Currently, all electronic highways lead to the Internet. Millions of people are already on-line, and the number is growing so rapidly that the statistics are outdated even before they are published. Most, if not all, proprietary networks such as CompuServe, America Online, and Prodigy are racing to provide their members with full Internet access. Why? Because the Internet contains an almost unlimited amount of information. The trick, of course, is finding what is needed.
Recently, the GFOA's Government Finance Research Center began exploring ways to provide services to GFOA members through the Internet. As part of this exploration, GFOA staff attended the National Science Foundation's "FinanceNet Summit" in December 1994, to discuss the Internet services that could be provided to state and local governments. The meeting's attendees included representatives of many state and local government organizations, including the International Institute of Municipal Clerks; the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers; the National Association of State Treasurers; and the Municipal Treasurers Association. Also attending were representatives of state and local governments with Internet access, not the least of which was the City of New York's Comptroller's Office, the first state or local government to join FinanceNet.
FinanceNet, growing out of the initiatives developed by Vice President Gore's National Performance Review to reinvent government, is essentially a series of electronic information and communication services provided through the Internet. Its mission is to "innovate and optimize the way governments manage and account for taxpayer resources" by offering electronic information and communication services designed to link finance professionals in government, academia, and private industry. The tools and services provided through FinanceNet are developed and managed by the National Science Foundation, one of the originators of the Internet. These services will grow and change over time as ways are found to improve them. FinanceNet's current services are described in this article.
Electronic Mailing Lists ("Listservers"). Mailing lists offer an easy way for finance officials to request and share information with each other and to alert each other of important news. FinanceNet maintains more than 20 mailing lists on a wide range of topics, including performance measurement, internal controls, cash management, financial training, procurement, and a host of other issues. FinanceNet also maintains a separate listserver for the GFOA, which is used to distribute the "GFOA Gram," a weekly summary of electronic information of interest to GFOA members. Access to the mailing lists is open to anyone with e-mail access to the Internet, including members of CompuServe. To subscribe to the GFOA's listserver, send the following message: subscribe GFOA to the following Internet address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gopher Services. FinanceNet maintains a large document library containing current and archived information on many aspects of federal, state, and local finance. The documents are accessed through a "gopher" menu structure, which organizes the information into related categories. …