Server and ADSL to connect the public broadband network.
The project has enabled council employees to work more flexibly at home, out of standard office hours, and has helped the public to access council services.
The three-month pilot considered longer-term issues around messaging and future technology. These included security features such as Outlook Web Access for client access licensing, migration options and infrastructure requirements, and Microsoft Sharepoint Portal Server and Exchange.
David Gale, principal ICT consultant for Derby City Council, said, "We wanted to increase the productivity of remote workers and reduce travel costs. Any solution would have to be cost-effective and easy to use and manage."
This meant integrating the system with the council's central Active Directory services, enabling management from a single point. Remote access, a specific business requirement from council members, provided the springboard for the wider connectivity project.
Gale, said the council plans to extend the project to support its e-government initiatives using remote and mobile access.
"Once the core infrastructure is completed in 2004-2005, we will be in a position to very quickly ramp up applications development," he said. "We are always looking towards the bigger picture in terms of improving service delivery and providing better access to the public."