Master of Urban & Regional Planning
Urban Studies & Planning
This thesis reports on the results of a survey sent by the author to 148 local and regional planning agencies in Virginia. The mail survey of all Virginia county, city, town, and regional planning agencies showed that computers have been widely accepted and integrated into the planning workplace. Smaller agencies, and those with greater budgetary constraints have yet to realize the computer's full potential, however. The survey yielded an %84.5 total response rate, and covered hardware, software, organization and personnel, and effectiveness issues. It was based upon a similar survey administered in Arizona, New Mexico, and California five years ago.
A mere 13.6% of the 125 responding agencies reported no access to computers, far lower than any other previously surveyed state. The use of different platforms and software applications was widely reported, with inadequate training and funding problems cited as the most common difficulties with computers. Overall, most Virginia planning agencies found their computer systems as somewhat effective. The survey results showed that a higher annual budget increased computer access potential, resulting in a higher feeling of overall effectiveness.
The survey showed the tremendous growth in the use of computers in planning agencies over the past five years, a trend that shows no signs of waning. With many different types of computers and applications, future planners need to be familiar with as many as possible to effectively perform their duties. At the very least, planners must know basic applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, and databases. The growing importance of other applications suggest the need for an even wider range of skills. Since most agencies reported little or no technical support, planners must have the knowledge to function on their own in a computer environment.
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