Town finds iPads make paperless painless

The town of Cornelius, N.C. Colo. has found that a new pilot program replacing paper with iPads is saving the administration money, time and helping the environment along with increasing government transparency, according to the Huntersville Herald. Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte and the town’s five commissioners were each issued an iPad 2 (s aapl) recently, paid for by the town, which they premiered at the town’s board meeting on Monday, June 20.

The iPads all plug into the town’s NovusAgenda software, providing commissioners with all necessary meeting materials, including budget worksheets, zoning maps and PowerPoint (s msft) presentations, which once comprised 210 pages of printed materials each. These packages used to be distributed in paper form to 19 members, which meant a whole lot of time spent copying, and money spent leasing and maintaining copy equipment, in addition to the cost of supplies.

Town Manager Anthony Roberts says he’s amazed with how much sense it makes to use iPads and digital material instead of paper. “It’s just a no brainer,” he told the Huntersville Herald. “We used to print all those agenda packets and people threw them in the recycling bin after the meeting.” Plus, Roberts says, going digital helps transparency, since “the beauty of this system is you have everything online. It’s there forever and a day, and the general public sees everything.”

There’s an initial expense associated with the system, but the NovusAgenda software is a one-time fee that should last years, and the iPad 2s are actually relatively cheap, since only the 16 GB Wi-Fi versions are required. Roberts says the city spent between $700 and $800 on each laptop it was purchasing anyways, so the iPad is a much more economical solution. With a gradual rollout, there’s no reason to think the savings wouldn’t scale for larger cities, too.

The iPad is winning fans in government, business and education because it’s easy to use for almost anyone, and because it’s very flexible thanks to its support of custom apps that plug into third-party systems and server software. Cornelius is a good example of how it can have an impact at the municipal level, and Roberts points out a very good reason why we might see other cities (many of which are facing budget crunches) follow suit: “People ask why? To save money. They’re cheaper. That’s why.”