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Digital County Winners Invested Long Before Pandemic

In the 18th annual Digital Counties Survey, leading jurisdictions had made investments in broadband, remote collaboration and digital citizen engagement long before COVID-19 tested whether they were up to the challenge.

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A common theme rises to the fore among the winners in the 18th Annual Digital Counties Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government:* The clear lesson this year is that planning pays off, and often in unexpected ways.

Prior to COVID-19, this year’s winners all had projects in play that turned out to be game-changers when the pandemic struck. Some were aggressively developing their workforce-mobility capabilities. Others had invested heavily in broadband accessibility. Investments in remote-collaboration tools, digital signatures and application development processes — all these efforts came to bear in supporting forward-looking counties as they rose to meet the challenges of the crisis.

Here’s a look at how this year’s winning counties leveraged their technology investments to support both county employees and citizen service during these extraordinary times.

Mono County, Calif., 1st Place, up to 150,000 Population Category

Pre-pandemic, Mono County, Calif., had been putting a heavy emphasis on user input and support — a focus that enabled the IT shop to deliver on the complex needs that pivoting amid COVID-19 called for. 

“We really have been focusing a lot on customer service and customer success,” said IT Director Nate Greenberg. Among other things, this led the department to implement a management system — custom-built in-house — to support more timely trouble-ticket response. “It helps us to be both reactive to customer needs, as well as proactive in terms of our overall work plan.”

That customer-centric focus drives a monthly lunch-and-learn in support of an ongoing Office 365 rollout, now roughly 90 percent complete. Those training sessions have proven key to making the most of Office 365 in the COVID-19 environment. 

“We have leveraged the Office 365 app proxy solution, which allows us to take on-prem apps and publish them through the Office 365 framework, wrap it with multi-factor authentication, and provide these traditional on-prem apps for people working at home,” Greenberg said. 

The successful rollout of Office 365 didn’t happen in a vacuum — it came as the result of a decade-long effort to put in place robust broadband connectivity throughout the region. “Over 90 percent of households have access to gigabit Internet, and if it wasn’t for that core piece of infrastructure, none of the rest of this would have been possible,” Greenberg said. 

Long-running investments in GIS systems also helped. A highly adept GIS development team played a key role in enabling the county’s pandemic response. 

“The team that is responsible for GIS is very familiar with the ways in which to implement applications very quickly, in a way that is thoughtful and customer facing,” Greenberg said. “They stood up our COVID response portal, built on Esri technology, and they built a dedicated application to handle the internal response effort for COVID — the epidemiology and contact tracing, the nurses’ line, our economic recovery efforts.” 

Taken together, these early and ongoing investments in talent and technology proved invaluable in helping Mono County to rise to the challenge of the pandemic. 

Click here to see all the winners in this category. 

Arlington County, Va., 1st Place, 150,000-249,999 Population Category

Last year Arlington County, Va., released its Digital Services Master Plan – 2020 and Beyond. While it wasn’t crafted with COVID-19 in mind, the plan in many ways anticipated the needs of the pandemic era. 

Future Ready

This year’s inaugural Future Ready Award is presented to a jurisdiction that is laying the foundation for the disruptive and converging forces that are shaping an uncertain future.

The Los Angeles County IT department has taken a range of steps to position itself for whatever may be coming next. It begins with the effort to redefine the role of IT in the eyes of stakeholders. “We are trying to bridge the gap between the old perception of IT as a back-office function, and the vision of IT as a strategic partner at the enterprise level and the department level,” said CIO Bill Kehoe. “As departments transform their services, IT needs to be at the table, because technology is an enabler for transformation.”

A technology management council brings together IT leaders from across 37 departments, helping to ensure broad-based consensus around forward-looking efforts. An Analytics Center of Excellence, established in 2018, further helps to future-proof the county by ensuring that data is openly sharable and readily usable.

Funding is key to being future ready, and L.A. has made that commitment, with a $10 million information technology fund to support cross-departmental initiatives, and a $20 million legacy modernization fund to keep departments current in their IT infrastructure. “The county’s commitment to fund those two on a yearly basis provides us the budgetary foundation we need to consistently modernize and innovate,” Kehoe said.

While that funding likely will decline in the coming year as tax revenues decrease, Kehoe said the forward-looking agenda will continue.

“We are not a county that just looks to keep the trains running,” he said. “We are always looking ahead and developing strategy to infuse new technologies into the services that we provide.”

“Even before COVID-19, we were creating a workforce that was more mobile, thinking out of the box about what the new workforce would look like,” said CIO Jack Belcher. The master plan addresses the rise of the Internet of Things and AI, “along with the fact that telework and mobility are increasingly important." 

The emphasis on mobility has enabled the county to rise to the occasion with virtual court rooms, virtual board meetings and robust IT support for public-health contact tracing efforts. 

The county also has a longstanding commitment to digital equity, and its investments in that arena have likewise paid dividends during the pandemic. 

“Through an agreement with Comcast, we are making sure every child on the free or reduced-price lunch program has access to broadband,” Belcher said. There’s also a fiber-optic network in place connecting a county hospital to the county’s free medical clinic. “They are doing more telehealth visits than they ever have. In the free clinic the medial professionals can track your medical record history and see what you have been treated for in the past. It’s a secure and private connection, with the bandwidth to support medical-imagery data.” 

Widespread deployment of laptops across the county workforce, along with a Microsoft Teams deployment, put the county in a strong position to support the rapid shift to a remote environment. 

“We made the jump to Teams for security reasons, but it has helped with functionality in ways we hadn’t expected,” Belcher said. “We no longer have tax collectors on premise, we no longer have assessors on premise — all that is being done online. We can do permits and inspections, all without having to send an inspector out into the field.”

Going forward, Belcher said he is continuing to try to stay ahead of the curve. He knows, for instance, that falling tax revenues will likely mean new budget constraints, and he’s planning for that eventuality. “We need to be intentional in the use of our staff. We have to assess what they are doing and move what we can to the cloud,” he said. “And we have to prioritize. I’m not saying storm water is less important than broadband, but we have to have a discussion about how we can use technology most effectively as a force multiplier.” 

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Chesterfield County, Va., 1st Place, 250,000-499,999 Population Category

With an eye toward controlling technical debt, Chesterfield County, Va., CIO Barry Condrey last year led a deep dive into hardware and software resources countywide. The result, an asset modernization plan, drew $450,000 in county support and helped put IT in a leading position when the pandemic struck.

“All the work we were doing before COVID hit helped to prepare us for the digital transformation that COVID thrust us into,” he said. 

The analysis highlighted the need for digital signatures as an area ripe for technological transformation. “We quickly did a vendor evaluation and brought in DocuSign to do digital signatures,” Condrey said. That proved invaluable when social distancing made conventional signature systems ineffective. 

The team also modernized its formerly manual processes around public-meeting agendas. “We put in place CivicClerk to handle those items. It allows you to go digital with the agenda items, the presentations, everything that goes into running public meetings,” he said. 

That turned out to be a massive win when COVID-19 restrictions put a temporary end to public meetings in the in-person format. “It’s 100 percent digital for us now. We don’t have to sit in a room and pass around pieces of paper,” Condrey said. “That was something we had undertaken as part of the modernization plan, and it came in very handy during COVID.” 

In addition, six months before the pandemic, the IT team had implemented Microsoft Teams across all county departments, installing the application in the auto-start on every county computer. “We were standing up half a dozen Teams a day at the start of COVID. It has been a game changer for our organization, with people meeting and collaborating virtually,” he said. 

Fortuitously, the department had already put in place a transition plan to move county government from PCs to laptops, and the IT shop had 450 laptops in stock and ready to deploy at the start of the pandemic. 

Key to making all these modernization efforts a reality has been Condrey’s close collaboration with county budget officials. “We had been working with the budget department for years to bring this to fruition,” he said. “We meet with them frequently and talk about the things that we need, long before we ask for the money. People don’t use the word ‘relationship’ in terms of the budget process, but that’s really what it is about.”

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Ventura County, Calif., 1st Place, 500,000-999,999 Population Category

Ventura County, Calif., officials had already initiated efforts to make telemedicine more accessible. Then telemedicine became a necessity. 

“We have a county hospital and we had been dabbling in telemedicine previously as part of an initiative around health-care access,” said Interim CIO Terry Theobald. 

“When COVID hit, it became clear that patients coming into the clinic would not be a great thing. So we took our fledgling telemedicine program and looked for partners that had the capacity to handle hundreds of doctors doing telemedicine,” he continued. 

Most patients were rapidly transitioned to remote medical visits, with Doxy.me and Microsoft Teams supporting those encounters. The tools helped keep people home, and also helped to alleviate crowding in the hospitals. “We were able to use it to do remote testing and triaging in our own parking lot,” Theobald said. “We could hand the patient a device and the doctor could talk to them right there, without their having to come into the ER.”

Technology within the hospital also helped support the emerging need. The county had already begun deploying iPads to patients in support of onsite patient engagement, “and when COVID hit, we saw we could potentially use those devices to improve the patient experience while patients were in the hospitals, where telephones don’t always work well and where Wi-Fi is in high demand for medical care,” Theobald explained. 

With iPads available to support outside interactions, “it provided patients in isolation with some great social access, some access to family and friends,” he said. 

Pre-pandemic, the county had already worked to put in place a consolidated approach to IT security, with the CIO, CISO and information security manager all working in close coordination with a countywide task force. This high-level approach to security helped the IT team meet the new work-from-home challenge: They’ve been blocking over 6 million suspect emails a month since the coronavirus outbreak began.

“As we transitioned thousands of employees to working from home, virtually overnight, we had to really improve our VPN connections and our firewalls, and we reviewed our virus protection and our malware,” Theobald said. A consolidated approach to security helped make that possible. 

Going forward, Theobald said a countywide effort to expand broadband access — initiated before the pandemic — will help deal with long-term ramifications including continued work-from-home as well as virtual education. 

“We were already in the process of talking to telecom companies, talking to public works entities within the county that have capital improvement projects underway, as well as to city managers — anyone who owns something that would allow us to connect up existing fiber networks,” he said. “We want to provide leadership around this and provide less expensive broadband wherever possible.” 

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Los Angeles County, Calif., 1st Place, 1,000,000 Or More Population Category

Before the pandemic, Los Angeles County had already identified mobility as a top-priority item in its IT enterprise strategic plan. When the need arose to support remote work for some 30,000 employees, those early investments paid off. 

“Mobility includes increased use of the public cloud, increased use of mobile devices — laptops, tablets, mobile phones — and increased use of unified communication,” said CIO Bill Kehoe. 

In terms of devices, the county was already in the midst of purchasing and deploying some $6.5 million worth of laptops and tablet devices at the start of the year. In support of unified communications, the IT department had already leveraged a number of tools including Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and WebEx. “All of that really enhanced our ability to communicate effectively,” Kehoe said. 

Before COVID-19 hit, the county also was engaged in a major effort to digitize outmoded paper processes. That effort dovetailed nicely with the new work-from-home need. “People working remotely didn’t have access to those paper files, and so we are moving to a more paperless environment,” he said. “That was started pre-COVID as one of our strategic goals, but it has really taken off, including e-forms and e-signatures. COVID has exponentially accelerated all of those mobility goals.”

A new identity and access management platform, implemented in 2019, turned out to be key to supporting the pandemic response. “We had just gotten it up and running about the time that COVID hit,” Kehoe said. “It has additional security controls like multifactor authentication, it provides for single sign-on and it also links together our Microsoft Office 365 tenants so that if I want to access a SharePoint site or a Teams site in one of our other tenants, I can do that. They are all connected, and the identity platform is key to making that work well.” 

The county has used Office 365 since 2015, and in 2018 it consolidated multiple departmental licenses into a single five-year enterprise agreement with Microsoft. “That put us on a solid foundation, providing all employees with the tools they needed. It gave us something to build on that in turn could truly facilitate a remote workforce,” he said.

Key to all these efforts is a strong IT governance process that draws input from a Business Management Council and a Technology Management Council, among other entities. “The governance piece of it is huge. Having the backing of those key governance bodies is critical to having all the departments on board,” Kehoe said.

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic. Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.



Click points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st Mono County, Calif. 

Mono County, home to about 14,000 people, took first place in its population category by emphasizing resident engagement, transparency and collaboration, along with a focus on traditional IT values like strong cybersecurity and resilience. Mono’s IT director and GIS manager architect the citizen experience with input from the chief administrative officer, department heads and key staff across the organization. In responding to the pandemic, county IT worked with other officials to stand up a public-facing COVID-19 website almost immediately; establish a virtual Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for COVID-19 response; and build a shared app to track patients while respecting their privacy. The county also created 211 service — which hadn’t previously existed — to reach those not online and a weekly virtual community meeting on Zoom that has attracted more than 1,000 attendees.

Mono County routinely partners with neighbors: it has a joint IT department with the town of Mono, which enables the sharing of infrastructure; it’s joined by Mammoth Lakes in a joint EOC, securitized in part by shared next-gen firewalls; and it is in unified command with Mammoth Hospital. Cybersecurity is a strategic priority and a part of county culture. Mono has joined the National Cyber Security Review for the past three years, yielding a 4.95 average score, while monthly phishing tests and end-user training have yielded phish-resistant scores around 98 percent. In IT, officials modernized all job descriptions and aligned salaries to similar agencies; in IT procurement, officials standardized contract language to improve the negotiation process and reach more favorable terms. In a multi-agency initiative, Mono County, its sheriff, Mammoth Lakes and its police department consolidated data centers, enabling them to share the cost of infrastructure and reach off-site redundancy while realizing a 25 percent cost reduction. 

2nd Albemarle County, Va.

Albemarle County, Va., jumped up to second place in its population category this year, and the main theme was broadband. In the summer of 2019, the Albemarle County Broadband Authority partnered with a local electric co-op in order to extend broadband service into rural areas. After a year of work, they had brought new fiber-optic infrastructure to the premises of 341 rural homes and businesses that previously only had satellite Internet. Of those locations, 211 have registered for the service so far.  

Additionally, Albemarle County implemented a broadband speed test that was followed by an optional bilingual survey. This allowed officials to collect data on the speed and availability of broadband throughout the county. This data was then compiled in Esri GIS StoryMap and used to pinpoint proposed broadband project areas, which were included in a broadband expansion RFP released in May. The county was also thinking about broadband during its response to COVID-19 and worked with a local Internet service provider in March to quickly boost its Internet speeds to 1 Gbps, one of the fastest speeds possible, to support remote work.  

With a significant election looming in November, Albemarle County has been working with the Virginia board of elections to improve election security, particularly at polling places. Part of this process has involved writing improved policies, and the county has already discovered and fixed a number of vulnerabilities. The county also made improvements to its data transparency in the last year, responding to citizen complaints and building an automated system for displaying open burn permit data online. Citizens can now view a map of the county that displays active burn permits and states when they will expire, and the number of complaints about burns has dropped. 

3rd Nevada County, Calif. 

Comprising a largely mountainous area in Northern California near Lake Tahoe, Nevada County has in recent years faced two intertwined threats: wildfires and intentional power shutoffs to prevent them. The county’s IT department has taken on several initiatives to address those issues. It has mapped fire risks and evacuation routes, as well as developed a mobile app to help locate and assess dead and dying trees. It has hardened telecommunications infrastructure and disaster backup sites to make sure it can keep systems running in case of an emergency, and has created email, text and Internet programs for delivering accurate information quickly when the utility needs to shut off the electricity.

But those are just the extraordinary tasks the county has been saddled with. The IT shop has taken some admirable steps in its day-to-day operations, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. The department has recently implemented multi-factor authentication for all access from outside the internal network, adopted MS-ISAC’s ALBERT network monitoring program, completed an incident response plan and deployed vulnerability scanning and microsegmentation, with more solid ideas for the future in the works. 

Nevada County IT is also undergoing some ambitious data projects. It’s helping inventory all data for several health and human services agencies and then stamping data sets and users with permissions to control who can see what, creating a system where different offices can work better together without creating more exposure than is necessary. Meanwhile, it has set up dashboards for performance management and budgeting that it hopes to soon take public. 

4th Montgomery County, Va. 

Coming in fourth place in its population category, Montgomery County, Va., has made IT a clear priority in the service of internal and external customers. Montgomery County relies on a hybrid private cloud environment for service migration and greater flexibility. Firewall and network security upgrades have also added a layer of security to the county’s on-premise and cloud-based applications. The county has also worked diligently to comply with Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) standards around election security, though a few items are still outstanding. CISA was also contracted to perform a cyber-resilience assessment late last year. 

Open data efforts have taken the shape of streamlining access to frequently requested data. For example, FOIA requests around building permit data could have taken more than 40 hours on the old system, but now a link to open data quickly fills the requests. 

In a citizen-centric push, the county has initiated a broadband infrastructure assessment with the city of Radford and incorporated the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg to address future broadband needs in underserved areas. The report issued to the board of supervisors in May found that 7.6 percent of residents were unserved and that 30 percent were underserved with regards to high-speed Internet access. Work is being done with regional groups to close that gap.    

When it comes to emerging technologies in the law enforcement arena, county IT works closely with the Sheriff’s Office. Staff are assigned to work with deputies on implementations and an informal working group helps generate new ideas to improve deputy safety and efficacy. One of the innovations is the Automatic Injury Detection system, which sends an alert when a deputy has been shot or injured. A drone has also been added to the policing toolkit. The county also started using the FORCE911 app following a shooting at the Virginia Beach government facility. The app not only helps notify users of a threat, but it also improves police response times and communication during an incident. 

5th Coconino County, Ariz. 

Coconino County, Ariz., makes its first appearance in the survey this year, but it likely won’t be the last. The fifth-place finisher in the smallest population category is facing challenges common to many IT operations: legacy technology in urgent need of upgrades. But given its also-common budget constraints, leaders are prioritizing investments and policy development based on organizational objectives. One area with notable progress of late is cybersecurity. The county has a new layered model for IT security, ensuring systems are protected, patched and compliant. Multi-factor authentication is now in place, and a continuous diagnostics mitigation project has further helped harden the county’s defenses. Other recent investments include a cloud-based paperless case management system and upgrades to the county network, which greatly reduced reliance on end-of-life infrastructure and had the added benefit of reducing the total amount of network hardware.   

When it comes to decision-making, Coconino County has a strong data foundation. Information technology staff partners with county departments to identify data gaps and ensure reports are built properly in order to effectively inform how decisions are made, especially in the budget area. GIS tools are also put to good use, like to keep track of COVID-19-related assistance calls from the public coming into the emergency operations center, a project that represented collaboration among multiple departments.

6th Dodge County, Wis. 

Resiliency and sustainability are among the top focuses that drove investments over the last year as Dodge County seeks to meet the needs that arise from demographic changes, growth in residents’ tech-related expectations of government and acts of nature that may threaten the community, including the coronavirus pandemic.   

To that end, the county has invested in several initiatives to cut the cost of doing business and equipping the workforce with the tools and services to provide access anytime and anywhere in a secure manner. Those investments include transitioning the county workforce to multi-factor authentication; switching county cellphone users from Verizon to T-Mobile for a yearly savings of $300,000; and migrating public safety first responders to the FirstNet network.   

The county also developed the fifth version of its Digital Services Master Plan — 2020 and Beyond. The plan identifies the investments necessary to operate efficiently and continue to mature the technology infrastructure of the county.

7th York County, Va. 

Election security and cybersecurity have been top priorities for York County as it serves 65,000 residents in the eastern half of the state. The Department of Elections has partnered with Assura to aid compliance with increased election security protocols from the Virginia Department of Elections. Assura also monitors the financial systems for the local school system, and software applications for the police department and regional 911 system. The county’s public safety apparatus has also improved its resiliency thanks to improved broadband communications linking the IT data center to critical servers at the 911 center.  

Other tech upgrades for York County including new video conferencing tools like Zoom and mobile devices have allowed for more remote work in areas like building inspections, saving staff time and travel and undoubtedly coming in handy during the pandemic. York County has launched phase two of a new human resources and payroll system, updating from a more than 30-year-old mainframe to the new Tyler Munis system, which includes tools to help reduce redundancies and save staff time.   

Information Technology has formed a number of partnerships with organizations like the local chamber of commerce and the YMCA to aid in community engagement and communications. The county’s senior center now includes virtual reality technology to allow seniors – who may be limited in their mobility – to experience more than 50 activities like sailing or scuba diving.

8th Carver County, Minn.

With a population that slightly exceeds 100,000, Carver County has made substantial progress protecting its IT resources. In the past, the county only had one individual working on defenses against cyberattacks, so it established a security unit as well as a security workgroup so that strategies can be developed, projects can be prioritized, and staff can be made aware of what they need to do to reduce the likelihood of a breach. Thanks to this greater focus, Carver began implementing a security information and event management (SIEM) solution by the end of 2019 and produced a detailed incident response plan before summer 2020.  

In 2019, Carver completed a continuity of operations plan with a lot of input from county IT; this plan proved invaluable when COVID-19 struck. Recognizing that its project management wasn’t up to snuff, the county also hired a new manager who is currently building IT policies for project processes. On the public safety front, the sheriff’s office installed automatic vehicle location tech in its squad cars, increasing efficiency and officer safety. Last but not least, county IT has gradually strengthened its relationship with the finance department, which has resulted in improved IT funding.    

9th Franklin County, Va.

As with most local governments, Franklin County’s priorities in 2020 changed with the demands of COVID-19, requiring interdepartmental coordination, technological resources for telework, remote team management and conducting business and citizen engagement virtually. But that aside, lowering operational or long-term costs was the next priority. County IT had gotten a head start on this over the past two years by establishing a zero-base budgeting process, meaning all expenses have to be justified and approved for each new period. The county also worked with vendors to find potential savings and identify which capital projects could be postponed; it forged partnerships with several value-added resellers for lower prices in procurement; and it started evaluating more green technologies and finding options to dispose of or reuse various assets. 

The county also made efforts at modernization and security. It’s in the process of a complete redesign of its network architecture, and it redesigned its backup and restoration architecture to consolidate servers and data stores and reduce the risk of data loss. For extra security, the county backs up all data and duplicates it to an offsite facility in a regional partner jurisdiction, and it created an official policy for data archiving in between application upgrades to make sure data isn’t mishandled or unnecessarily duplicated. The county also partnered with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Center for Internet Security, embedded Albert sensors in the county’s network to monitor traffic, started doing vulnerability scans and penetration tests on a regular basis, deployed multifactor authentication and started security-awareness training for staff. Weekly scans reduced vulnerabilities from more than 500 to three.

10th Vilas County, Wis. 

Home to just 21,500 residents, Vilas County, Wis., is a small jurisdiction often tasked with the proverbial government charge of doing more with less. A prime tourist destination located along the state’s northeast border with Michigan, Vilas cites online digital services for citizens as its No. 1 priority. Given that county government is currently in a hiring freeze, making services available online reduces operating costs, and has the added advantage of making information like records available online to property owners, many of whom are not year-round county residents. Currently, 90 percent of those records are available digitally, and IT is aiming for 100 percent access, as well as an improved search function and a single log-in portal. Vilas County also has data centers on and offsite, as well as in the cloud, providing good redundancy, and with cybersecurity training via vendor KnowBe4, IT has reduced staff clicks on phishing emails from 30 percent to less than 8 percent.

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.



Click points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st Arlington County, Va. 

Arlington County, Va., moves to first place this year thanks to strong work in a number of areas that, among other things, paved the way for a smooth transition amid the chaos of COVID-19. Much of this effort was in preparation for the construction of Amazon HQ2 in the county, which Arlington anticipates will make the area more of a tech hub. This meant that, pre-COVID, the county had already accelerated its data center migration to the cloud and worked toward a virtualized experience for the workforce that allows anytime, anywhere access. As a result, when the county was instructed to shelter in place, they were fully operational in 10 days. Arlington has shored up its resiliency, including adding multifactor authentication for staff, transitioning first responder communication to FirstNet, and moving systems like permitting and utility billing services online.   

The Department of Technology Services (DTS) is committed to upholding county leadership’s emphasis on equity, striving to push forward with new and innovative technologies while also expanding high-speed Internet to make sure all residents have access to the digital tools they need, such as via the Equity through Provision of Broadband Services Initiative. Plus, with an anticipated increase of 75,000 workers in the county over the coming decade, Arlington is using data to analyze affordable housing and identify how to best upgrade commercial buildings to meet the needs of anticipated new tech companies in the area. 

In November 2019, the county launched its first chatbot, the Arlington Virtual Assistant (AVA), to help reduce the number of calls received at the Solid Waste Center that needed attention from human staff. AVA was the first use of AI in the county and can currently offer answers to 850 questions and growing. It will ultimately be used for more agencies and be featured on the county’s main website. 

2nd Washington County, Ark. 

Washington County, Ark., has moved up from ninth place in 2019, partly because of new citizen-centric plans. Its first phase involved collaborating with the county assessor and the state health department to make online geolocated septic tank information available to residents. The second phase called for giving free public access to 360-degree GIS images of properties. The third phase was to provide real-time updates of tax collection records, with a payment platform that also reports in real time to state agencies like the Motor Vehicle and Finance departments. In addition to the general public, professionals such as contractors, real estate agents and inspectors can use these free tools to make their work more time- and cost-efficient. 

Another project involved the county Road Department using drones to map ground and structure areas with few errors. Drones also help property owners determine the source and pattern of waterflow on their land. Future uses of drones include bridge and road inspections.   

Washington County also made strides on the sustainability front, establishing a solar energy initiative. Its first phase is the largest rooftop solar array in the state, a 2 megawatt solar energy production farm. Phase two, to be completed in 2021, is the installation of Tesla Walls in county data centers. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries will connect to solar panels, giving the data centers a power source in the event of an electrical outage. 

3rd Cabarrus County, N.C. 

Cabarrus County takes third place in its population category for prioritizing transparency and accountability, fostering a culture of innovation in its government operations, and maintaining robust cybersecurity practices. The IT department sought to provide an environment that enabled clear connections between the local government and the county’s residents. By streamlining services and staying up to date on a variety of online platforms, residents can communicate and connect with their local government via mobile smart devices, social media and email.   

In the area of cybersecurity, Cabarrus County takes a holistic approach by regularly providing all county employees with up-to-date training courses. Recognizing the importance of citizen participation as well, the county promotes educational programs on the topic as a part of its outreach efforts. Cabarrus has shown its dedication to mitigating cyberthreats by also investing in multi-layered tools such as next-gen firewalls. Like all other events, the state’s annual North Carolina Local Government Information Technology Association spring symposium was moved online due to the COVID-19 crisis. Stepping up to the plate, the Cabarrus team spearheaded several cybersecurity sessions, addressing high-importance topics like election security.

4th Columbia County, Ga. 

Tech is a high priority in Columbia County, Ga., as demonstrated by the technology services director’s seat at executive-level meetings and by a monthly technology meeting attended by elected officials and personnel from county divisions and departments. In short, leadership and IT are strongly aligned. 

Responsibility, preparedness and communication play central roles in the county’s approach to IT. In March 2020, the county instituted an acceptable use policy, which provides a one-stop shop for how county employees should and shouldn’t utilize county-issued equipment, with cybersecurity being a major thread in the policy. That same month, an unmanned aerial systems policy was established, which affects the drone programs of several departments such as the sheriff’s office, fire rescue and water utility. There has also been countywide support for an ongoing phishing campaign and multiple security awareness trainings. Columbia County has also started using the cloud to strengthen the resilience of its data. Finally, in 2019, the county adopted three different asset management policies as well as an all-encompassing technology contingency planning policy, which addresses continuity of operations, business continuity, disaster recovery and information systems contingency.   

Columbia County IT has helped enhance citizen engagement in various ways. As a result of multi-departmental cooperation, the county has its own phone app, one of the first of its kind in the state of Georgia, that provides access to all citizen-focused services, from event ticket purchasing to searching for lost pets to submitting work orders. Through a 311 system, Facebook page and other channels, county staff are encouraged to listen and respond to all citizen concerns. 

5th Onslow County, N.C.

Like in many jurisdictions, the COVID-19 crisis has hastened digital transformation in fifth-place Onslow County, N.C. Microsoft Teams, Planner and SharePoint are all part of the county’s Microsoft Office 365 infrastructure and have enabled virtual collaboration and workspaces, and IT was able to quickly pivot staff who would not typically be able to work remote to do so. Throughout the pandemic, Onslow has presented weekly meetings via Facebook Live to provide citizens with up-to-date data and other information around COVID-19's impact. The county has also expanded on its transparency with residents with the deployment in November 2019 of its open data platform, powered by its existing Esri technology, which helped save on costs. The county is involved in a website redesign process and has been engaging with residents for input.   

The county has deployed iDaptive for identity management as part of its cybersecurity strategy, and uses multifactor authentication for logins, as well as geofencing. Public-private agreements are expanding fiber communications technology to other county facilities. And management of the county’s vehicle fleets is led by the Verizon fleet management platform, which tracks mileage, alerts and vehicle use, leading to maintenance that is more focused and better scheduled. This is the first system of its kind for non-emergency vehicles in Onslow County. 

6th Davidson County, N.C.

Davidson County, N.C., held on to 6th place for the second year in a row, focusing on cybersecurity and citizen engagement, among other efforts. In July of last year, the county implemented quarterly training sessions and a monthly email phishing test on top of its current cybersecurity regimen for employees. In the eight months since those changes went into effect, the county saw a decrease in the rate that employees fell for the phishing test from 11 percent to just 3.8 percent.   

In the interest of boosting citizen engagement, the county added a form to its website that allows citizens to submit questions to a specific elected official or department. The system requires a response within two working days, ensuring that citizens aren’t left waiting. Additionally, Davidson County Transportation System (DCTS) rolled out a new Facebook page last year to provide residents with easy access to information on a number of route changes. They also engaged in a Facebook advertising campaign, which saw significant engagement and helped increase ridership in 2019.   

The Davidson County GIS department also underwent changes recently. They implemented an automated scripting program that puts together a standard data set, updated weekly, which citizens can download. They also launched an initiative to review street and address data in order to ensure its accuracy for next-generation 911. In the process, however, they discovered 2,007 addresses that had not been submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau. These addresses were submitted to the Bureau and accepted in time for the 2020 Census count. 

Last but not least, Davidson County Emergency Services recently procured two drones — one is used by Emergency Services and the other by the Fire Marshal. The drones have been quite helpful in emergency response and have twice been lent out to a neighboring county to help investigate house fires. 

7th Pitt County, N.C. 

Pitt County’s IT efforts in the past year led with emergency services. One of its proudest accomplishments was a grant-funded program that used data records to identify frequent 911 callers, schedule regular follow-ups with them and prepare paramedics to respond to those citizens without sending all the traditional vehicles unnecessarily every time. The county also installed automatic vehicle locator technology on emergency vehicles, so the computer-aided dispactch (CAD) system could more quickly dispatch the nearest vehicles to an incident. 

Pitt County’s next priority was citizen services, specifically health and welfare. For example, the county bought new software for its mobile dental unit that serves kids who qualify for Medicaid, solicited citizen input to revamp the county website, launched a FoodFinder app to connect people who have food insecurities to available resources, and worked with Pitt Community College on a Park Finder app to give the public information on local schools, parks and recreation facilities. As a matter of both emergency and citizen services, the county adapted to COVID-19 by using social media, teleconferencing and other tech-supported community forums to coordinate and release information to staff and the public. 

Planning for resilience, the county established a secondary cloud-based data backup site, and its GIS steering committee prioritized several projects including the publication of environmental health inspection records on the county website and the digitization of legacy records and maps. For cybersecurity, the county contracted with an outside vendor in lieu of a designated CISO for risk assessment and recommendations; and conducted an internal security audit to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats. 

8th Union County, N.C. 

Union County, N.C., jumped up from 10th place last year to eighth this year, and there are some pretty clear indications as to why, including its efforts to improve citizen engagement, while also prioritizing cybersecurity and IT investment.   

Certainly, the county's creation of a mass emergency notification system is one of its more impressive achievements — and is evidence of its prioritization of citizen engagement. The Everbridge notification system, created through collaboration between the county's IT department and its other agencies, alerts citizens to public health and safety emergencies, including extreme weather events. With the system, staff from Emergency Management and Public Safety can expediently communicate news about local hazards to their constituents via text message — as well as relay important information internally to public agency staff. According to county officials, the system was quickly able to notify residents about a potential E.Coli outbreak in the local water supply. 

At the same time, the county’s emphasis on IT investment management seems to be paying off. The county leadership has a direct hand in IT budget priorities — including the Board of Commissioners and the county manager. This year the county invested in both a secure messaging solution for the local public health authority, as well as a secure storage solution that allows for easy data transfer between county agencies.      

9th Berkeley County, S.C. 

Berkeley County, S.C., was not only confronted with the familiar challenges of delivering services as the pandemic took hold earlier this year. Staff also found themselves hunkering down in April with a tornado with winds traveling 120 miles per hour. County staff from multiple departments helped respond, establishing cleanup days, providing grant assistance and setting up online reporting capabilities due to COVID-19-related closures of county facilities. 

A new website for the county went live earlier this year, developed by staff using internal resources. More services can now be accessed online, like payments and applications — timely improvements for constituents due to the pandemic. Cybersecurity strategy includes regular employee training across the organization, complemented by testing to assess its effectiveness. Continuous monitoring of various assets to identify both critical and moderate vulnerabilities also helps staff keep threats at bay.    

Other recent upgrades include migration to a new, more cost-effective phone system late last year, as well as an online financial system that injects more transparency into the county’s budgeting process and fiscal management.

10th Charlotte County, Fla. 

Charlotte County, Fla., which is along the Gulf Coast north of Fort Myers, had a headlining tech and innovation project last year that really stood out. That project was work done to create an electronic document review system in tandem with making the county’s land management software more flexible. This project is in the new mold of online customer service, in that it digitizes processes that used to require in-person interactions with city hall staffers, making them available online 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Charlotte County did this project with much input from citizens, local industry and other departments within city hall.

Aside from the electronic permitting project, cross-department collaboration and public transparency were Charlotte County’s next most significant IT shop accomplishments. Charlotte County had gotten into the practice of holding roundtables about its IT work with members of the local and business communities, as well as filing their responses into reports. The same is true of the county’s use of its various social media platforms.

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.



Click points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st Chesterfield County, Va. 

This is the 11th consecutive year Chesterfield County has placed in its population category, and its fourth time topping the list in that period. The county’s priority has been infrastructure maintenance, for which it has developed several policies for modernization and data governance. In 2019, the county created a Project Management Office, with a five-year plan to reach maturity and a program to track technology projects based on performance indicators and staff input, which is available in a dashboard to deputy county administrators. 

A comprehensive review of more than 600 assets motivated the county to create a 10-year Legacy Technology Asset Modernization Plan, adopted in February 2020 and set to be evaluated annually, with guidelines to manage progress and an additional $450,000 a year in funding. The plan classifies technology as an investment with debt that can accumulate, instead of as a simple cost, so administrators have a clear picture if modernization falls behind. The county also worked with a vendor on a Disaster Recovery System Availability Plan, and it’s in the process of creating a data governance policy and an enterprise data catalog. Not forgetting its human resources, the county approved an IT career development program to give employees a chance to boost their training and salaries. 

Chesterfield’s second priority was responding to COVID-19, for which the county used NetMotion to almost double its VPN capacity from 1,400 users to 2,660, allowing all IT staff and most county employees to telework. Other projects included a website to guide employees through the transition to working from home, multifactor authentication, mandatory cybersecurity training, loaner laptops and other infrastructure, as well as a chatbot, public maps of dine-out restaurants and Wi-Fi access points, an online grant program for businesses, and an emergency operations center to harness data for response and keep track of personal protective equipment. 

In the cutting-edge department, the county upgraded its two Internet connections to 1 Gbps apiece, implemented a hybrid cloud infrastructure for disaster recovery, created an offline backup of important configurations, and is using a machine-learning model to help with capital planning, specifically to forecast funding for schools and emergency response. Since 2019, for security the county has been installing a security information and event management (SIEM) system from LogRhythm to produce telematics about the county network, with monitors and warnings. 

2nd Dutchess County, N.Y. 

The Dutchess County, N.Y., Office of Central and Information Services (OCIS) has worked to keep important information transparent and easy to find for its residents. With that in mind, OCIS redesigned the county website in WordPress to simplify updates for county municipalities. The various cities, towns and villages can now more easily add content, including photos and videos. The site has features like the Dutchess Dashboard, which gives residents snapshots of information on economic indicators like home sales and unemployment, and service indicators such as caseloads in the Department of Community and Family Services and a daily average of jail inmates. The county’s new GIS Healthy Communities, Parks and Trails app was the result of several departments — OCIS, Planning, Health and Public Works — working together to create a useful, interactive map of almost 200 parks (with breakdowns of each park’s amenities) and 400 trails (highlighting features such as length and surface materials) for residents.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Dutchess County was able to quickly initiate its emergency operations center. County departments established essential and nonessential workers, set up work-from-home policies, and within a week of lockdown, 80 percent of employees were able to work remotely. 

3rd Durham County, N.C. 

Even by the difficult standards of 2020, this year has been rough for the IT shop in Durham, N.C., which had to respond to a ransomware attack while also enabling staffers to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis. In terms of crisis response, Durham County’s IT shop also worked to bridge the digital divide among citizens, doing so specifically through a program that made more than 70 Wi-Fi hot spots available to the public. And while the other work undertaken by Durham is, perhaps, a bit less flashy than the simultaneous cybersecurity and crisis response, it’s no less important. 

This work includes establishing a leadership framework to align leaders and managers around a set of consistent principles. In addition, the county as a whole has continued to demonstrate a commitment to data-driven governance, which has been driven by work done by tech and innovation staffers. One example of this work is the use of predictive analytics to estimate how many children would be in foster care custody by 2025, enabling that projection to be used for benchmarking and resource allocation.

Finally, another program of note for the county is Innovate Durham, which is a collaboration between the county, the city, and local innovators. Spanning 12 weeks, the program pairs the public sector with startups to test solutions to community challenges, a proven strategy being deployed in several communities around the country. 

4th County of Placer, Calif.

Placer County has confronted wildfire-related public safety power shutoffs as well as the COVID-19 pandemic this year — enhancing its sustainability and resiliency by virtualizing servers and shifting apps to software as a service. The agency, serving roughly 400,000 residents, has had a cloud-first strategy since adopting its three-year IT Strategic Plan in late 2017; moving to the cloud meant when COVID-19 hit, some 70 percent of the workforce was able to telework almost immediately. IT also deployed a secure remote desktop gateway for remote connections and upgraded desktop anti-virus and Web proxy tools. As part of its COVID-19 response, Placer stood up a call center to filter pandemic-related inquiries later held up by the state of California, suggesting other counties emulate it. County GIS used Esri’s ArcGIS tools to create internal and external dashboards offering pandemic information. Among its connection points to residents, the county engages using tools like FlashVote and Survey Gizmo. The county board of supervisors established a formal security program based on National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) principles, with countywide information security policies. Placer’s IT department also stood up an Information Security Working Committee to drive compliance. Based on its recommendations, the county moved to an enterprise license with Okta to enable single sign-on and multifactor authentication for cloud applications and moved to Zscaler to better safeguard equipment connected to remote networks. In January, the county launched a combined registration and permitting system, targeting short-term rentals with streamlined workflows for landlords and property managers. Implementation of a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for financials, procurement, employee expenses, payroll and time replaced two obsolete systems — and has yielded savings in data center and technical support costs and gains in business process efficiency.

5th Leon County, Fla

Two things stand out when Leon County IT talks about its work: Its commitment to transparency and its emphasis on the human aspects of technology. The county maintains or has recently launched several websites to disseminate information to the public, including tourism-focused Trailahassee.com, a permitting portal that includes information from both the county and the city of Tallahassee and LeonCountyWater.org. The latter is a huge project involving collaborations with many partners to give timely water quality data and other information about local waterways to the public. When the pandemic hit, the county set up a form for the public to submit comments to local board meetings they could no longer attend in person, which also compiles those comments by agenda item for officials and residents to peruse. They also added closed captioning to meeting videos to improve accessibility. 

The beginning of the pandemic saw IT working to quickly set up remote work capabilities for employees, which included fast-tracking an order for 85 laptops that was meant for libraries but were redirected for people who didn’t have the right computers to work outside the office, as well as new virtual desktop clients, software licenses and more. But the department also saw the importance of preparing people, not just computers, for a new reality. That meant setting up a website to help people connect and coming up with guidelines for meetings — for example, having fewer meetings and practicing with the technology beforehand to prevent disruption. Another unique project in the county to engage with people is its “bold goal” to implement 500 ideas from citizens, which is halfway complete. 

Cybersecurity deserves a mention too, as the county has recently put in place new data loss prevention and endpoint monitoring tools, keeps a security services firm on retainer and holds a cyberinsurance policy. 

6th Sarasota County, Fla. 

Sarasota County, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, takes sixth place in its population category this year for its strong IT alignment with county goals, robust data strategy and solid disaster planning. Effective data use has been a main priority in the last year, and to that end the Enterprise Information Technology Department (EIT) created a data scientist position and provided the formal training for an existing employee to take on the role. To fuel data-driven decision-making, EIT worked to understand each agency’s data needs, and to support data literacy for all county staff and enable “self-service” data work. This means that agencies consistently report data to county leadership, who can then use dashboards and metrics, enabled by recently acquired Microsoft Power BI software, to make informed choices. 

EIT’s disaster recovery plan is well-aligned with emergency management, and Sarasota conducted a tabletop exercise that showed agencies countywide what it would look like if IT systems went down in a disaster, including what data might be permanently lost and how long systems could take to recover. This led not only to the creation of additional backups but also created reasonable expectations for what EIT could do in an emergency. They also have a data center rated for Category 5 hurricanes, and redundancy through a fiber connection with the data center in neighboring Manatee County. 

In forward-looking work, Sarasota County has been using machine learning to analyze constituent feedback via social media channels across 20 information categories, including public safety and health, which helps leadership understand opinions from those who might not attend public meetings. That said, COVID-19 drove many of those meetings into virtual settings, which EIT reports have been largely successful. 

7th Douglas County, Colo.

Seventh-place Douglas County, Colo., has made some recent adjustments that demonstrate a growing emphasis on relationship management and culture when it comes to IT. New programs focus on managing organizational change as well as relationships with the departments they serve and the vendors they work with. These shifts are aimed at getting as much value as possible from technology investments. On the procurement side, IT has partnered with the county attorney to develop a standard Master Services Agreement to use with major IT contractors. Five years in duration, the new agreements streamline the previous process that was negotiated separately with each vendor, as well as make it simpler to add time to an existing agreement.  

A new open data hub now hosts all the county’s open data resources, which were previously spread among a number of platforms. This money-saving move has also increased usage of the data by county staff, external partners and the public, the county reports. Some of the same geospatial tools are also being used for the county’s COVID-19 Operational Hub, which is complemented by a public-facing Response Hub. Both portals map things like cases, community spread, hospital capacity and other resources. Also under the heading of modernization, staff can now better manage work orders and assets like traffic signs and signals with a recently updated system that makes it easier to prioritize maintenance and track future needs.

8th Loudoun County, Va. 

A consistent contender since the Digital Counties survey began, Loudon County places yet again in the top 10 for its population category. In the last year, the county has established a new data center and developed a multiyear data governance program, with the ultimate goal of instituting a data warehouse for advanced predictive analytics. Loudon County has also recently made strides in cybersecurity, implementing an email policy that has decreased the number of incoming threats and rolling out a questionnaire that allows a team to assess, early on, the security of every new system and application in the county.    

Loudon County is making sure every IT dollar counts with a new project portfolio management initiative that determines whether money goes toward tech resources that clearly support county business needs. The county has also adopted more agile development methods that have led to the efficient development of niche applications. Toward the end of 2019, Loudon signed a contract with a local Internet service provider to replace old fiber for more than 100 county facilities and to start the process of connecting underserved communities. 

9th Hamilton County, Ind. 

Hamilton County, the fourth-largest county in Indiana, put a lot of effort into shoring up its cybersecurity this year. The county contracted with Palo Alto Networks to modernize is firewall hardware, application monitoring, and intrusion detection and prevention. Through this system, the county has access to security information and event management (SIEM) tools, which compile security data from all devices, servers, firewalls and switches into one location and alert the county if anything seems amiss.   

The county also signed up for a FireEye monitoring service in December 2019 after the state of Indiana offered a subscription to all counties in anticipation of heightened cyberattacks surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Additionally, the county implemented a CloudFlare security program recommended by the National Association of Counties that regulates public website traffic to protect a jurisdiction’s online domain. Also in the interest of security, Hamilton County adopted Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory to manage login permissions for county files and folders — this included single sign-on for many common county applications. 

One of Hamilton County’s top priorities in 2019 was to improve citizen and business engagement with government, which led to a redesign of the public-facing website. Beginning in mid-2019, the county hired a Web consultant to evaluate the existing site and make recommendations. The county then conducted thorough data analyses of traffic statistics in order to gain a better understanding of where visitors were going on the site. They also incorporated the end users, the public, into the process, hosting a survey as well as volunteer forums to garner feedback as they worked on the redesign. The result is a website designed to reflect citizen priorities that makes it easy for residents to find the information that is most important to them. 

10th Berks County, Pa. 

Berks County, Pa., places 10th this year, exhibiting an impressive focus on data governance and transparency, cybersecurity, and some forward-thinking IT solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. In data governance, Berks County invested in a new e-filing and management solution for its civil court system, allowing for more accurate, expedient information sharing between attorneys, county offices and civil court judges. This investment also paid off in reduced labor costs, leading in some cases to overall staff reductions for filing roles. At the same time, the county also improved its financial system's data transparency by adopting third-party data management and reporting platform SplashBI.

County leaders also rolled out new email security protocols this year (including DMARC, SPIF and DKIM), rightly recognizing that email represents one of the biggest major attack vectors for governments. The county also participates in a statewide cybersecurity partnership, PA Cybersafe, which improves its information sharing capabilities and lowers its overall expenses for cybersecurity consulting services through program discounts.

At the same time, the county adapted quickly to the conditions of COVID-19, deploying a website as an informational resource for both individuals and business owners, while also quickly moving county staff to remote work. Concerned about the potential for an outbreak, county leaders also managed to reduce the jail population by some 40 percent through mobile phone video conferencing and hearings.       

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.



Click points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st Ventura County, Calif. 

Disaster response and recovery has become something of a permanent fixture for Ventura County, Calif.’s government. Since 2017, it has gone through several wildfires, some of which have ranked among the most destructive in California’s history, a mass shooting, and now COVID-19. The IT department has responded each time. A new strategy has meant a single website, VCEmergency.com, for helping residents get the most up-to-date and accurate information about incidents, and all communications channels link back to it. A new policy, put in place toward the end of 2019, has mandated that all county departments back up to a central system that stores data in three different places: an on-premise site, an off-premise site and cloud storage. During the current pandemic, the county has helped set up connectivity and hardware for homeless shelters and makeshift testing sites, as well as video arraignment for courts and telework for government employees. 

Ventura County did all this while continuing to manage, and even excel at, the core work of government IT. It’s expanding and adding redundancy for I-Net, a fiber ring for governments in the county. It rolled out a new solution, LinkedIn Learning, countywide to cut down on travel time and hours spent on in-person training. And it created a new deputy CIO position responsible for studying emerging technology and standardizing its use — which has already led to wins in the form of better password policies as well as helpful standards for video meetings and digital signatures. The latter two moves have been important during COVID-19. 

The county has also shown leadership with the helming of a 13-county consortium that has created a way to migrate to a new statewide welfare management system that every county in the state will have to start using by 2023. 

2nd Prince George's County, Md. 

To support county public safety priorities, Prince George’s County has deployed Next-Gen 911 technology, allowing them to better engage with residents using phone calls, texts and improved location accuracy. The county has also expanded its use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement and video surveillance in the county jail and initiated a new effort to create a single integrated case management system for all courts in the state court system.   

Cybersecurity, one of OIT’s top priorities, is now aided by the use of CrowdStrike Falcon, a cloud solution that uses AI to detect and analyze cybersecurity threats. And to respond to the new remote work needs of the COVID-19 crisis, Prince George’s County expanded its VPN infrastructure from a system that could support about 700 remote workers to one that can handle 10 times that number. The county also expanded its use of collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The county also overhauled its 311 system, enhancing the use of resident-supplied photos and introducing text messaging, artificial intelligence and other advanced features. 

In the area of smart infrastructure, the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation deployed connected vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications to support real-time sharing of traffic management data with vehicles capable of receiving the information. The project is expected to contribute to roadway safety and traffic management goals. 

3rd Snohomish County, Wash. 

Snohomish County, Wash., was the site of the first recorded infection of COVID-19 in the U.S., a dubious distinction which meant the county’s IT agency was an early adopter of remote work en masse. Thanks to a remote work policy established in the IT department in 2016 that was extended to encompass more than 3,000 county staff across 27 departments, Snohomish was able to quickly get workers out of offices. Using services from Citrix and Zoom, as well as a pre-existing program to refresh older hardware like laptops, staff were able to continue being productive from home and citizens could still participate in public-facing meetings. The county already had 64 online forms available for citizens to access county services, and after the novel coronavirus began to spread, they stood up a chatbot to help field additional requests. In addition, the county has a top priority to streamline and digitize work across all agencies using Microsoft Office 365 and Power BI. The efforts are largely driven by its Continuous Improvement Program to help maximize efficiencies and that came to the fore in the remote-government environment. 

Other initiatives in the past year also contributed to Snohomish’s third-place showing in this year’s Digital Counties Survey. A review was conducted by the Washington State Auditor’s Office and the state National Guard Cyber Mission Assurance Team to assess the health of county cyberdefenses. One takeaway was a series of recommendations on how IT staff can help support the county emergency management team’s disaster resilience plans, which they plan to do going forward. In January 2020, Snohomish stood up a disaster recovery site in Yakima County to bolster backup resiliency in a different geographic region. To overcome the challenges of data governance in a federated environment, Snohomish is working to standardize data management practices across agencies and foster collaboration among departments on shared data needs. 

3rd Westchester County, N.Y. 

Home to more than 967,500 of New York’s residents, Westchester County placed third in its population category for safeguarding citizen health and safety, prioritizing IT governance and cybersecurity, and aligning all IT values with countywide goals. A notable accomplishment made over the past year is updating the countywide Security and Technology Use Policy as part of a larger Data Loss Prevention initiative. To enhance cybersecurity, the policy update explicitly prohibits the use of unauthorized, third-party file-sharing solutions for the sharing of county data outside of the network. Although this update was already in progress, the move comes at an important time during the COVID-19 pandemic with the surge in telework and the use of personal devices — which creates opportunities for potential misuse of county data. The updated policy provided an educational opportunity to discuss the importance of preventing data loss and has been largely successful in preventing sensitive data from leaving the network. 

Over the past year, the county’s Department of Information Technology has improved its reporting capabilities to more clearly communicate what projects are in progress. To that end, Westchester County also regularly uses the contact form on their website and a variety of social media platforms to collect citizen feedback. All public meetings are streamed online and made available to ensure that all content is accessible. By maintaining accessibility and avenues for citizen feedback, Westchester County prioritizes both resident welfare and their commitment to aligning all IT decisions with broader county goals.         

4th DeKalb County, Ga. 

DeKalb County, Ga., has myriad challenges when it comes to deploying internal and external services as the state’s fourth largest local government, but that hasn’t stopped officials there from meeting those challenges head on. Decreasing tax revenue streams, changing demographics and increased cyberthreats have upped the ante and help shape many of the initiatives currently underway. Perhaps most commendable is the fact that extra attention has been paid to aligning countywide IT objectives and projects through an aggressive and modern strategic plan. That overall plan is further supported by hearty cybersecurity initiatives, which include the use of AI and analytics, as well as heavy coordination between state and local partners. Substantial investment has been made in modern tools and software to help protect data stores from outside threats, and cloud and backup systems are also in place. Where the future is concerned, planning and budgeting are mapped out using a strategy centered on meeting the county’s long-term objectives. This helps to ensure funding and focus for the most pressing IT needs 

5th Gwinnett County, Ga.

Gwinnett County, a fast-growing and quickly diversifying suburban area northeast of Atlanta, has put into place structures that keep its IT department plugged into the needs of the government. Its Digital Strategy Plan, which covers the next two years, engaged every department to find technology that can deliver value. It has led to plans for a 311 mobile app, online polling and social media expansion, among other things. Meanwhile, an existing Business Relationship Consultant program has been working for four years to periodically check in with department leaders on how their technology is working for them, researching new tools and creating road maps to move deliberately toward innovation. 

This is all the backdrop to several notable accomplishments, such as upgraded collaboration tools for a police “war room” that taps into traffic cameras, new digital services for solid waste management as well as the licensing and revenue department, 75 percent server virtualization and a new backup E-911 center. Gwinnett IT was also able to quickly — within hours — move about 70 percent of its workforce to telework in March when COVID-19 hit because of prior investments in mobile workforce. 

There’s much to watch in the county; current projects include a new enterprise performance management system, a massive modernization of police and fire systems and possibly the creation of unique digital IDs for residents and businesses that could streamline access to government services. 

6th Baltimore County, Md. 

Baltimore County finds itself just outside the top half of cities with populations between 500,000 and 999,999 residents. Baltimore County had previously listed automating services as a priority, but COVID-19 supercharged that work, so much so that some existing platforms were repurposed to help address needs that sprung up as a result of the crisis. For example, the Web services team developed the county’s main website into a COVID-19 hub, where citizens could access information and dashboards relevant to crisis needs. And it didn’t stop there. The IT shop in Baltimore County also re-engineered existing online payment tools to include new permits, licenses and plan reviews, all of which helped enable processing when cashier windows had to close. One perhaps unique creation was a county-built app for restaurants and grocery stores to provide info around operating hours and available services, thereby centralizing information citizens were looking for around access to food. 

Other recent tech and innovation accomplishments for Baltimore County include hiring a chief data officer, a new county website being developed with a mobile-first approach, and cybersecurity practices given shape by the experiences of neighboring jurisdictions. This cybersecurity work has been wide-spanning, and it has touched many different areas of the work done by IT. The county has also worked to collaborate with other state agencies such as the Department of Public Safety and Correction Services. While funding will remain a challenge in the wake of COVID-19, this has all positioned the county well for the future. 

7th San Joaquin County, Calif.

San Joaquin County continued its steady climb through the ranks this year, moving up to seventh place. Among other things, the county made improvements to both its cybersecurity and disaster recovery postures. In response to an independent cybersecurity assessment, San Joaquin developed a three-year cybersecurity strategy and implemented enhanced end-user training and endpoint security, 24/7 monitoring and updated policies, among other improvements. On the disaster recovery side of things, San Joaquin County now has a disaster recovery site for data storage. Data from all mission-critical systems is replicated every 10 minutes at the disaster recovery site, which is in a separate location from the data center. In the event that the main data center goes down, the disaster recovery site can be used to restore all mission-critical systems within two hours. 

In September 2019, San Joaquin County began piloting an apprenticeship program within the Information Systems Division (ISD) for county employees. Three candidates are currently enrolled in the program, which sees them attend San Joaquin County Delta College for three years to earn a certificate in IT. After the participants’ first year of school, they will become apprentices in ISD, working part time to apply what they’re learning, and after the second year they can apply to become full-time ISD employees once they receive their certification. 

Like most U.S. jurisdictions, San Joaquin County turned to technology to solve problems earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The county found that its call centers were being inundated with citizen questions, so it quickly set up a chatbot on its website to help. AskSJC is available in three languages, and users can search all its possible questions. The bot “learns” from each interaction in order to improve itself, and data shows that usage has been increasing since its launch. 

8th New Castle County, Del. 

A county with more than half of Delaware’s total population, New Castle has come into its own as a tech-driven local area, thanks to a recent restructuring that gave IT a seat at the executive cabinet level and a voice in budgeting decisions. With an eye toward the future, the county has taken multiple steps to protect its tech-related assets, with ongoing cybersecurity hygiene training for all county staff and the rollout of a multilayered, multi-vendor defense system that aligns with best practices.    

New Castle’s public safety standing improved substantially when data was used to enhance 911 response. Today, more than 90 percent of calls are answered in 10 seconds or less — that number once stood at 65 percent. This change occurred when the chief of technology and administrative services was the acting public safety director. In 2019, New Castle IT also helped the county identify several measures, including contract negotiations and an enterprise copier solution, that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars saved.    

The county is gradually moving toward solutions that provide greater scalability and modern services. New Castle has transferred more than 60 percent of its data to the cloud, which has led to an appreciable reduction of servers and related costs. The county’s Internet infrastructure has also seen significant advancement. In addition to leveraging a contract in order to deliver Internet speeds that are 10 times faster, IT re-engineered the county network so that it can run through the state’s VPN, allowing for greater agility when new needs arise. 

9th San Mateo County, Calif. 

In its fourth consecutive year on this list, the county of San Mateo made a number of operational and infrastructure changes, but some of its biggest were adaptations to COVID-19. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued stay-at-home orders on March 19, and within 48 hours the county’s Information Services Department (ISD) procured 2,000 additional laptops and other hardware for telework, transitioning in a matter of weeks from a 30 percent remote workforce to 90 percent. ISD used ZScaler and multifactor authentication for Internet security, set up Wi-Fi-to-satellite connectivity at COVID-19 testing stations so personnel could use mobile devices and the cloud, and deployed Avaya one-x Agent to create a remote access system for teleworking employees of the Human Services Agency’s call center, which handles benefits and services. The county also partnered with NURO to send out autonomous vehicles for contactless food deliveries to people under isolation orders. 

Besides COVID-19 response, another priority has been digital inclusion, for which the county is compiling data on the digital divide, establishing a task force with representatives from public and private entities, writing a shared-assets agreement and forming public-private partnerships to cover underserved communities. In November 2019, ISD’s GIS team worked with the county’s Center on Homelessness to modernize the referral workflow for support programs, which had been done via email up to that point. The team developed two mobile-accessible forms by which partner agencies, such as the sheriff’s office or county health, can document non-emergency situations, triage services, collect data and show program managers real-time information on the status of various requests and cases. 

Other modernization and data projects included migrating the county’s data to the Socrata Connected Government Cloud, and a pilot project for more IoT infrastructure, including more air quality sensors and associated apps, dashboards and notification systems. The county also opened a new, durable Regional Operations Center for public safety responders in a crisis, which houses a consolidated data center and replaced approximately 20-year-old console systems with new dispatch consoles.

10th Chester County, Pa.

Chester County, Pa., welcomed new enterprise IT leadership in the last year and staked out a path to enhance communications with county departments and investigate and deploy new technologies and cloud services to meet the county’s growth needs. A top priority within that focus is the elimination of legacy systems and the introduction of more modern systems that will lower costs and facilitate more seamless communication of data. This also includes offering more flexible and affordable storage and server solutions and the promotion of more standardization to develop additional economies of scale and cross-organizational consistency. Chester County has also made timely upgrades to enterprise and functional area software projects and added a definition of how to best organize IT resources, fund IT initiatives and ensure a realization of the maximum value for IT investments.   

Another top priority is to ensure that citizens can access information and request services any time by increasing the number of online services. Chester County is also leveraging social media to improve communication with citizens, such as in late 2019 when the county replaced its old DOS-based election reporting tool with a new cloud-based electronic dashboard. It allows users to search results using an interactive map and get voter turnout information for an entire precinct. For the first time, users can see election results via a mobile device.

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.



Click points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st Los Angeles County, Calif.

Los Angeles County – the most populous county in the country – has been on a steady climb in the Digital Counties survey over the past few years, going from No. 4 to No. 2 and now to No. 1. One of the big reasons for the rise this year was the agency’s approach to cybersecurity, a challenge for every government IT shop in the country. Amid the aftermath of a phishing attack, Los Angeles County moved away from a federated cybersecurity model to a centralized security structure that included agencywide endpoint security upgrades as well as better mobile device management. The latter also helped to inadvertently prepare Los Angeles County for the advent of COVID-19 and a subsequent increase in remote work.

In addition, 2019 saw Los Angeles County establish its first countywide IT strategic plan, which is no small feat for a jurisdiction that includes more cities than any other in the country. Crafting this plan was done with the help of representatives from 200 businesses and 37 of the governments in the county. That inclusion speaks to something else Los Angeles County did well in 2019 – working closely with members of its community, specifically its local business community. IT leadership incorporating engagement from business leaders was a theme throughout 2019 for Los Angeles County. 

Finally, in terms of citizen engagement, Los Angeles County is doing quite a bit in several areas, with the work perhaps being best-encapsulated by the way it manages its popular Trails App, both including a feedback feature within the app and also making improvements based on reviews from platforms such as Google Play and the App Store.

2nd Wake County, N.C.

Consistently a strong contender in the Digital Counties Survey, this year Wake County, N.C., jumped from fifth to second place in its population category. The Information Services (IS) department strives to work in conjunction with the county’s “Great Government” goals, including increasing transparency and boosting data-driven decision-making. In 2019 Wake County hired a chief data officer who is tasked with heading an Enterprise Data Management Program that includes a data governance council comprising members from across county departments to lead creation of a data use and security policy. There is also a new group of data analysts called Analytics at Wake (aWake), which includes a data literacy program for county staff, efforts to upgrade the county’s open data portal, and exploration of new tools like the Internet of Things. 

In a new coordinated security effort, Wake County has established an Incident Risk Management Core Team made up of the chief information security officer, heads of IT, and managers across all county departments who come together to discuss and make decisions around security policy and management. A cybertraining program resulted in a 65 percent improvement in user susceptibility to email phishing between January 2019 and March 2020. 

COVID-19 of course impacted Wake in no small way, with 2,500 employees, or 90 percent of staff, working remotely since mid-March. Fortunately, a number of critical elements to IT service were replaced or upgraded in the last year, like network storage and firewalls, as well as the county’s Internet bandwidth, which became useful when they invested in additional VPN licenses to accommodate all the remote workers. IS has worked closely with emergency services since the Emergency Operations Center was activated in March, which has pulled resources from IT for critical work like standing up a COVID dashboard and contact tracing app. 

3rd Orange County, Fla.

It’s not hard to see why Orange County, Fla., is a top-three finisher in its population category. Among myriad efforts related to efficient and effective public-sector IT, the regional government stands out in its efforts to protect its data and systems through cybersecurity best practices. The establishment of the Regional Security Operations Center marks one impressive accomplishment, while securing transportation infrastructure is a feat rarely contemplated by regional entities.  

Beyond the focus on securing government assets from increasing cyberthreats, IT staff have seen success in areas like logistical and process improvements. Staff worked with the Orange County Head Start program — which serves low-income children through early development, with health care and support for their families — to deploy a new system to improve communications among program staff, teachers and the supply warehouse.   

Where public safety is concerned, Orange County improved the resilience of its emergency communications system by adding disaster recovery and backup infrastructure. The busy system once relied on a single 300-foot tower to handle 145,000 daily radio transmissions, but the addition of Motorola technology to the county courthouse building has added extra security in case of an emergency. The technology also ensures that law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services personnel can access real-time radio calls via their smartphones. Additionally, the addition of the eWarrants application has allowed for efficiencies in law enforcement and the court system. The new app allows for real-time review of warrants and no longer requires officers to hand-deliver them.    

4th Hennepin County, Minn.

Taking fourth place this year in the 1-million-plus population category, Hennepin County, Minn., the largest by population in the state, has some IT practices worth emulating. Both active and passive citizen feedback methods help feed continuous improvement to citizen services across the county. Interviews, surveys and focus groups are some of the tools used to gather active feedback, while staff monitors analytics from social media and the county website to gauge passive feedback. One example of how this focus on citizens manifests is the Healthy Homes Web application, in which staff from different teams came together to merge the application process for home repair and lead abatement grant programs. The extensive process included journey mapping, prototyping and iterative design, and the IT team worked on back-end technical needs to further ensure a seamless process for residents.   

And Hennepin has an interesting approach when it comes to how to effectively use emerging technologies to improve operations — an area where peers often struggle. The IT group evaluates new tech against business needs and industry research, and the enterprise architecture team lends their expertise in developing future-looking road maps that incorporate policy considerations. One place this was put to use was in the deployment of chatbots by human resources. The prep work by technical staff paid off, allowing the county to move forward once a use case came to light. In the transportation area, the county has leveraged multiple funding sources, including the state and federal governments, to build out its Advanced Transportation Management System, in a partnership between IT and public works. Built on fiber optics, the system had 35 smart traffic signals as of the end of 2019, with 85 more planned for 2020, positioning the county to enjoy the benefits of modern, connected transportation infrastructure. 

5th Alameda County, Calif. 

One thing that jumps out about Alameda County, Calif., is the way its technology projects suggest holistic thinking — work that transcends new technology and instead seeks ways to create better processes. A good example is an end-to-end re-engineering of the application process for In-Home Supportive Services. The work involved setting up and connecting several systems to eliminate paper, auto-populate digital forms with state data and speed up the entire process. The county has set up “data marts” to smooth importation of data used by hundreds of employees, but the larger goal is to create a central data hub for the whole county. A pilot earlier this year enabled earlier release of people awaiting trial from jail by getting paperwork in front of judges faster and automating tracking and reporting of inmates, addressing different parts of a system. 

Alameda County has risen to meet many challenges in the past year as well. It was subject to a planned power shut-off to prevent wildfires, which would have shut down a contact center. Within 24 hours of receiving notice, IT set up a temporary contact center outside the shut-off zone. When two cities in the area fell victim to a cyberattack, the county moved swiftly to sever contact with those cities, prevent emails from reaching inboxes and scan for intrusions. Then it worked with the cities to quickly recover and learn more about how it happened. 

As for COVID-19, IT found itself in the fortunate position of having rolled out a new telework policy just before the pandemic hit, so the transition was smooth. It has moved quickly to help set up homeless shelters, deploy a mobile app to help people find those shelters, implement e-signature capabilities, enable video for board meetings and weddings, and deploy a chatbot to handle common public health questions.

6th King County, Wash.

Consistently a Digital Counties winner in its category, Washington’s largest county and the 12th most populous in the U.S. has been focused on citizens through a wide range of modernization, outreach and forward-thinking projects. Its top priority lately has been racial justice as it implemented an Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan, which requires an Equity Impact Review of all technology initiatives and ongoing efforts to generate data on how different communities are being served by the county. To track the accountability of some of its services, the county launched its Client Online Reporting Engine (CORE), purportedly the first system of its kind in the U.S. to automatically collect client-level program performance data from service providers, usually nonprofits. 

Like many counties, King County IT also prioritized pandemic response. It transitioned more than 5,500 employees to telework, outfitted testing sites, started tracking hospital bed availability and set up a supply distribution warehouse. By using chatbots to handle COVID-related inquiries, the county gave nursing staff 35 percent more time to focus on symptomatic patients. The county continues to modernize applications and expand its range of digital services in light of COVID-19. 

Continuing a constant process of modernization, the county updated its jail system with new management software and wireless capabilities, automated the inspection of storm drains using mobile technology and an asset-management data system from Cityworks, built a new property tax system on Microsoft Dynamics365 to handle a flood of new documents from a new state tax policy, and it has been coordinating with the secretary of state on election security and upgrades, including a new voter tabulation system. 

To accommodate the growing data needs of digital evidence in law enforcement, from dash cams to surveillance and cellphones, the county moved that work to the cloud via Evidence.com, where police, prosecution and defense can all access it. The county expects this will reduce costs in storage, transport and staff time.

7th San Diego County, Calif. 

California’s second-largest county by population has outsourced its information and telecommunications services since 1999, currently to DXC. But San Diego County, home to more than 3.3 million residents, tied for seventh place in this year’s survey, buoyed by a strong performance in bread-and-butter IT. In December, officials updated their Cyber Disruption Response Plan for the region, which hadn’t been refreshed since 2015, and in February, the county stood up a solution to offer employees continuous cybersecurity training. In response to COVID-19, staff increased the network's physical Internet capacity tenfold; implemented an Akamai VPN solution that enabled telework for more than 5,000 staff; offered telework connectivity training via live webinars; secured and re-imagined more than 600 laptops; and added AdobeSign for electronic signature. 

In March, over three business weeks — a timeline moved up by roughly a year due to COVID-19 — the county migrated from a two-redundant, load balance, diverse, 1-gigabyte Internet connection to one that’s completely diverse and 10 gigabytes, to support 10,000 newly minted remote employees. The migration enhanced remote computer support and the ability to stream meetings, and improved password lockout problems. The county’s Innovation Management Office added “No Touch” guest check-in at the Emergency Operations Center and other facilities, letting staff log in and out via a touchless QR code. 

And on the public-facing side, the county has migrated several types of construction permits online, including the process to build a home electric vehicle charging station. The agency also maintains an Innovation Portal where employees can educate themselves on county initiatives and submit their own ideas. So far, 10 proofs of concept have been completed and six are ongoing. 

7th Oakland County, Mich.

Oakland County, Mich., took seventh place in its population category for the second year in a row, showing its ability to maintain its status as an innovative jurisdiction. As the second most populous county in the state, Oakland has a lot of data to protect. Thus one of its more impressive feats is its continued prioritization of cybersecurity, shown by its recent investment in a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution last October that promises to give IT staff real-time insights into potential security events, while also reducing internal resource hours typically spent on routine security procedures. Oakland County’s cybercapabilities have also been mature enough to allow it to assist neighboring counties with incident response and restoration of services after significant security incidents. At the same time, its commitment to enterprisewide training and risk awareness — and its plans to imminently deploy more automation and AI cybertools — reinforce the county’s commitment to staying on top of things when it comes to defense.   

Also impressive is the county's dedication to advancing a more data-driven environment by encouraging local municipalities to integrate spatial data into local decision-making processes. The county's geographic information system team offers a "GIS Roadshow,” an educational program that explores the various ways spatial data may assist public agencies. 

8th Miami-Dade County, Fla. 

Miami-Dade County has significantly improved its ability to communicate with and serve residents through its redesigned website. Not only has Miami-Dade gotten rid of more than 1,000 Web pages that displayed either duplicative or out-of-date information, but it has linked its website to its 311 call system, which means that the most requested 311 call topics show up online. The site’s new self-service features have resulted in substantial time and money saved, and customer feedback, as opposed to internal perceptions of customer needs, is now the main driver of Web content.   

The county is increasingly relying on data for decision-making and citizen engagement. An upgraded open data portal, GIS tech and sensor data have been informing solutions to problems, and local hackathons have utilized administrative data sets to create new service applications with feedback mechanisms. Miami-Dade IT has also shored up cybersecurity by implementing multifactor authentication across the county, which helped set the table for secure remote work during COVID-19.

9th Cook County, Ill. 

Cook County, Ill., is uniquely structured in that it is made up of myriad autonomous offices and each pursues its own direction. Each independent office can partner with or learn from other agencies to create the experience its constituents want. But the model comes with IT challenges, such as separate and oftentimes duplicative IT contracts for similar services.  

But much has changed in the last 12 months and the county has reached unprecedented levels of shared services with its shared IT procurement model. For example, the county went live in February of this year with a beginning-to-end digital human resources employee evaluation forms setup. It was deployed much more quickly than through the traditional RFP process by using an existing DocuSign contract within the Cook County Sheriff’s Office that met the needs of Human Resources. What’s more, it can potentially meet the needs of other agencies as well.

The county has more than 20,000 employees, none of whom worked at home prior to the pandemic hitting this past spring. As a result, the county had to fundamentally change the way it worked immediately. That transition was made easier in part because of the work the Bureau of Technology had been doing on work-from-home policies for all agencies. By April, the county had transitioned to an almost entirely work-from-home workforce. 

10th County of San Bernardino, Calif.

In the two years since its last appearance in the Digital Counties Survey, one of the things that San Bernardino County chose to focus on was improving cybersecurity. In 2018, the county hired its first chief information security officer and has spent the last two years reaping the benefits. Under Robert K. Pittman Jr.’s leadership, the county created a Countywide Information Security Program (CISP) that has greatly improved its overall cybersecurity posture. The CISP led to the implementation of countywide information security awareness training and the first internal cybersecurity website for county staff to stay informed on security efforts. A cybersecurity review was also integrated into the county’s RFP and purchasing contract negotiation processes, ensuring that security is baked into all new procurements. 

San Bernardino County is also focusing on improving citizen engagement, recently launching a website standardization initiative to improve customer-facing websites. The county made three strategic new hires for this project, bringing on a user experience designer, a user interface designer and a Web graphics designer. The county has seen an increase in operational efficiencies on the government side of the websites that have undergone standardization, and citizens have found it easier to access information and services. 

Another tech upgrade came in the form of a new mobile-based system for the county’s annual Homeless Point-in-Time Count, allowing more than 700 volunteers to send real-time information from the field. This system also allowed the county to immediately dispatch specialty teams to interact with members of predetermined target groups, such as seniors. This approach enabled the county to house 25 seniors by the end of the day, far surpassing its predetermined goal. 

10th Fairfax County, Va. 

In Fairfax County, Va., the COVID-19 pandemic required innovative ways of tackling both everyday issues and the new issues that arose. The coronavirus presented challenges in the areas of health, human services, communication and technology. By expanding remote access and participation, utilizing virtual meetings, and enhancing and increasing mobility options, the county has continued to meet residents’ needs. The county designed its COVID-19 website to provide clear, consistent information to the public, from health information to rumor control, and information is available in several languages. The county COVID-19 Activity Tracker checks the consumption rate of personal protective equipment (PPE) in real time, and alerts when inventory is low on PPE like respirators, gloves and surgical masks and should be reordered. 

Gregory Scott, who was named director of the Department of Information Technology in September 2019, recently worked with court officials after the pandemic began in order to go beyond the video arraignments already used in the county. The county expanded use of video technology in its court system to allow circuit courts to issue marriage licenses and concealed weapon permits. 

In October last year, Fairfax County launched its virtual assistant chatbot to quickly help residents who visit the website. It uses artificial intelligence to learn content and context from interactions about common questions. The county plans to integrate the chatbot with digital home assistants to provide the public with information and let them complete transactions.

Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.

Government Technology is Governing's sister e.Republic publication, offering in-depth coverage of IT case studies, emerging technologies and the implications of digital technology on the policies and management of public sector organizations.
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