This past year could be dubbed “the year of the refresh” for the winners of the 2019 Digital Cities Survey, presented by the Center for Digital Government.*
The IT leaders and elected officials of these top cities have braced themselves for the next decade by leveraging vendor solutions, identifying infrastructure upgrades and making government-wide changes to philosophy. Many of these initiatives were implemented during the past year, but other winners have thrived on existing foundations in IT operations.
None of these winning cities wants to be hindered by hindsight, and they share the belief that the user, whether it be a city resident, business owner or passing tourist, should be the guiding factor in the deployment of new or emerging technologies.
WESTON, FLA., 1ST PLACE, UP TO 75,000 POPULATION CATEGORY
About 25 miles from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean sits a city that has fully embraced all that “as-a-service” has to offer. Weston, Fla., only has 10 official city employees who act as contract administrators managing the vendors that interface directly with the public.
Ryan Fernandes, director of Technology Services for the city, said this different style of governance allows elected officials and city staff to more quickly adapt than other contemporary municipalities.
“Initially we really took the time to invest properly in our foundation layers,” Fernandes said. “Unfortunately, a lot of folks inherit systems that are already there and maybe have a lot of what you would call ‘technical debt.’ We were able to start from the ground up, to build our stack layer by layer, fortifying each layer as we got all the way to the top.”
A relatively young city, Weston celebrated its 23rd birthday in 2019. Fernandes said the city’s success has been properly investing in its IT foundation, which has been built out and improved under his purview.
He drew upon previous public-sector experience in larger governments to ensure the selection of vendors was prudent and that each system would be able to communicate with the other, as each layer relies on a different third-party solution.
“One thing that I learned very early on is we’re not being compared with other cities around us or other local governments,” Fernandes said. “We’re being compared to Amazon and Delta Airlines. The things people are using every day in their consumer life, they want that same efficiency in their transactions with local government.”
As a service-oriented municipality, Weston prioritizes staying in line with current trends and paying attention to user needs for both the improvement of internal processes and the ancillary benefit of more user-friendly interactions. For the city to use a new technology, it must have a qualitative or quantitative measurement component so city leaders can gauge its effectiveness.
“It really does start with understanding what you do in terms of providing services to our constituents,” he said.
LYNCHBURG, VA., 1ST PLACE, 75,000-124,999 POPULATION CATEGORY
A city among the oldest in the nation, Lynchburg, Va., is looking toward the future. In 2019, the mayor’s office, City Council and IT busily drafted strategic plans to direct the policies and priorities for the next 20 years.
Director of Information Technology Mike Goetz ensured his IT shop was intimately involved in the city's future as projected in the Downtown 2040 Master Plan and “The Lynchburg Plan,” a policy document undergoing its final review before the City Council.
In preparation for the restoration and upgrade of the city’s downtown infrastructure, IT staff are collaborating with utility providers and public works to efficiently pool construction efforts, such as the installation of new water pipes in conjunction with conduits and fiber-optic cables to facilitate public Wi-Fi and future smart city endeavors.
Lynchburg IT went as far as to craft an in-house system tracking key information about planned public infrastructure projects that loops in public-facing departments, like economic development, to coordinate communications about noteworthy items like road closures, traffic changes and more.
“Until this system came into place it was a piecemeal kind of data sharing approach, and if you didn’t know the right people you might not know what was going on,” Goetz said. “This is not something a citizen or a business would see, but it is extremely helpful internally to share information among these various functional departments.”
NORFOLK, VA., 1ST PLACE, 125,000-249,999 POPULATION CATEGORY
The city that borders the world’s largest naval base needs to stay at the forefront of IT best practices and challenges to keep pace with its federal neighbor.
But it’s mainly the city’s residents who have motivated IT modernization efforts at this seaport. CIO Steven DeBerry said Norfolk has shifted to a citizen-centric and connected government throughout his five-year tenure as the head of IT.
“In the last four years we’ve spent a lot of time on rebuilding and refreshing infrastructure, whether it was public safety infrastructure or the computer refresh,” DeBerry said. “I spent a lot of time with metrics in presenting the case and it’s more than refreshing old computers because with new business processes and new business systems, you need faster computing capability.”
The faster internal processes aren’t something the public readily sees, though glimpses can be gleaned from the Norfolk open data portal, which showcases 32 data sets from public safety to the work of local artists.
The data is partially fed by the city’s 311 app, MyNorfolk, deployed over the last year as a way for residents to directly interact with the city to report potholes, water breaks and more. The app launched in October alongside a redesign of the city’s website.
The infrastructure and data sharing pushes are important pillars of the current leadership in city hall. Norfolk is looking to partner with neighboring cities to leverage the city-owned 37-mile fiber ring network with a proposed regional fiber ring that, in theory, would connect the five cities in Hampton Roads metro area, allowing first responders to collaborate more effectively during natural disasters, he said.
“I’m hoping that my legacy would be having rebuilt the city’s IT infrastructure to support future smart city and connectivity initiatives,” DeBerry said.
MIAMI, 1ST PLACE, 250,000-499,999 POPULATION CATEGORY
When Miami's city manager merged the Office of Innovation, the Department of Information Technology and the Office of Strategic Management into the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), it was a gamble. But a little over a year later, the culture shock has subsided, making way for a whole new philosophy for IT projects.
Michael Sarasti, director of DoIT, said the new approach to IT projects revolves around two questions: How is it a better use of data in the city, and is it user-focused? Sarasti said his staff has made the adjustment to a shorter development timeframe, which frees them from long project cycles. The impact, metrics and performance of a solution share equal importance with the problem IT is attempting to fix or refine.
“Data’s got to be at the top of what we do. We’ve got to have clear problem statements, and we’ve got to think about the products that we’re building over the projects that we’re trying to organize,” Sarasti said. “Really embedding those feedback loops. Those things have just become like mantras for us around here.”
The reprioritization in IT has helped reduce an almost-overwhelming number of projects that were dumped on DoIT’s predecessor agencies. The goal of DoIT is to help the city make better and more data-driven decisions, he said.
A byproduct of the reorganization has been increased transparency for the public, city leaders and other departments. New policies have helped streamline the conduits of transparency, such as a multi-departmental effort to extract useful data for the Miami open data portal.
Sarasti said that work is now coming to fruition, and that it's “starting to become a little more habit as opposed to forcing a new philosophy. Focusing on the way we work, I think, has been really impactful.”
SAN DIEGO, 1ST PLACE, 500,000 OR MORE POPULATION CATEGORY
Successfully marrying legacy and modern applications is a challenge many cities and even states struggle with, but by building on its IT successes over the years, it’s something San Diego has decided to undertake.
City leaders christened the Digital Strategy Division (DSD) in 2019. DSD is a group charged with standardizing applications so that an improved user experience can be delivered to the city’s residents. CIO Jonathan Behnke said DSD is helping his team with everything from cybersecurity to re-evaluating the application portfolios of each city department.
“As we modernize city systems, an improved user experience is a priority for us and really drives user adoption, provides ease in training and helps us make 11,500 employees more efficient in what they do,” Behnke said. “If you save 11,500 people a minute and a half a day, it adds up pretty quickly over time.”
It’s an under-the-hood tune-up that will provide a concrete plan for agencies to increase productivity and allow them to spend more time on more meaningful work.
DSD also serves as a liaison between the various city departments and IT, he said. As an agency develops a concept and goes through the steps to build it out, DSD is there to help the staff overcome potential barriers.
“They’re a great sounding board for us as we’re considering changes in delivering road maps to city departments,” Behnke said. “It’s a quick feedback loop for us to make adjustments or changes to improve the user experience.”
In response to the mayor’s pledge to repave 1,000 miles of streets by 2020, San Diego IT decided to distill 30 systems into a single enterprise asset management system, creating an improved capability to monitor and collaborate on capital improvement projects, Behnke said.
All these improvements come together in a resident’s ability to use the city’s 311 app, Get it Done, to report a pothole, follow the status of the repair via the San Diego open data portal, and facilitate potential piggybacking on the repair to result in a repaved and upgraded street.
“San Diego has developed a culture of innovation and really taken a data-driven approach to its services,” Behnke said. “All of those things culminated in a lot of successful projects in innovation in the past year.”
*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.
Hover over 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 City of Weston, Fla.
Weston, Fla., rose from 9th place in last year’s survey and continues to make it easier for residents to engage with the city through an improved, mobile-friendly website and by migrating a number of business functions online, improved mapping technology, as well as improving permitting services via features like electronic plan review. The city also provides mobile field inspections and automated messages related to inspection schedules. Migrating permitting to an online platform has led to a 70 percent reduction in foot traffic in the Permitting Services building.
The Weston Technology Strategic plan, first published in 2018, has identified cybersecurity as a focus area and has fortified the city’s network systems with revamped policies, improved firewalls and machine learning analytics, among other systems. If a cyberattack or ransomware incident occurs, the city has an established remediation plan.
By the same token, the IT plan is dedicated to transparency and open data, making access to public documents easier, along with employing innovative tools like Alexa Skills, where residents can use the online personal assistant to look up city data such as the zoning for a particular address. The most citizen-centric map application in Weston is known as My City Services and allows residents to access a number of city services and data related to an entered address, which can include property information, planning and zoning updates, code enforcements cases, school zones, and more.
2nd City of Danville, Va.
In the last several years, Danville, Va., a community of 41,000, has faced a declining population, aging infrastructure and limited tax revenue, making creativity a must when it comes to technology. Danville IT leans on collaborations with nonprofits and other governments — its new budget visualization and collaboration tool, for example, grew out of another city’s open source effort, and it shares a GIS system for helping investors find opportunities with Pittsylvania County. Rather than opting for expensive change management clauses in procurement contracts, Danville trained its IT business relationship manager in change management.
The city has also recently completed several projects, including new crime dashboards for police, a branded mobile app, a metrics dashboard for performance management and interdepartmental collaboration and upgraded VoIP. Currently, Danville is working to set up a one-stop shop permitting portal for residents that will integrate with its ERP system, as well as researching smart city opportunities such as camera analytics to publish downtown’s real-time parking availability to the public.
3rd City of Tamarac, Fla.
It was another strong year for Tamarac, Fla., which finished in the top three for cities with populations up to 75,000 and appeared in the Digital Cities rankings for an impressive sixth consecutive year. The city, which is part of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, has been steadily investing in modernization in ways that yield results, doing so under the guidance of a thorough strategic plan for IT and a comprehensive technology roadmap.
This work has led to an increase in Tamarac’s use of cloud-computing services, meaning staff can now access digital tools from anywhere with an Internet connection. They also have new mobile-friendly software to use in the field via tablets. For residents interacting with the city online, Tamarac continues to take great strides toward turning its website into a virtual city hall, a desirable concept throughout the world of gov tech that means making essential walk-in government services available online. This year, that work has meant mostly staying the course with small additions, as last year the city launched a redesigned website with a companion mobile app.
What was new this year, however, was increased use of Web streaming to foster civic engagement. Residents can now access feeds of city commission and neighborhood meetings live or on-demand through Facebook, with the city aiming to put planning board meetings online next. Finally, work that was previously underway on smart parks was completed this year, giving public spaces in Tamarac high-tech touches such as fiber connections, full Wi-Fi coverage, video surveillance, remote lighting control, and smart irrigation, among others.
4th Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
The rural North Carolina village of Pinehurst took fourth place in its population category in 2019. This year, the village increased its focus on community engagement with the launch of a new engagement tool, Engage Pinehurst, in May. The online portal allows citizens to express their thoughts and ideas on topics posted by the city. They can provide written feedback and upload photos, and staff and council members can access this information and take it into account during decision-making processes. Additionally, the site has a special communication mechanism that allows the village to let residents know how their input made an impact.
The village also made improvements in public safety, collaborating with surrounding Moore County’s Emergency Services department on fire dispatch and communication. Dispatch information for fire emergencies is immediately sent directly to mobile terminals within the fire trucks, and a shared 800 mhz radio system allows city and county fire officials to communicate seamlessly throughout both jurisdictions. Additionally, Pinehurst and other nearby municipalities use a joint computer-aided dispatch system to collaborate with Moore County’s 911 center.
Part of Pinehurst’s fiber network also got an upgrade in 2019. The village’s Metro-E network, which connects remote locations in the village including public event venues and a fire station, saw its bandwidth doubled. This increased capacity has allowed for faster and more secure public Internet access for mobile users, and the city can now use it to archive information in the cloud.
5th City of Lebanon, Mo.
One top priority for Lebanon, Mo.. is transparency, which includes posting all agendas and work sessions for public viewing. Work order software lets residents report issues and receive continuous email updates on projects as the city does the work. The public will receive a notification when the city accepts the issue, when it assigns it, and all notes, then the closing resolution.
Another of Lebanon’s significant goals is to effectively reach the public during an emergency. The IT Department was assigned to find a solution to alert residents if there was a disaster or if an advisory needed to be publicized. IT coordinated those efforts with the county and Office of Emergency Management, and decided to launch the Nixle public alert warning system. People can text a key phrase to the city’s established number, and they will be informed of all alerts concerning Lebanon and surrounding Laclede County. The IT Department also links the messages to city and county social media accounts.
In order to better engage the public and share ongoing projects, the IT staff does weekly drone projects, showing progress that is also posted on social media in an effort to visually demonstrate to citizens where their tax dollars are being used. The department also coordinates with local media outlets, which use the imagery as well.
6th City of North Port, Fla.
In 2019, North Port, Fla., was focused on improving the digital experience of its citizens and employees. Much of the city’s progress in that respect came from new software tools, some of which are still in the process of implementation: GovQA for public records requests; GovMax for budgeting; a TRAKiT permitting and licensing application with a Web portal for citizens and contractors; OpenGov for communication and transparency; Granicus for public access to agendas for local commissions and advisory boards; Smartsheet for project management; Airwatch and Smarsh for mobile device management; and a new customer relationship management system with dashboards.
North Port also added more features to its North RePort app for residents to report local issues, and implemented Laserfiche to store documents, with plans for a workflow engine to automate purchase orders. It has invested in a website checker to identify accessibility and quality issues, and started saving about 1,500 printed pages a year by giving citizens self-service kiosks.
No exception to growing concerns about cybersecurity, North Port is implementing firewall enhancements and a Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation Program, updating its Cyber Incident Response Plan, planning to replicate data backups to a third-party storage site, and has budgeted for a vulnerability scanning tool to check IT systems.
The city spent about $260,000 on infrastructure modernization in 2019, adding dark fiber between two remote sites for 10GB connectivity and POE+ (Power over Ethernet) compliance, and budgeting $40,050 for Wi-Fi enhancements at the city’s community and aquatic centers. North Port is also working on several initiatives to bring digital services to underserved areas, such as renewing cell tower leases to allow 5G capacity and expanding Wi-Fi locations.
7th Village of Schaumburg, Ill.
The Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, population 74,295, has, like other municipalities in Illinois, seen its share of funding drop as the state government struggles with its fiscal crisis. Despite that challenge, the village has been able to roll out several new applications, including a facility access control system to protect public buildings; a reverse 911 alert system for utility customers; a new asset management system that has improved data reporting; and a mobile field inspection system.
To improve customer service, Schaumburg has a robust 311 hotline service with a variety of channels, including text and chat, along with a mobile service request app and optimized call routing capabilities. Internally, the village has focused on increasing staff efficiencies with the implementation of a seamless document and workflow system, as well as a new data warehouse with plans to add comprehensive analytic tools.
While practical solutions take priority, the village has its innovative side and is developing a bot to monitor incoming email requests and respond with information based on key words. It has also installed a leading-edge traffic monitoring system at key intersections to help with congestion problems in real time.
8th City of Punta Gorda, Fla.
In Punta Gorda, Fla., technology evolves with the needs of citizens — assuming it has a reasonable return on investment. The municipality’s standing as the only city in a small county has limited its opportunity for shared service partnerships, but that hasn’t stopped these efforts. For example, the city and county have partnered to bolster emergency services and collaborated on GIS systems.
The city seems to be focusing most of its energy on protecting its systems and data stores. In addition to staff training, which will soon go from annual to several times a year, IT officials have fine-tuned their disaster recovery processes and are proactively removing old end-user equipment from staff circulation every four years. Penetration testing helps to identify vectors for attack, while trainings and phishing tests help to keep employees aware of the potential cyber-risks. The city is currently working to establish a crisis response plan.
Punta Gorda’s move to advanced metering infrastructure (smart utility meters) is allowing for benefits like remote usage monitoring for homeowners, but it has also laid the foundation for future Internet of Things rollouts. Where automation and streamlining of services are concerned, document and records request management and e-procurement are being automated to ensure timely and accurate maintenance. The state’s Sunshine Law makes these efforts extremely important, and also creates the need to monitor the type of information being disseminated to the public. Not all data is fit for publication, like some names and addresses.
9th City of DeSoto, Texas
Desoto, Texas, placing ninth in this year’s survey, has distinguished itself by continuing to invest in innovative solutions for court and law enforcement procedures, as well as continuing its focus on improved cybersecurity. In particular, the city has continued to expand its innovative “e-court” video arraignment program, which allows defendants to communicate with the judge over video chat. This year, the court also began allowing the public to communicate with staff using Web chat and text to mitigate issues, sign paperwork, ask questions and set up payment plans.
At the same time, the city has also expanded various IT initiatives to aid local police — including installation of facial recognition technology in the jail, with an attached cloud-based shared database. Upgrades to cruiser dash cams were also made that allow for more efficient video uploads and searches, as well as longer retention. The city also recently joined the Amazon Ring network, a digital doorbell and neighborhood watch app that connects residents with police for local notifications and alerts.
Additionally, the city made significant efforts this year to bolster its cybersecurity posture, hiring a new network security administrator who will be responsible for internal security. At the direction of the administrator, the city also hired a third-party vendor to help expand the existing employee security training program, including the inclusion of a phishing campaign assessment. The city has also adopted a vulnerability scanning tool that will be a consistent feature of its vulnerability management program. Looking to the future, the city also hopes to improve staff identity management through the purchase of a multi-factor authentication feature and is in the process of developing a cyberincident response plan.
10th City of Marana, Ariz.
One of the strategic goals for Marana, Ariz., focuses on commerce. And to help residents and the town council stay current on development efforts, the Technology Services and Development Services departments built an interactive online map where the community and staff can see the various projects taking place, categorized by project type. Locations of the projects are easily identifiable on the map, along with supplemental information such as drawings, applicant info and status. New projects are also highlighted. This tool has been used in monthly presentations to the Town Council.
Another strategic goal to use technology to enhance government transparency has led Technology Services to create a dashboard that shows how the town is meeting defined metrics. Prototypes include: Development — permits issued, new home construction, new water connections, etc.; Community — new business licenses, crime, and animal services; and Human Resources — demographics, turnover rates, number of positions, etc.
And in an endeavor to improve public safety, the Police Department and Technology Services collaborated to develop a Web form that residents can use to report traffic issues. The police Motors Division will then report back on the work being done to resolve the issues. This project is in development and is scheduled to go live in 2020.
10th City of Shawnee, Kan.
The Kansas City suburb of Shawnee continues to work toward becoming a more transparent, easily accessible government for business partners and citizens alike. A big push this year is around digitizing land management records, which will allow easy access to services like code enforcement, licensing and registration and more. A number of these functions are available through a partnership with Citizenserve, part of an effort to become more mobile and to improve efficiency, citizen engagement and customer satisfaction. For example, since the launch of an online system for burn permit applications, 70 percent of those applications are now done through the website. Other apps like Shawnee Connect let residents communicate directly with staff on municipal issues.
There are 46 miles of fiber within the city, which Shawnee plans on joining with networks in Johnson County, neighboring cities, and the local school district. A fiber ring through the city is included as part of a capital improvement plan and will support broadband communications and future technology additions. In line with the city’s “safe community” goal, Shawnee has implemented a new police records management system with Niche, a service that comprises all of Johnson County and allows law enforcement to share data with neighboring jurisdictions.
In IT basics, Shawnee has transitioned its internal government email from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Office 365, and the city’s current budget includes more than $500,000 for replacing aging technology infrastructure.
Hover over 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 City of Lynchburg, Va.
Lynchburg, Va., is often a top finisher in the Digital Cities Survey, and in 2019, it snagged the No. 1 spot in its population category. To deliver on the city’s policy priority to be “a resilient, agile and innovation organization,” IT staff is working alongside the human resources department on several initiatives. A new training program includes content on information technology and security created by technology staff, and a cloud-based performance management tool is now available citywide. For the IT Department specifically, alternative schedules and remote work options are available for certain positions. Further, an external study resulted in increases in pay and adjustments to job titles, enabling clearly defined progression plans that help increase job satisfaction.
Reflecting the importance of cybersecurity to Lynchburg, the city hired its first IT security manager — only one of four new general fund positions added in the 2019 fiscal year. The addition has contributed to increased focus on activities like data security analysis and the development of citywide policies on things like passwords and unauthorized devices on the city’s network.
Lynchburg also continues to add digital services, going live with a suite of options for contractors looking to get permits, schedule inspections, submit plans and pay fees online. City staff can now also use their mobile devices in the field to track and report progress on their work remotely. The GIS team also recently implemented a tool from Esri to fine-tune how fire equipment is dispatched in emergencies. Multiple data streams are combined to generate better-informed responses that consider factors like a structure’s height, use and occupancy.
2nd City of Westminster, Colo.
A fleet manager saved $45,000 a year. The utility meter shop saved $100,000. Budgeters saved at least 700 hours of time per year. These are the ways Westminster IT is working for its agencies — pragmatic savings that address pain points and present a clear return on investment. The agency has made a recent shift in the way it approaches new technology, more thoroughly interviewing stakeholders and considering process improvement as a possible alternative when something new isn’t truly necessary. It has notched a lot of wins, including several time-saving automations — work orders related to road work, sewers and 811 calls are now generated automatically through integrations. It has also delivered a new app to help the police’s victim services unit complete more work in the field, improved the business license application process and increased its broadband throughput to allow the city to use more cloud services.
On top of all this, city IT has been turning to collaborations and partnerships to extend its capabilities in several areas. It’s working with two counties to realize cost savings on fiber network expansion, integrating emergency response dispatch systems across several neighboring jurisdictions and participating in a smart cities alliance to share knowledge. One particularly impactful example of collaboration is in cybersecurity — the city recently put in place a new intrusion detection device, which will be monitored by the Center for Internet Security, and an upcoming security information and event management implementation will be managed by a third party as well. That means the city can achieve a cybersecurity hardening that its staffing limitations otherwise wouldn’t allow. Finally, the city demonstrates a clear desire to improve itself: Last year, it met with officials from several other winning Digital Cities to learn what more it could do.
3rd City of Columbia, Mo.
Columbia, Mo.’s progress in the past 12 months is vast. The city’s work last year involved launching a new website with interactive charts, graphs and other tools that citizens could use to learn about city finances, complete with a data portal that was updated weekly. Shrinking tax revenue, however, was a problem, with a reduced budget greatly contributing to high employee turnover. Columbia’s IT department reduced costs substantially, freeing up more than $109,000 for its IT pay plan, which is enabling it to move experienced employees with more than five years in their positions to a higher pay range with a cost of living increase.
The city’s pursuit of best practice awards, as well as its use of benchmarking, has also yielded results. Columbia decided to pursue the Missouri Quality Award, which is a state-level accolade for success in business, government, health care or education. Winning that award requires aligning performance with customer expectations. In the process of pursuing it, IT leadership identified a need to formalize best practices and some specific performance certifications that have led to new training programs for agency management and staff alike.
Finally, Columbia’s IT department has also embraced the need to support digital equity. IT staff donated 50 computers this year to lower-income families with school-aged children, while also continuing to offer internships that give struggling youth a chance to hold a paid position and gain invaluable job experience.
4th City of Sugar Land, Texas
Fourth-place Sugar Land, Texas, maintained its three-way partnership with Traffic Technology Services (TTS) and Trafficware this year. The two companies and the city share data so that each can increase its services and improve traffic flow. Trafficware, a local technology firm, operates a centralized advanced transportation management system that picks up signal data from intersections, which is provided to TTS as a data feed. TTS uses this information in conjunction with data from its connected vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications to predict when an intersection’s signal will change color several minutes before a driver reaches it. TTS also shares the data it collects from its connected and V2I-equipped Audis with the city.
Sugar Land also turned to tech to increase transparency, implementing an interactive map of Fire and EMS incidents. Built by the Office of Performance and Accountability (OPA) on Esri’s ArcGIS platform, the map is updated quarterly and lets residents see things like hot spots and incident details. OPA also uses technology to enhance its services to other city departments following process improvement assessments. Post-assessment, OPA provides departments with an infographic summarizing the statistical findings and a recommendation tracker that it can use to monitor its progress.
And last, but not least, Sugar Land’s water department has tech that is so good you can actually taste it. The technology in its treatment facility won the city an award this year for the best-tasting water in the U.S.
5th City of Roanoke, Va.
The Roanoke City Council created seven priorities for the city: Community Safety, Infrastructure, Good Government, Education, Human Services, Livability, and Economy. The Department of Technology started or finished multiple projects related to technology infrastructure, which is measured in uptime. In February of this year, Roanoke upgraded its Internet redundancy by adding the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority as the secondary provider for Internet services. This was soon put to the test when the primary provider went down for several days.
Roanoke continues focusing its attention on continuity of operations and improving resiliency in the event of an emergency, as well as cybersecurity incidents. The city is migrating more systems to the cloud and has built an incident response plan.
In terms of cybersecurity, a phishing test was done in October as part of cybersecurity month, new anti-virus software was deployed, and cybersecurity training was incorporated into new hire orientation. Other security-related projects also received funding for fiscal 2020, including implementing Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software.
Roanoke partners with neighboring Roanoke County to back up each other’s E911 data centers. The city uses space in the county data center for disaster recovery and has space reserved to provide the same benefit for Roanoke County. The city also co-owns a Motorola radio system with Roanoke County. Other jurisdictions have also joined the system, including the city of Salem, the town of Vinton and Franklin County. Roanoke City Public Schools, the Valley Metro bus system, and Carilion Hospital are also users on the system.
6th City of Boulder, Colo.
In 2019, Boulder, Colo., continued several initiatives it had begun in previous years, with a particular focus this year on new practices around data and technology. Formed in 2017, Boulder’s Innovation Team has been active with city staff. The Innovation Team conducted workshops and sit-downs with city departments to update Boulder’s “smart city” strategic framework, started training various departments on key performance indicators, and has been incorporating those into city’s the annual budgeting process, using information dashboards to measure outcomes and outputs of different departments. The city also established a new division of IT, the Project Management Office, and a new program to establish IT liaisons to help other departments.
Looking ahead, Boulder is also focused on policy, exploring new citywide IT policies for emerging technologies such as AI, algorithms and privacy, drone management, and technology standards and architecture. The city updated its disaster recovery plan and is working on a business continuity plan for its ERP system, and Boulder’s Innovation and Technology Department put out an RFP for help turning its data sets into useful information that might steer decisions in the future.
Boulder is in the process of building 55 miles of citywide broadband infrastructure, much of which will reach 20 low- and middle-income neighborhoods. The city saved about $150,000 through several archiving projects, including consolidating servers and deleting old email archives, and completed 14 process-improvement projects that saved $51,000. For citizens, Boulder put out an RFP in June to assess and improve online services, and it contracted with ZenCity to start collecting mentions of “Boulder” across social media sites, which will be run through AI algorithms so the city can be proactive in addressing people’s issues.
6th City of Independence, Mo.
Hometown of President Harry S. Truman, Independence, Mo., population 117,306, has earned accolades for its efforts to generate data-driven decision-making. At the core is CityWorks, which is the consolidation of numerous legacy systems into a new system of record for assets, licenses and permits. Data from CityWorks has simplified the reporting of critical information to the city council and the public. In conjunction, the city has partnered with CitySourced, a third-party citizen engagement platform for service requests, queries and other types of hotline information for public consumption.
Like other jurisdictions, Independence faces challenges around its tax base and the retirement of key personnel, especially in IT. By consolidating data and simplifying service requests via CitySourced, the city hopes to avoid problems that occur when resources and skills become limited. Independence has partnered with Bloomberg Cities to improve operational performance, beefed up its social media and Web presence for better customer engagement, consolidated its GIS and implemented a new ERP system. The result is a better government through judicious applications of new technology.
7th City of Allen, Texas
The growing city of Allen, Texas, has had to increase services, while getting smarter about how to offer them to residents. Perhaps one of the best examples is in online services. Recently, building permits and inspections were taken online to allow for easier payments and scheduling. In a similar vein, code enforcement officers are now equipped with tablets, allowing them to maintain productivity in the field. Automation and digitization have also spilled into other departments. For example, hiring and onboarding is done completely digitally and the finance department is using new tools to monitor transactions and search for irregularities. Software is now allowing for better records compliance and retention of human resource materials.
Keeping the city aesthetically pleasing for residents and visitors has taken the form of a partnership with telecommunications providers AT&T and T-Mobile to utilize existing light poles for 5G infrastructure, rather than installing standalone antennas. But creating new Internet connections goes beyond telecoms and stretches into regional partnerships as well. An agreement between Collin County and Collin College has established a fiber network to transmit court data and supplement recovery in the event of a disaster. This sort of resilience foresight also translates to 911 systems, which have been girded through substantial investment in new applications and data center equipment.
One of the primary concerns for the city of Allen, Texas, is maintaining “operational excellence” while warding off the myriad cyberthreats that have come with connected, digital government. These concerns are warranted in light of the recent attack launched against scores of Texas localities. To combat the growing issue, the city partnered with the Department of Homeland Security in 2018 to run a two-week test of city systems. Quarterly phishing tests and state-mandated trainings have seen click rates on tests drop from 21 percent to 10 percent. Furthermore, the city uses special software to capture and retain data on a daily basis, boosting backups from around 50 percent to 100 percent.
8th City of Duluth, Minn.
Despite its relatively small population of 86,000 people, Duluth, Minn., saw an impressive commitment from its limited IT staff to pursue the twin goals of modernization and improved service delivery over the past year — earning it eighth place.
In 2019, the city launched a utility billing portal, and succeeded in signing up one third of its 33,000-strong customer base in the months following its June launch. The portal, which gives residents the ability to access and pay their bills online, as well as read about utility consumption rates and payment history, also has a feature that allows multiple accounts to be set to a single customer login — a boon for landlords, real estate management companies and commercial properties.
At the same time, the city also expanded the options for its eTRAKiT Online Permit Portal, a business-facing customer service application provided by the city’s Construction Services Office that has helped manage the city’s myriad construction projects that take place during the summer months. The portal uses automation to shorten processing time for certain permits, while also giving the 950 contractors enrolled in the app increased transparency around permit status. Currently responsible for processing over half of the city’s electrical, mechanical, and plumbing permits, the portal’s expanded permitting options this year made it more useful than ever.
9th City of Longmont, Colo.
Two citizen-centric online platforms launched in Longmont, Colo., in 2019. Engage Longmont gives residents one convenient site to leave feedback on public projects — a boon for those who cannot attend events or meetings. Even more impressive is Longmont Indicators, which allows users to monitor how well Longmont achieves its planned goals. For instance, citizens can check trends in traffic congestion and bike path construction and see if the city’s transportation efforts have led to positive outcomes.
Longmont IT also drives projects that aim to assist the most vulnerable populations in the city. Not only does Longmont have its own municipal broadband system called NextLight, but this year it successfully relaunched its Sharing the NextLight program, which provides free high-speed Internet to low-income families who qualify for the National School Lunch Program. Moreover, IT enables multi-departmental approaches to multi-faceted problems. Currently, Longmont is working toward a data-warehousing solution that will connect its public safety, public works and community services components to local hospitals and nonprofits in order to better serve individuals who face homelessness, mental health challenges, and addiction.
10th City of Avondale, Ariz.
One of the focuses in 2019 for Avondale, Ariz., was enhancing the lives of families in the city. To that end, a number of improvements took place with the Neighborhood Family Services Department, including the development of an online citizen intake form. The form allows staff to glean information from citizens on needs such as finances, food, medical assistance and counseling, and then recommend resources for the citizens’ needs. The system has saved the staff six hours a week of data input.
The city also continued to utilize its AI-based cybersecurity system, which continuously monitors networks, files and outbound traffic for anomalies or unusual patterns. The city also collaborates with the Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance, where partners in industry, academia, law enforcement and intelligence share data and resources to analyze and respond to cyberthreats.
Avondale also continued its collaboration with several agencies to add improved communication and dispatch to the emergency operations center (EOC). Collaborations with ISM Raceway; the Department of Homeland Security; the FBI; Phoenix Regional Fire Dispatch; and the County Sheriff allow the EOC to be used as a command center during a major event or special activity, such as a NASCAR race. The EOC has the benefit of computer-aided dispatch remote consoles for fire, EMS and law enforcement, as well as multi-channel 800 mHz, VHF and UHF radio control.
Hover over 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 City of Norfolk, Va.
Climbing to the top of the list in 2019, Norfolk, Va., has invested heavily in several critical areas. Still recovering from the recession, Norfolk invested $8 million in IT infrastructure this year, including new public safety radios, police in-car cameras, updated Microsoft Office software and small cell sites to support 5G. For efficiency, Norfolk IT reduced the number of file servers in the city’s data center from 30 to three by purchasing enterprise SQL (structured query language) server software. The city hopes one of its largest projects, a 37-mile ring of city-owned fiber to connect critical facilities, will save $200,000 a year compared to leasing fiber from a local Internet provider. The city’s other giant fiber project is still underway: a 103-mile shared, regional connectivity ring, in collaboration with five nearby municipalities, which the city expects will lower the cost of broadband services in underserved areas.
Cybersecurity being a growing imperative, Norfolk increased its cybersecurity budget to be 8 percent of its total IT budget. The city bought a $5-million cyberinsurance policy, a $10-million crime policy for computer fraud, and an Automated Security Awareness software package to train employees on cybersecurity practices. To reduce risk, the city also adopted a policy to minimize employee use of personally identifiable information, worked with the Virginia Department of Homeland Security to simulate cyberattacks, and conducted a comprehensive cybersecurity assessment as the basis of a new response plan, among other initiatives.
Developing a team for future projects, the city hired a chief data scientist and had increased its IT staff training budget by 119 percent, which led to staff training on data management analysis. The city also launched several citizen-facing initiatives, like engaging more than 1,200 residents in the budget planning process for 2020 with Balancing Act software, launching a new city website that pairs with a citizen-reporting app called My Norfolk, and using Microsoft PowerBI to create public-facing dashboards.
2nd City of Cape Coral, Fla.
In Cape Coral, Fla., many technology initiatives intersect with the core missions of the local government — especially where it relates to public safety. The best example of this crossover is a heat map dedicated to tracking crime trends, as well as a tool that alerts code enforcement officers if the address that they are going to has had altercations in the past five years. This is taken a step further with the tools designed to give police and first responders more accurate turn-by-turn directions to calls for service, thus improving response times.
The smart city also has a foothold in the community. A mile-long streetscape project has become a catalyst for community development. Where broadband is concerned, the city also takes a “smart” approach in coordinating with the utility whenever a road is opened up for utility work. This alleviates much of the work and cost that comes with installing new fiber infrastructure on its own. Cape Coral is also pursuing partnerships to expand connectivity even further. This sort of city-owned fiber also extends to the water reclamation plant, a fire station and the public works complex, offering a stable, secure connection for daily operations.
Efforts to make government more efficient rely heavily on careful applications of technology. For example, each year, city IT staff are pushed to automate 10 manual processes. This sort of advancements can be seen in the Pcard — or procurement card —which allows the city to automatically match receipts to their corresponding purchases. Similarly, city meetings are transcribed by artificial-intelligence-enabled captioning.
Workforce training is also a part of the city’s ongoing work, especially when it comes to cybersecurity awareness training. Regular phishing test and open lines of communication help all employees stay apprised of the risks related to cyberattacks.
3rd City of Bellevue, Wash.
Bellevue, Wash., has long been a leader in data work among cities its size. The city, which is just across Lake Washington from Seattle, has a comprehensive and varied open data program. It can be easy for that work to garner all of the tech and innovation attention there. Bellevue, however, has other priorities too, one of which is continuing to advance the city’s smart city strategy, which has a heavy focus on mobility, involving autonomous, connected, electric and shared vehicle technologies.
It is to Bellevue’s credit that this work has generated close collaboration between the Information Technology Department (ITD) and the city’s Transportation Department, which have partnered to turn smart city plans into realities. In the past year, they have applied for federal grants related to a public-private partnership on autonomous shuttles for commuters, conducted infrastructure security assessments, and partnered with Waze on an interactive dashboard to help analyze crash patterns and risks, among other projects.
Bellevue, home to major companies such as T-Mobile and REI, has benefited from these partnerships to help with its connectivity needs through leases of fiber conduits or dark fiber strands. The city has also done impressive work related to another emerging technology—small-cell or 5G connectivity. ITD has partnered with other departments to create a Master License Agreement enabling small-cell deployment on city streetlights. Officials expect this to benefit both the city and the private companies behind the deployment, bringing both 4G connectivity to the downtown core and business district while also paving the way for the inevitable 5G networks in the area.
4th City of Alexandria, Va.
Alexandria, a northern Virginia city just seven miles south of Washington, D.C., maintained its fourth-place finish from 2018. The city increased its use of digital maps, called Story Maps, to present residents with detailed information about its initiatives. These Story Maps are available online and include a variety of elements such as custom maps, images, multimedia content and narrative text. Also available to the public are live data streams from city traffic cameras, made available in anticipation of the four-month closure of the city’s Metro stations, as road traffic was expected to increase as a result.
Alexandria also made use of dashboards this year, implementing an online dashboard where residents can check up on the city’s progress toward its Vision Zero Action Plan. Located on the city’s website, the platform allows visitors to interactively view and analyze crash data, promoting government transparency and encouraging road safety. And the Office of Performance and Accountability turned to dashboards to keep city decision-makers informed, creating one that is regularly updated with data on performance trends to help improve service delivery.
In cybersecurity Alexandria has made great strides, reducing the average time to resolve a security issue by 30 percent. Technology and improvements in automation have been a significant factor in achieving this reduction. The city recently implemented a new single sign-on system as well as a new security information and event management system, which facilitates interdepartmental collaboration in addition to improving cybersecurity. Alexandria also automated patching and realized a 300 percent increase in incident reporting, contributing to a more proactive cybersecurity stance. Additionally, Alexandria will be one of the hosts of Amazon’s second headquarters, HQ2. As a result, Virginia Tech university will build an Innovation Campus in the city, geared towards fostering technology talent and building up the region’s growing innovation economy.
5th City of Baton Rouge, La.
This year, the city of Baton Rouge, La., made significant efforts to use emerging technologies to improve services for its citizens, earning it fifth place. In particular, the city’s IT department, Information Services, channeled those endeavors towards innovative solutions for public safety and traffic management.
The city’s expansion of its Public Safety Common Operational Platform (PSCOP) has helped expand predictive policing capabilities — a big win for a city with one of the highest relative crime rates for a community of its size. IT solutions, like the platform, have helped the city offset the police department’s current 10 percent manpower shortage, born from recruitment difficulties, by directing officers towards geographic areas where crime remains most persistent. The city also partnered with Axon this year to deploy drones to assist with recovery efforts from Hurricane Barry — another innovative security investment.
Meanwhile, a recently approved $1 billion capital improvements program, MOVEBR, heavily prioritizes transportation and improved traffic flow initiatives. All of the program’s more than 70 individual projects have been designated opportunities for integration of IT and smart capabilities. Improvements to the city’s Advanced Traffic Management Center, including software and fiber updates, are a big part of this. Simultaneously, the city’s IT department is tasked with integrating GIS into all of those CIP projects, while Baton Rouge construction services staff are to consider opportunities for fiber-optic infrastructure installation during projects. Additionally, the city has invested some $40 million into smart transportation initiatives, including signal upgrades and a pivot towards accommodations for smart, IoT and autonomous vehicles.
5th City of Pasadena, Calif.
Officials in Pasadena worked to improve citizen engagement, which, with key planning and progress on other tech projects, helped move the city from a tie for sixth place last year to a tie for fifth. Pasadena has made investments to enhance communication, debuting a ZenCity presence that brings together social and traditional media with data sets to better understand community talking points. The city is continuing work from 2018 with Meltwater to better manage marketing and branding through its social media monitoring solution.
Staffers created and launched the first phase of new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and performance metrics across the enterprise. Plans are to develop an interactive dashboard to display those metrics this fiscal year.
The city showcased its innovation in July at the 2019 Esri User Conference. Initiatives included the city fire department’s Operations Dashboard launch, using Esri’s ArcGIS Online platform to integrate calls for service, equipment location, hydrant data and other indicators; and an app that creates a digital twin of the city, to assist the Planning Department in modeling development and growth.
The city transportation department is working with the California Department of Transportation, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other cities in connecting on- and off-ramps to the 210 freeway via fiber optics, to improve traffic flow.
Pasadena will revisit cybersecurity strategy during the next year to 18 months, including its cybersecurity response; identity and access management; and cloud security plans. The city issued an RFP this year, to do an Information Risk Assessment and help the IT security officer’s team improve security practices. The city and the California Institute of Technology received a National Science Foundation Grant. In a collaboration that expanded this year, the partners are working on using fiber optics to measure earthquakes.
6th City of Corona, Calif.
Becoming a data-driven city — ensuring access to key data analytics in real time — has helped Corona, Calif., better understand projects and policies and what needs changing because of inefficiencies. Measuring outcomes and using AI and predictive analysis has helped the city streamline efforts.
An example is the city’s efforts to curb homelessness. The IT department helped coordinate a transparent performance analytics dashboard to understand how the city’s efforts are working and to help the citizens understand what the city is doing in this regard. The dashboard gleans disparate data from multiple sources, providing information in one location.
Corona has also undertaken a robust cybersecurity defense. The city chose the Microsoft Azure GCC platform and deploys next-generation firewalls, intelligent endpoints (remediation), hardened cloud infrastructure, a self-healing network and access identity systems. An AI system evaluates logins and will automatically block one if a problem arises and notify an administrator.
The city does a monthly scan of the dark web to search for any issues that could be a security risk. Corona also uses a service to monitor and test employees. The city uses Microsoft Intune and Microsoft identity to protect its software network and will deploy Cisco Identity Services Engine to protect from hardware intrusion.
6th City of Winston-Salem, N.C.
One of Winston-Salem's larger IT goals is improving communications and processes within the city's 311 call center. Part of the solution included funding for Accela Civic Solutions software to support the code enforcement department and Community Development. The new system uses the city’s GIS platform for improved efficiency and data visibility for code enforcement officers. New 311 call center technology will provide a more streamlined experience for residents and city staff.
The IT department has also focused on enhanced cybersecurity and the formation of an “enterprise cybersecurity team,” made up of city staff and led by the chief information officer. There’s also a “technical cybersecurity team” made up of subject matter experts. Periodic cybereducation and other information is sent to all employees, with cybersecurity awareness a mandatory part of new employee orientation. Winston-Salem is now in the process of releasing an RFP for a managed security services provider (MSSP) and has implemented next-generation firewall technology, which will shield the network from active threats anywhere on the planet.
A new city website, with an accompanying high-quality mobile presentation, offers enhanced citizen engagement. The site links directly to online payment centers, social media and other information. The new website project received input from all city departments, as well as residents. Winston-Salem is also rolling out the “Advanced Meter Infrastructure” project, updating about 120,000 water meters.
7th City of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., moved up from ninth place in 2018 to seventh place this year. For its size (roughly 177,000 people), this city engages in a wide array of IT-driven projects. The most obvious example is its use of a new small robot assistant in City Hall that, among other features, can help visitors navigate the building with its “follow-me” capability.
The city’s IT team finished an automated workflow system in 2019 that connects street workers, traffic engineers and citizen-reported issues through an integrated application. Not only does the system allow road crews to geotag assets and modifications in a comprehensive reporting feature, but it has also dramatically increased the efficiency of roadway management. A problem that might have taken days or weeks to go through the communication chain can now make the rounds in minutes or hours.
Through a new Office of Communications, the city has transformed online, phone and in-person citizen engagement components into understandable and approachable experiences. As part of this effort, the city introduced in 2019 a variety of cloud-based services, including ones for meeting management, public information requests, access to city records and direct engagement on initiatives.
During the summer, the city kicked off its citywide fiber broadband project, which was made possible by a public-private partnership with Inyo Networks. In addition to helping with the goal of giving residents and businesses high-speed Internet, this initiative has assisted the city with technological strategies, such as boosting connectivity between most city buildings and two data centers and increasing capacity for smart transportation.
8th City of Fort Collins, Colo.
2019 was a banner year for Fort Collins, Colo., which comes in eighth place in this year’s survey. In the third quarter of the year, the city launched its long-anticipated municipal broadband network, which offers low rates for high-speed Internet to all residents in an effort to shrink the digital divide. To further this equity work, the city is now looking at which populations may have difficulty using broadband to deploy assistance where needed. Fort Collins is also finalizing agreements with neighboring cities that may want to use its broadband network hubs so they can strengthen their own connectivity. Broadband will continue to be a top priority going forward.
Open data is another strong area for Fort Collins. In the last year, the city’s open data portal has grown from 38 to 141 public data sets, easily searchable by citizens. IT is also expanding the city’s Amazon Alexa skill to increase public participation, as well as to enable access to municipal services and knowledge. To balance a commitment to transparency with the need for robust cybersecurity and data protection, the city has both a data architect and a privacy officer and takes a three-pronged approach to cyber through people, governance and technology. Employees undergo mandatory monthly cybertraining, and a dedicated cyberanalyst focuses on policies and procedures to harden the city’s cyberposture. This year, to improve efficiency, Fort Collins hired an IT asset manager tasked with tracking and optimizing hardware and maintenance agreements, which resulted in $100,000 in savings.
9th City of Augusta, Ga.
Transparency emerges as a consistent through-line in the work of ninth-place Augusta, Ga. Named as a priority by city policymakers, this spirit of openness is supported by many of the IT shop’s endeavors, laid out in its first-ever strategic plan. Building on its all-encompassing CityWatch portal, which links city-funded project data and extensive budget information, the city has migrated to a new open data platform called Open Augusta, which offers deeper context and visualization options based on GIS data. One noteworthy example is Augusta’s Fight Blight initiative, which offers detailed visual dashboards to track and visualize blight-related service requests by type and location.
Augusta’s efforts toward transparent operations and the growing use of key performance indicators throughout the organization are linked to concrete efforts to improve operations. The city uses a system to track both work orders and assets, resulting in more coordinated, efficient workflows. A recently introduced feature aggregates issues related to hurricanes and other natural disasters, bringing faster responses to resident-reported problems and allowing the city to better account for storm-related costs. The same system is used to audit equipment use to ensure the city pays only for what it needs and uses. An audit of mobile devices, for example, removed more than 200 unneeded units from service, saving more than $100,000 annually. But Augusta’s tightly managed organization leaves room to explore the potential of emerging technologies and put them to use for the city. In late 2018, Augusta started working with drones to add to its inventory of aerial images. Citizens are joining the effort, too, contributing their drone footage for use by the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Drones have also been used to document cases of illegal dumping, supplementing the work of the Planning and Code Enforcement staff.
10th City of Roseville, Calif.
In 2000, the city of Roseville, located in Northern California, had a population of just under 80,000. Today, 20 years later, the city has grown into a metropolis of close to 140,000. The explosive growth has led to challenges around fiscal management and balanced resources. To deal with the situation and to ensure technology is part of the solution, Roseville has created a Vision 2020 Strategic Technology Roadmap. It calls for hiring and retaining competent and skilled IT personnel, increasing collaboration both internally and externally and making sure good data is driving the right decisions. To that end, the city has begun to focus on the kinds of tools it needs for analytics, and it has migrated more than 50 percent of its systems and applications to the cloud.
The city also has a growing homelessness problem and has turned to GIS to help conduct point-in-time population counts and to help steer the vulnerable to the services they need. Roseville has launched a new self-service portal for workers that has reduced service calls by 10 percent. On the innovation front, the city has invested in drone technology to support its public safety programs.
1st City of Miami, Fla.
The city of Miami jumped from fifth place to first in its population category in 2019, with a focus on using technology to improve quality of life for residents. First, the city set its sights on mobility this year, welcoming six companies to begin piloting e-scooters in April. The city and these companies are working together to share data and revise data privacy policies during these pilots. Miami has already realized the benefits of e-scooters in bolstering is mobility efforts, as they function like mobile IoT sensors that provide data on things such as highly used routes and time-of-day activity, which in turn helps planners make decisions on where to place new mobility infrastructure like bike lanes. Also on the topic of mobility, Miami was one of the founding jurisdictions of the Open Mobility Foundation, an international coalition launched this year to help manage the evolving urban mobility landscape.
Miami also looked to technology to improve resident engagement with the official launch of its new website. The city placed significant emphasis on user feedback and testing, gathering data from a beta version of the new site launched last year. The final version has more than 170 services and 500 informational pages to help residents find what they’re looking for. The look and navigation of the site was redesigned to ensure that all content is searchable, discoverable, universally formatted and ADA compliant.
The city is also working on some new digital tools for residents. In partnership with Code for America fellows, Miami is developing a data portal that residents can use to find affordable housing. The city is also building a tool that will allow local entrepreneurs to launch a business right from their smartphones.
2nd City of Durham, N.C.
One goal that’s highlighted in the 2019-2021 strategic plan from second-place Durham, N.C., is “shared economic prosperity.” The city has partnered with Duke University Health System, North Carolina Central University and Durham County on a $6 million initiative to connect all city facilities — including Durham public housing — to a high-speed fiber-optic network.
Durham also outlined its Web-based participatory budget initiative in its city plan. The city engaged residents and students ages 13 and older with pop-up voting, text voting and online voting. Residents brainstorm city spending ideas, develop proposals that are assessed by experts, vote in dividing the $2.4 million budget among the proposals, then monitor the government implementation of the proposals. Successful projects include Wi-Fi in public parks, LED lighting and security cameras, and technology for schools and community centers.
For the third year, the city and county have partnered with six startups (narrowed down from 28 applicants) for Innovate Durham. For 12 weeks, city and county staff work with the startups, testing ideas to improve local government. The 2019 cohort includes a company that provides a real-time registry for disaster response and another company that aims to reduce garbage and other waste.
3rd City of Virginia Beach, Va.
The Virginia Beach City Council conducts a retreat each year where it develops its annual goals. This year’s event incorporated citizen feedback as well and yielded several focus areas, including stormwater, flooding, and sea level rise; economy and jobs; and cybersecurity.
As a coastal community prone to flooding, an initiative to mitigate flooding and sea level rise is of extreme importance to the city and the Information Technology department is partnering with a regional cooperative in deploying dozens of flood sensors and using predictive modeling to aid in response. The sensors yield data that is shared with the public, local universities, emergency management, public works and the EOC. The city holds regular, public meetings on sea level rise to try and develop a citizen-centric and strategic approach to responding to the issue.
Another major initiative is the economy and the focus there is to attract and retain diverse talent as well as industry and opportunity. To that end, the Council seeks to leverage Virginia Beach’s fiber landing points and data centers and the two subsea cable projects, which provide the highest speed data connections from Spain and Brazil. A third subsea cable is being developed with oversight from the IT department that will connect Virginia Beach to the French Atlantic coast. It is hoped that these efforts will position the city as a forward-thinking, inclusive digital hub.
As part of its efforts to address the cybersecurity threat, the city recently implemented a Cybersecurity Training Program, which provides basic training to all users throughout the year. The city uses metrics to evaluate its response to phishing, credential, business email and virus attacks. The response and training changes as the threats evolve. The city also went through a penetration test, resulting in four initiatives: 1) network segmentation, 2) data management and classification, 3) service account management, and 4) application security.
4th City of Wichita, Kan.
Wichita has constructed an innovative, yet pragmatic, approach to innovation. Last year the city started the Wichita Innovative Learning Lab (WILL) to bring together representatives of various departments. WILL’s process is to first assess a problem, then gather baseline measurements, institute a proof of concept for the solution and then compare the results to the baseline. This brings innovation more in line with needs and ensures that solutions are truly bringing about change. Among the city’s projects are sensors to prevent copper theft (which cost Wichita about $233,000 in 2018), new vehicle-tracking technology that helps reduce idle time and save money, and new gunshot detection sensors that work differently than current market solutions.
The city has also pursued extensive collaborations with the private sector and local academic institutions to try new things. Graduate students at Friends University have tried to hack the city in a simulated environment and presented findings for IT to fix, while Wichita State University students have helped Wichita move toward more centralized data governance standards that it hopes to institute across all departments. This project supports a push for greater data-driven decision-making, such as dashboards for city council members to show them all citizen-generated issues broken down by the districts they represent. The city has many more initiatives in the works in various stages, so more innovative advancement seems likely in coming years.
5th City of Kansas City, Mo.
Long noted for its pioneering smart cities work, Kansas City, Mo., continues to power ahead with a fifth-place finish in 2019. Officials are currently working on a Smart City Action Plan set to be complete in 2020, aimed at making sure smart cities initiatives are placed within the context of the city’s general priorities. One way this has manifested is in concerted efforts to make sure smart endeavors benefit all citizens. This focus on equity explains the expansion of upgraded transit options into traditionally underserved areas, offering hybrid buses with free Wi-Fi, high-tech trip planning help and other features. Kansas City is also bringing more startup energy into its operations through a modified Innovation Partnership Program, turning toward small-scale trials over large-scale deployments and allowing for experimentation around issues like privacy.
Kansas City also puts a premium on performance, using many tools to make sure the organization is working at peak efficiency. In a test of language communications, for example, delinquency letters to licensees were thoughtfully reworded in plainer language, resulting in an expected 22 percent increase in compliance. Staff also worked with vendor partners to develop a bot to help answer routine missed trash and recycling calls that inundated 311 staff. This spirit of innovation will surely prove valuable as Kansas City merges the KCPD IT Department with that of the city. The One IT effort, formally kicked off in July, is projected to save $6.5 million in the next five years by cutting duplicative services.
5th City of Plano, Texas
While the big boom days are mostly behind it, Plano, Texas (population 284,000), remains a growth-oriented city in the Dallas-Fort Worth corridor and is home to some of the country’s largest and most recognized corporations (Alliance Data, Keurig Dr Pepper, J.C. Penney). For the city’s government the focus is on quality, which has translated into an emphasis on governance for the IT department.
At its core is a new ITSM (information technology service management) system that has improved the effectiveness of operations across the enterprise, including incident, problem, asset and change management. As part of its improved governance strategy, the city has also been investing in upgrades to business intelligence and data analytics tools. Currently, Plano uses dashboards, such as Tableau and Socrata, but is also investigating new tools that will make its data more operational and intelligent. For example, Plano is exploring the use of Redshift for a cloud-based data warehouse, as well as Spark and MapR for more refined analytics, including AI.
The city has invested in several IT upgrades for other services, including $6 million for a new public safety radio communications system and $2 million for overhauling its land management, permitting, planning and inspection system. But it’s not just about big purchases. The city consolidated its voice and data networks, saving $1.4 million with an additional $11.1 million in one-time and recurring cost savings expected over the next five years. Partnerships are also part of the city’s ability to leverage new tech solutions. By partnering with Argonne National Labs and the local school district, Plano has installed IoT sensors to monitor air quality. It has also partnered with Waze to monitor traffic conditions.
6th City of Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin’s capital city of Madison made a strong showing in this year’s survey for its efforts in using IT to improve outcomes across the government enterprise and also in the community. The IT department’s goals align closely with the city’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2018, and its work focuses on efficiency, equity and accessibility. Supported by a new data analytics team, Results Madison is an outcome-based budgeting program that’s working with agencies to identify data sources and key performance indicators to measure and track progress. Going forward, the initiative will build Power BI dashboards to track those KPIs and eventually make them public-facing.
In the interest of making government more accessible and equitable for all Madison residents, public meetings are available via livestreaming and Facebook events in order to engage those who cannot leave their homes to attend in person and also reach the city’s more diverse and underserved populations. Getting those communities more connected is also a goal of Madison’s work toward a 311 system that will help identify needs across the city as well as serve as an emergency notification system for those without Internet access. To help address this digital divide, the city offers digital literacy clinics and offers low-cost devices and device repair for citizens.
Some of Madison’s other strengths include a strong social media presence, an emphasis on security education to create a cyberaware workforce, ongoing smart cities efforts and the use of emerging technologies like AI and drones to boost city work.
7th City of Long Beach, Calif.
Long Beach took seventh place this year, and it’s no surprise given the work the city’s more than 150 IT professionals have been doing to prioritize cloud infrastructure and emerging technologies for service delivery and modernization.
The city devoted 25 percent of its IT budget to cloud and infrastructure services this year, channeling that money towards innovative solutions like its “MarinaGo” application, which lets customers of the city’s marina pay bills or manage relevant documents through online accounts, accessible via computer, smartphone or tablet. At the same time, the city has also partnered with a cloud-based mapping and analytics service provider, RapidDeploy, which gives emergency dispatchers the ability to more accurately locate wireless callers and dispatch appropriate responders. It also continues to invest in other cloud-enabling platforms that manage, secure or integrate cloud systems, as well as prioritize cloud training for city staff.
Long Beach has also prioritized emerging technologies not merely as a more efficient means of service delivery, but as a local economic driver and job creator. In 2019, the city launched a startup accelerator, the goal of which is to create a space where early stage tech startups are given the legal, financial and business planning they need to succeed, while also gaining access to capital from different sources. The city also completed its first year in the Startup in Residence (STiR) program, which allowed several city departments to work together with startups to develop solutions to pertinent issues, including traffic calming and mapping resources, artificial intelligence hiring and digital wayfinding.
8th City of Henderson, Nev.
Henderson, Nev., appears in this year’s survey with another strong showing as the city continues its work toward becoming innovative, data-driven and cloud-forward. In March 2019, the city adopted a new strategic plan, and the CIO’s office directly contributes to the priority of being a “high-performing public service.” To that end, a Data Steering Committee has been working to create a data governance framework, making sure all departments use key performance indicators to measure progress and justify funding requests, as well as an open data policy, which includes moving more data to the cloud. As more data and systems move off-premises, Henderson is also establishing a cloud security strategy and has brought on a managed security services provider. Also this year, the city completed a tabletop exercise testing its cybersecurity incident response plan.
The city reports increasing its budget for innovative tech by 500 percent in the next 12 to 18 months. Henderson is implementing public-private partnerships to work on smart city installations in the Water Street Innovation District, which will serve as a test bed for these efforts. A spring 2019 pilot with Waycare to reduce car accidents may be implemented permanently; since Nevada Highway Patrol and the Regional Transportation Commission are also using Waycare, it could become a communication platform in the area. Henderson is also working to bridge the digital divide by working to get broadband to low-income households and is expanding its “Homework Zones” that allow students Internet access for studying.
9th City of Chandler, Ariz.
Home to around 260,000 people, Chandler, Ariz., aspires to be the “most connected city,” as it continues to invest in both emerging technologies and government services. The city has taken the lead with autonomous vehicles by engaging with multiple companies, from Intel to General Motors, in research and development for self-driving automobiles. Chandler’s partnership with Waymo appears especially fruitful: The city is creating protocols, training, and tests for autonomous vehicles specifically related to emergency response. Starting last June, Chandler kicked off a program in which dozens of employees are using self-driving cars for city business.
Chandler has beefed up its Internet-based products and services over the last year. The city revamped its website (www.chandleraz.gov), held a public budget forum live on Facebook and YouTube and launched an app that allows citizens to access every book and service from the Chandler Public Library. Through text messages, residents can now set up and review building inspections, resolve code enforcement violations, keep track of court dates and fees and contact the police for whatever reason. Thanks to an expanded self-service portal, many companies can submit engineering plans and zoning applications electronically. Moving forward, Chandler will look into the possibility of utilizing blockchain technology for voting and hopes to incorporate customer analytics, predictive analytics and machine learning into its city services.
10th City of Greensboro, N.C.
Greensboro has laid claim to having the first intergovernmental parks locator app in the country. The project, which spanned several years and is known as Piedmont Discovery, brings outdoor amenities like trails, parks, recreation areas and other public facilities in and around Greensboro to residents’ mobile devices.
Another customer-centric IT project is the city’s bond tracker dashboard, which provides residents with status updates for bond projects. Greensboro has also installed smart city kiosks at five locations around downtown through a partnership with Smart City Media, providing information related to public transit, local events, shopping, eating and more. More interactive kiosks are planned for other locations.
To increase minority business participation in city contracts, the Greensboro IT Department worked alongside the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise to come up with an online tracking and review process. The system includes several trackable data points the city can use to evaluate its purchasing and contracting process.
Since Greensboro was selected as one of 15 cities to receive a grant to participate in the LEED for Cities and Communities Program, the city has taken on a range of smart city projects with conservation in mind. They include LED lighting, smart metering and environment and climate monitoring via the newly installed downtown kiosks.
In November 2018, the city approved a new ordinance allowing for the operation of e-scooters. The IT and Transportation departments initiated GPS monitoring to ensure compliance with the new rules, creating a “data-informed” digital dashboard with real-time information.
The 2019-20 city budget approved the addition of a chief data officer, who will develop and maintain the city’s open data platform, budget portal and performance dashboards, as well as develop the necessary infrastructure for data analytics, open data publishing and fostering a “culture of data-informed decision-making.”
10th City of Riverside, Calif.
Riverside, which recently restored IT work and positions eliminated by a budget shortfall, now uses technology to help resolve unfunded pension obligations from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). The city of more than 328,000 slipped from seventh last year to 10th but continues to exhibit a strong use of data-driven performance measurement and decision-making; innovative department-level tech initiatives; and a strong focus on cybersecurity.
The city’s Innovation and Technology Department keeps the challenge of CalPERS front of mind — analyzing data to identify operational efficiencies and educate departments on cost-saving and forecasting long-term project costs to ensure successful implementations. I&T has also taken aim at homelessness with GIS mapping — tracking reports of debris and encampments; mapping property ownership to facilitate cleanups; and showing affordable housing locations.
Another top priority is strengthening and expanding cybersecurity work. Riverside utilizes machine learning to guard against ransomware and advanced threats. A data loss prevention project spearheaded by its security division looked closely at city liability and has boosted awareness of how sensitive data is handled; and of the need to reduce and prevent creation of protected data.
Riverside is developing a data governance framework. A platform to stimulate data sharing internally and externally, and its Open Data Governance Committee, will become a subsidiary of its Data Governance Committee. The city has implemented Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to mechanize repetitive work and free up staff. It’s also expanded “The Hive,” the city’s collaboration platform, taking paper-based workflows electronic; and has put in place quarterly and annual citywide performance measures. The city also convenes a quarterly IT liaison meeting with departments, which has helped forge strategy and deliver best practices.
1st City of San Diego, Calif.
After coming in second place last year, San Diego takes the top spot among large cities in 2019. The southernmost big city in California is in the midst of several sweeping innovations that promise to save money, benefit residents and generally advance the cause of data-driven government. Among these are some truly massive collaboration projects — the city is in the midst of setting up a Joint Powers Authority with the county, nearby cities, 18 native tribes, federal agencies and two branches of the military to support SanGIS. This will serve as a data portal for delivering GIS services and procuring aerial imagery as well as lidar data. Then there’s the Security Alliance Information Lab, which also pulls in federal, local and private-sector partners to improve cyberincident response — on top of advances San Diego has made on endpoint protection, email filtering and defense against password-based attacks. A new enterprise asset management system has helped staff achieve their goal of paving 1,000 miles of roadway more than a year early, while the ongoing project to set up a blanket of sensors during streetlight replacement has reached nearly 3,000 out of an eventual 4,000 nodes. These will deliver data on vehicle and pedestrian counts, parking availability and the weather. Behind all this is a system that truly engages the public. The city regularly surveys residents to ensure that their desires are reflected in strategic goals, and it offers interactive tools on the budget, community development, performance metrics, the placement of smart city sensors and more so that it can gather feedback. In coming months, look for San Diego to continue deploying 5G with Verizon as its IT department offers tools to hasten small cell permitting.
2nd City of San Jose, Calif.
Partnerships, performance and pilots were among the strategies that catapulted the so-called “capital of Silicon Valley” and the state’s third most populous city from a sixth-place tie last year to second place. San Jose has set itself the goal of becoming North America’s most innovative city by 2020. It also lays claim to being America’s leanest big city, with 6,800 employees serving just over 1 million people.
One way this happens is through public-private partnerships. San Jose has contracted with AT&T, Verizon and Mobilitie to expand small cell sites and broadband reach — monetizing the carriers’ high-volume deployments by committing them to fund digital equity. In February, the city announced the San Jose Digital Inclusion Fund, which will marshal an estimated $24.1 million in revenue over 10 years from small-cell and fiber contracts to bridge its digital divide.
Other partnerships include extending FirstNet to all city first responders; deploying free Wi-Fi in 14 more city parks; working with Santa Clara County and the city/county of San Francisco on cybersecurity; and, through Terragraph, a partnership with Facebook Connectivity Lab, replacing the city’s legacy community Wi-Fi network during this year and next.
The city began adopting Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in 2017 and 2018 to track projects and transformations; and will do so more broadly in 2019 and 2020. The OKRs are connected to the City Manager’s Enterprise Priorities for enhanced monitoring of progress and needs.
Among other engagements, the German auto firms Daimler and Bosch have committed to piloting an automated ride-hailing service in the city this year. San Jose won an American Planning Association Smart City Merit Award in April for working with startup UrbanLogiq to improve traffic flow with data-driven decision-making. The city also offered the use of cybersecurity resources to other municipalities, through an ongoing RFP, and four of its Bay Area neighbors have accepted.
3rd City and County of Denver, Colo.
Continuing to absorb major population increases without equivalent growth to its funding, the city and county of Denver turns to technology to help realize needed efficiencies in several areas. Coming into this year’s survey with a strong foundation in place, Denver demonstrates that it’s in tune with city priorities, applying technology to realize progress. Investments in affordable housing are complemented by a custom-built app that transparently reports housing availability and progress toward stated goals. Challenges around short-term rentals prompted a first-of-its-kind registration system to help address community concerns. More than 200 services are now available online, with recent additions including more permitting options that save staff time and drastically cut wait time for citizens. Automation efforts within the 311 system have also caused response times to plummet, from more than 100 seconds to less than 30. In yet another example of using tech to be as efficient as possible, Denver is auditing all of its websites, adding translation services, improving accessibility and enhancing content. One success story is the Denver Animal Shelter (denvergov.org/animalshelter), whose site went from 694 to 83 pages.
Denver’s privacy and data work continues, following an executive order last year. Eight policies have since been developed, and an Information Governance Committee was created. A newly hired chief data officer supported by an eight-member data team, is working to spread ethical data practices across the city and develop a data warehouse as a central repository that can also support transparency goals. Smart city work will also get a boost from a recent RFP for “smart city program management,” which brought more than 200 responses. All solutions are open source, supporting the city’s goal to make sure its good work can be replicated elsewhere.
4th City of Los Angeles, Calif.
Los Angeles made another strong showing in this year’s survey, continuing its leading work in digital inclusion, mobility and cybersecurity. The nation’s second most populous city cites tackling homelessness as its top priority for the coming year, an initiative in which the Information Technology Agency (ITA) is playing a critical role. As part of $1.2 billion from a ballot measure toward homelessness and housing, ITA aids in citywide communication on the issue, including a predictive analytics tool that identifies those Angelenos most at risk before they become homeless so the city can provide preventative services. ITA also heads digital inclusion efforts for those who are struggling financially or are in need of training in new digital schools, and assists with real-time homeless services like coordination of response at the street level.
The Southern California metropolis is prioritizing creating equity across the city workforce in terms of both gender and race and working to develop a portal that makes it easier to report incidents of harassment and discrimination. This is in keeping with the city’s report that their No. 1 priority in the next year is hiring and retaining IT personnel. ITA reports that 52 percent of their workforce will be eligible for retirement over the next two years, and to help compensate for that loss is continuing its paid college internship program and is working on a mobile worker program. To further negotiate the digital divide, ITA and the Mayor’s Office have collaborated on the Find Your Future program, which uses gamification and other tech to pair disconnected youth with local jobs that put them on the path toward careers.
L.A. also has a strong mobility-first initiative, and in the near future plans to develop data security, privacy and sharing guidelines. The L.A. Cyber Center now provides services to more than 600 organizations, and a new citywide social media policy brings together teams from across 42 departments in a unified citizen-facing front at @LACity on Twitter.
5th City of Phoenix, Ariz.
Phoenix, with 1.6 million residents, is the fifth most populous city in the country. While it doesn’t grab a lot of smart city headlines compared to America’s other large municipalities, the city has quietly become a digital government powerhouse. It starts with one of its core policies of giving all residents a seamless customer service experience. In response, the city, with the help of the IT department, has opened 20 new contact centers featuring the latest in CRM technology to intelligently route 2.2 million calls annually. Other types of customer-related initiatives include a new CAD system that delivers situational awareness for the city’s fire personnel and a customer-focused data analytics project for the case management system serving the city’s homeless.
Customer service upgrades using technology are just one part of the city’s overall digital strategy. In 2019, the city deployed over 300 5G small cells, positioning Phoenix to become one of the first 5G-enabled cities in the U.S. It has integrated its 99 official social media pages, so that the public has one point from which to view what city agencies and officials are posting. The city has spent $30 million to replace its phone and data network and has equipped 1,000 police officers with body cams, with another 1,000 expected to be added in the next five years.
In 2019, Phoenix hired its first chief information security officer and began work on the Network Security Operations Center, which will operate as an independent and isolated security office designed to protect, detect and defend the city against domestic and foreign network and cybersecurity threats.
Last year, Phoenix also hired its first chief data officer to steer innovative approaches to data and information management, particularly in the emerging fields of machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science and open data. This effort will include the implementation of formal data governance protocols and aligns data analytics strategies with the business needs of the individual departments using an enterprise-wide data model.
6th City of Mesa, Ariz.
In 2018, Mesa, Ariz., pushed to create a comprehensive Smart City Master Plan. It was just one of several examples of the city’s forward-looking priorities for local government that has resonated elsewhere. Another example is its focus on improving daily life, rather than simply rolling out tech-heavy applications, highlighting the city’s more thoughtful approach to digital deployments. The IT department has been heavily involved in smart city efforts and has created a “comprehensive application integration architecture” for the tools and services it deploys. This includes the incremental expansion of city-owned fiber infrastructure to better connect smart city tech.
When it comes to using data — whether collected by sensors or in the city’s financial department — transparency is a key component. The recent creation of the Data Engineering and Analytics Team shows Mesa's collective commitment to using data in the most effective way possible. The city’s data goes beyond financial ledgers; it also offers information about projects underway throughout the city. The Mesa Active Development Map allows users to review the progress of projects throughout the region. Data is also used to improve services, including the deployment of public safety resources. For example, the city used data from public safety calls to better assess which neighborhoods needed additional fire and police stations, with the goal of improving response times to emergencies. To better protect city data and resident privacy, the city’s chief information security officer has also assumed the role of chief privacy officer.
Where cyberdefenses are concerned, the city has taken a proactive approach to preparing for the worst. Staff receive mandatory awareness trainings and remote access is guarded by multi-factor authentication requirements. Additionally, phishing tests are conducted three times a year to keep employees aware of the potential dangers. Ongoing efforts are underway to continue to automate cybersecurity tools and monitoring. IT staff recently completed the first phase of an effort to inventory all IoT devices to assess the risks associated with connected devices on their network. To prepare a future IT workforce, the city is partnering with educational institutions, including shared services with the Mesa Public School system, and paid internships to students from Benedictine University.
7th City of Louisville, Ky.
Louisville, Ky., has long been a strong finisher in Digital Cities, and this year is no different. The city is powered by a far-reaching focus on helping citizens better connect with government through digital services. In addition, Louisville continues to impress with its ongoing embrace of emerging technologies in innovative and effective ways. Another continued strength for the Kentucky metro area of 1.2 million residents is digital equity. The city’s Department of Information Technology and its Office of Civic Innovation continue to demonstrate a commitment to addressing the digital divide, helping low-income populations get access to low-cost Internet, establishing Wi-Fi hot spots, and, perhaps most importantly, building out the area’s fiber-optic infrastructure in the aftermath of Google Fiber stopping services there.
This current period, however, is perhaps one of new beginnings for Louisville, as it begins to focus on Plan 2040, a guiding vision for the area that anticipates continued growth for the state’s largest population center. There are goals within that plan that heavily involve ongoing tech and innovation work, specifically continuing to expand high-speed Internet access, as well as making sure infrastructure — which includes fiber-optic infrastructure — is improved and expanded. This issue of building sustainable and future-facing high-speed infrastructure is one that cities nationwide will increasingly grapple with in the years to come, and Louisville is well-prepared to deal with that.
In terms of specifics for the future, Louisville plans to soon publish a new smart city plan and to also announce what the city is calling a Louisville Fiber Infrastructure Technology major milestone.
8th City of El Paso, Texas
A top priority for El Paso’s Department of Information Technology Services is cybersecurity, an effort encompassing numerous areas such as the implementation of physical and virtual private networks, operating system upgrades, backup policies and mandatory online cybersecurity training for all employees. Another city IT priority is enhancing citizen engagement with online surveys, social media and mobile applications like 311.
The city now publishes budget dashboards forecasting the next six to 12 months. And a new “Agenda Management” feature includes a function allowing anyone to post comments on meeting agenda items.
El Paso’s IT is also involved in “quality of place” improvements for local residents, aiding in the development of the El Paso Streetcar mobile app and the design of the $15.5 million Westside Natatorium, which includes free Wi-Fi, an automated water management system and LED lighting controls. Also, some 27 parks and libraries will get Wi-Fi system upgrades in the coming fiscal year. El Paso residents now have access to 120 mobile hot spots. And 245 parking meters have been upgraded to accept credit cards.
In public safety, the El Paso Fire Department released its PulsePoint App, which connects victims of cardiac arrest with someone nearby trained in CPR. Three dozen new police cars include in-vehicle NVR systems, mobile routers, radar and other tech tools. Also, IT developed a new prisoner log application which provides real-time booking information for local law enforcement agencies regarding people entering the county jail.
9th City of Albuquerque, N.M.
With a population of about 560,000, Albuquerque, N.M., is committed to Mayor Tim Keller’s vision of “One Albuquerque.” The city’s Department of Technology and Innovation (DTI) is no exception, as it works across multiple agencies to fulfill an agenda that emphasizes public safety, inclusiveness and innovation.
One of DTI’s most significant projects in 2019 is the ongoing rollout of an up-to-date P25 radio and telecommunications system for public safety agencies. This year Albuquerque has also procured robotics to accelerate DNA analysis. The department installed a test camera system that, based on initial findings, makes Albuquerque one of the first places to have an individual camera that can capture license plates from two lanes at normal traffic speeds. IT has also helped police communicate with individuals who don’t speak English with an online interpretation service from LanguageLine Solutions.
The city’s various inclusivity efforts involve DTI support so that data can be used to achieve real-world impacts. Albuquerque has been developing a neighborhood-level equity index that has resulted in $7 million going toward the repair of streets in historically underserved neighborhoods. Additionally, the city partnered with the Buy Local Racial Equity organization to improve economic opportunities and outcomes for women- and minority-owned businesses through improved data tracking, more inclusive informational networks and fairer contract opportunities.
Albuquerque intends to become a full-fledged smart city. As part of this initiative, the city hired a Technology Services Transformation Manager and created a cross-departmental innovation team whose members can assist different agencies with performance management and data analytics. Right now, Albuquerque is testing IoT sensor nodes, pedestrian traffic analysis and next-generation high-speed wireless services. In the near future, the city plans to explore environmental sensors, smart irrigation, noise sensors and advanced parking systems.
10th City of Charlotte, N.C.
In the process of reorganizing its Innovation and Technology Department (I&T), the city of Charlotte launched several internal projects and initiatives. Among these were a dedicated Center for Data Analytics, an interdepartmental team called Data Co-Lab to establish data governance policy, a special division focused on public safety technology, a Video Management System (VMS) governance committee to oversee video surveillance systems, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Security Task Force, which includes 60 public officials from the region to discuss cybersecurity issues.
Charlotte also invested big: $25 million for technology to improve procurement, IT investment planning and permit approval; $14 million in technology initiatives for neighborhood development, including a program for monitoring dementia patients, one for drone surveying, and one to create a permanent emergency operations center (EOC) for emergency preparedness and disaster management; and about $30 million in planned investment in transportation, led by three city departments.
Over the past year, the city also upgraded its Open Data Portal for finding, cataloguing and sharing data; launched a platform called Charlotte Explorer for publicizing GIS data; created dashboards for city employees to access and interact with data in the city’s financial management system (MUNIS); and gave more than 1,000 cumulative hours of data training to 159 staff members.
From these and other investments came a host of infrastructure projects. Charlotte partnered with AT&T to build a FirstNet environment for public safety infrastructure, started integrating its data networks with the public safety LMR (land mobile radio) networks to allow law enforcement to track first responder locations, and began the process of splitting its metro fiber-optic infrastructure to create a redundant pathway in the event of failure.
Charlotte has also launched a proliferation of citizen-facing tools: a new app for citizens to plan mass transit trips and ticket wait times, an app from the local airport for passengers to check flights and amenities, enhancements to the Charlotte Business Resources website to include online chat and virtual classrooms, and updated citizen-facing dashboards regarding quality of life and vehicle collisions. The Charlotte Area Transportation System started working with I&T to bring free public Wi-Fi to all public transit systems. The city implemented an online interactive map for developers to evaluate possible housing sites in order to improve the project approval process.
10th City of Dallas, Texas
In 2019, elected officials in Dallas increased the objectives for how it deployed IT projects from four to six priorities, which now range from public safety to government performance and financial management.
To overcome a shortage of police officers, the city deployed an online crime reporting tool, which allows residents to report 13 types of nonviolent crimes to the Dallas Police Department. User-submitted reports are reviewed and assigned if they merit police follow-up. The online tool has reduced the amount of time officers spend gathering and entering incident information, which in turn allows police to respond to a greater number of serious crimes.
Dallas officials recognize the importance of collaborating with regional and local IT experts. The city has established a regional data sharing agreement with Dallas County that may result in the collocation of IT resources. Data from the county could feed into the city’s open data portal, which has been leveraged during city-sanctioned hackathons to solve community problems and to familiarize residents with the government transparency tool.
But as more data is stored and shared, the risk of cyberthreats concurrently increases. Dallas enlisted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help with the Dallas Strategic Cybersecurity Plan, which resulted in the creation of an enterprise-wide patch management system in 2019. The program ensures all technology services undergo patch management unilaterally, removing individual departments’ varying update timeframes. Also, city staff have been instructed to undergo cybersecurity awareness training to prevent accidental breaches.
As Dallas improves its services, data and security, it is adapting emerging technologies, like 5G. New LED light poles can house small cells to match the city’s aesthetics while providing a higher degree of connectivity.
Absent any federal financial help, Gov. Charlie Baker has patched together a multi-million dollar package from COVID relief funds and the state budget that will help assist housing, small business owners and job seekers.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law last month that will make it easier, quicker and cheaper for refugees, asylum seekers and those with special immigrant visas to get professional licensing.
Election officials are assuring voters that this year is no different: Their ballots will be counted and the election results will be fair. Roughly half of the state’s registered voters have requested absentee ballots.