How L.A. Aims to Use Technology to Better Serve the Public

Los Angeles Daily News | July 28, 2014

Technology has long held the promise of efficiency and scale for the private sector. However, despite having changed the way we transport, communicate, manufacture, buy and bank, technology has just begun to impact how the public sector serves local communities.

It is time to break through that institutionalized neglect -- calcified over time for many reasons -- or risk sidelining populations important to the economy.

Cities like Los Angeles must take the lead in closing the public service delivery and outreach gap. An analysis by Deloitte shows that while the U.S. private sector productivity increased 50 percent in the last 25 years, government enterprise productivity has declined 13 percent. At a moment of strained finances and increased demand for services, solutions that combine technology with human expertise to answer the need for collaborative, integrative and scalable support systems are an imperative.
 
Los Angeles is prepared to learn lessons from other cities. Last year, as California continued to suffer from some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, the Virtual Counselor Network (VCN) -- which includes an easy-to-use website and self-service computer work stations strategically placed across the 150 miles from San Diego to San Bernardino -- transformed how underserved families could gain access to professional housing counseling.
 
Without shuffling between several government offices or having to worry about appointment times and being late for work, more than 70 homeowners avoided foreclosure and nearly 1,400 residents avoided eviction, discrimination or further delay of necessary property repairs. Instead, counselors from participating nonprofit agencies virtually connected with network users and provided them with real- time, audiovisual counseling services.
 
The idea may seem dated for some industries, but a virtual network that gathered several different experts from different locations into a single conversation to advise locals was a monumental shift. Finally there was a true one-stop shop for tailored solutions in 80 language options to address the needs of vulnerable populations.
 
That's why, in partnership the City of Los Angeles and Citi Community Development, Housing Opportunities Collaborative (HOC), which developed the virtual network with Citi's support, is bringing the workstations to Los Angeles to tackle a different problem: supporting entrepreneurs and business owners across a vast geography.
 

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