Surrey CC has signed a£13m contract with Cable & Wireless to push its e-government strategy a year ahead of the 2005 deadline.
The project, known as the Surrey Wide Area Network, involves the replacement of ageing computer and telephone networks across council sites - excluding schools - over the next 18 months.
The technology, provided by Cisco Systems, will be used to support the council's plan to provide public access to all its services by telephone, internet and digital TV by 2004.
The key benefit of SWAN will be the integration of the telephone and computer systems into one network, making all calls between departments internal thereby cutting call bills.
PR officers back exclusion plan
Public relations officers are backing proposals from the Office of the E-envoy that all public sector bodies adopt a strategy to ensure new electronic communications channels do not lead to social exclusion.
The Society of County and Unitary Public Relations Officers says the proposals build on existing communications practice and councils' implementing electronic government statements.
The society was responding to the Office of the E-envoy's consultation document, Framework for channel strategies.
The society's secretary Michael Baker said: 'PR and communications teams have a central role within local authorities to maintain a mix of channels - traditional and electronic - to avoid social exclusion.'
Cinderellas are lagging behind
Councils are the 'Cinderella's' of IT investment, spending half as much as central government on IT, according to a survey by the National Computing Centre.
The survey is based
on the responses of nearly 400 organisations with a total spend of£1bn on IT.
The average annual IT spend across all sectors is£3,022 per end user.
Local government's total combined IT spend -£2,203 - is half that of central government's at£4,444. The difference between local and central government for capital spending is even more marked -£463 compared to£1,333.