Mostly driven by homeland security initiatives, state and local governments will spend at least $8 billion on IT initiatives in the public safety and criminal justice market segment in 2003, according to a new report by Input, a sales and marketing company targeting technology vendors.

The report says the two vertical segments of the government IT market will account for more than 20 percent of total state and local IT spending.

Input's analysis reveals that public safety departments are spending the majority of their IT dollars on networks and systems that allow agencies to communicate with one another, particularly in emergency situations. Criminal justice spending, on the other hand, is primarily on software systems that allow consolidated information storage and sharing among agencies.

"State and local governments are focused on purchasing technology that will allow them to create seamless networks for communication among public safety and criminal justice departments," said Meredith Luttner, the manager of state and local database services at the Chantilly, Va.-based Input. "Interoperability among these entities has always been important, but since September 11, 2001, it has become absolutely crucial."

Luttner said a significant number of the public safety and criminal justice projects will be funded by grants from the federal government, especially in the homeland defense area.