Better, Faster, Cheaper

Where There's Smoke, There’s Data

If, as predicted, the tough fiscal times for state and local governments don't end anytime soon, the pressure to embrace innovation will increase. A New Orleans plan that uses data analytics to identify structures that are most vulnerable to fires and distribute smoke alarms to their residents is an example of how local leaders can find ways to do more with less.

New Orleans, like other cities that have responded to the ongoing fiscal challenge by establishing units focused on innovation, developed an Office of Performance and Accountability (OPA). In March the city took the next step, unveiling NOLAlytics, a cross-departmental unit focused on using data to improve government performance. Its first program is Targeted Smoke Alarm Outreach, a joint effort between OPA and the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD). READ MORE

Improving Public Services: The Secrets of Award-Winning Cities

Local governments, their citizens and community interest groups all want better service delivery, and more than ever are looking to technology to make that happen. But technology alone won't work. What cities that have been recognized for innovations in service delivery have in common is the right governance structures -inclusive approaches and an embrace of partnerships -- to make new technologies successful.

That's the conclusion of a new report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government that examines a dozen award-winning cities across the country to see what they did that got them recognized -- lessons that others might apply. "Technology is not a shiny new toy; it must be useful and improve people's lives and business dealings, on either a daily or as-needed basis," writes the report's author, Sherri Greenberg of the University of Texas. READ MORE

A Public Transit System That Works

Across the country, state and local governments spend billions every year to operate transit systems. And those are only the direct costs. The toll that poor service takes on a local economy can be even greater, as Boston-area residents know only too well in the wake of the virtual collapse of their transit system in the midst of the snowiest winter on record.

Even when weather isn't a problem, many American transit systems are beset by a vicious cycle of poor service, low ridership and financial troubles -- each of which reinforces the others. READ MORE

Government in Your Pocket

The city and county of Denver has become a hotbed of local-government innovation. First came Peak Performance, which invests in municipal employees to give them the skills to make government more efficient. When a key licensing official resigned just before the deadline for licensing the city's new retail marijuana establishments, those identified as top performers by the Peak Performance program were called in from different areas of municipal government, and they got the job done.

This January, Denver launched pocketgov, a user- and mobile-friendly website that brings municipal government closer to residents, saves money and reduces wait times for those whose issues require a call to the municipality. READ MORE

Unleashing Evidence-Based Management in Government

If evidence-based decision-making is all the rage in government these days, how do agencies develop the skills to conduct such analyses? And how do agencies create a culture to support this management approach so it isn't just another flavor-of-the-month fad?

New Jersey's child-welfare system may have cracked the code. A new report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government, by David Lambert and Julie Atkins of the University of Southern Maine, tells the story. READ MORE