There are thousands of cities in the U.S., but not all can be considered digital cities. In fact, only 57 cities in the nation were named as winners in the 2014 Digital Cities Survey, which acknowledges cities that recognize the value of technology, empower their tech leaders and use new ideas to make life better for everyone who lives there.
This year, Los Angeles, Calif.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Avondale, Ariz.; and Dublin, Ohio, are considered outstanding Digital Cities, as they each placed first in their respective population categories.
In this 14th annual survey, the Center for Digital Government, the research arm of Government Technology's parent company, e.Republic Inc., reviewed responses from hundreds of cities nationwide to find those who aligned their technologies with city goals, saved tax dollars through newfound efficiencies, boosted transparency and privacy, and innovated through unique and exciting projects.
Placing first in the population 250,000 or greater category was Los Angeles, which demonstrated excellence across a wide range of projects over the last several years. Judges were impressed by the city’s expenditure portal, 311 service platform, strides to bridge the digital divide by providing refurbished computers to the public, deployment of utility portals, use of open data architecture, and integration of a Cyber Intrusion Command Center to keep the city’s data safe.
The city’s open data efforts were built using Socrata and modeled after those of New York City, said Chief Technology Officer Steve Reneker, adding that these efforts are a great replacement for what would have traditionally been public record requests followed by tedious office work.
Cybersecurity efforts in the city are maturing, too, Reneker said. The Cyber Intrusion Command Center is now one year old; here, the city monitors its Internet traffic and analyzes it in real time, Reneker explained, while comparing those patterns with national trends and regional partners. The data allows the city to spot discrepancies that might indicate malicious attacks, and adjust their defenses across the city accordingly.
The city is now looking to deploy more solutions across the city, like operational intelligence platform Splunk, Reneker said. “We are focused more on breaking down the barriers that prevent us from being successful,” he said. “For example, my agency used to require approvals for any technology purchase, and it delayed people getting their solution by an additional two to three weeks. We eliminated that.”
It’s an honor to be recognized as one of the top Digital Cities in the nation, Reneker said, and it’s a reflection of their hard work.
Topping the 125,000 - 249,999 population category is the city of Winston-Salem, N.C., which especially impressed judges in terms of work on citizen engagement, use of cloud services, a strong app system, mobile pavement tracking system, internal and external use of social media, and continued support of WinstonNet, a community program aimed at closing the digital divide.
CIO Dennis Newman explained that the city has deeply integrated transparency into its operations and culture -- if ever there is data that can be released to the public, the city tries to do so.
“We have a real-time application that provides current information on crimes committed, updated regularly,” Newman said. “We have a performance application that’s updated quarterly that provides internal city performance data, and then we’ve really integrated components of our general ledger so that there is open financial information available that gives a lot of details on our expenditures, all the way down to include individual vendor transactions. Those are just a few highlights.”
The city’s mobile pavement tracking system was developed in-house, and allows the city an efficient and effective way to track the health of its streets. Using a GIS-based, GPS-enabled mobile application, city workers grade street health as part of a system that prioritizes paving projects. The system allows the city to seamlessly update its street data while workers travel about the city.
Overall, the city has been successful because it consistently invests in foundational technologies that maximize opportunities, Newman said. “We have done a good job of investing and implementing core infrastructure, strong skill sets, that provide the level of services and enable us to take advantage of technologies when the opportunity arises."
For instance, he said, the city adopted virtual servers and desktops for great cost savings, but only because it had first invested in technologies that positioned the city to identify and seize those opportunities.
Avondale, Ariz., which took first in the 75,000 – 124,999 population category, impressed judges with its city branding, thoughtful strategic plan, cybersecurity action plan and citizen engagement.
CIO Rob Lloyd explained that forging the city’s brand was a long and difficult process that involved engaging the public through social media and holding dozens of meetings – but it was important, so officials wanted to get it right.
“What we were trying to do is come up with our city’s identity and not just a logo, but we wanted to engage every part of the community and say, 'Who are we? And who do we want to be?'" Lloyd explained. "The city settled on imagery and colors that reflected both regional themes like the Phoenix International Raceway, and identity through the selection of the key words, “aspire, achieve and accelerate.”
Engaging through social media was an eye-opener, Lloyd said, because they got more information there than from their meetings.
And the city's Cybersecurity Action Plan, he noted, is a suitable reflection of the changing cybersecurity landscape. “The cybersecurity reality is that it’s like crime – it’s going to happen, and now the step that cities and states and others have to take is to reduce your profile and mitigate as much risk as you can,” he said. “So we want to move past the old perimeter security and reactive malware updates model – and those definitely still have their place – but it can’t be your answer anymore.”
The city’s information sharing alliance will be crucial going forward, Lloyd added – a joint procurement to get contractual tools and services in place "so you’re not scrambling to hire experts if something does happen," he said, "so we did a joint procurement with four other cities in Maricopa County and put that in place for general use by any jurisdiction.”
The city’s fundamental success stems from its governance model, which Lloyd explained is built around participation and joint effort. "We’ve worked hard to come up with a model that’s a step beyond the traditional strategic planning, which is basically an assessment of IT," he said, "and everyone always says, ‘You need more resources, you need more people, you need more technology, and that’s really insufficient. What our governance model is built around is actually getting things done."
The process of developing the city’s governance model is thorough, Lloyd explained. The city established strategy statements based on each organization’s expressed IT needs. Then they got feedback from directors, city managers and city council to identify where the city’s IT resources could best be applied. “If you execute well at a high level," he said, "then you have a lot of organizational trust and you can accomplish a lot of things.”
The city of Dublin, Ohio, topped the population category of up to 75,000, impressing judges with its extensive social media presence, community engagement tools, a promising start in the world of open data, strong collaboration between departments and with local jurisdictions, as well as a systematic approach to GIS use.
Assistant City Manager Michelle Crandall said the organization’s focus in a few key areas has allowed them to succeed. “We want to provide employees with the technology that they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, along with providing the support and the training they need to use the technology to its fullest extent,” she said. “The second area we focus on is really providing our residents and corporate residents the information and online tools they want and they expect to find from the city. They have high expectations and are very technology-savvy.”
Executive support has also been a huge enabler for the city and staff couldn’t have succeeded without it, she said. “We have a talented IT staff, but also a really forward-thinking city manager and city council that really understand and financially support the city’s technology,” she said.
The city’s value from GIS comes not just from existing applications, but also in the city’s constant pursuit of new ones. With each new system that's put in place, the city asks itself if there might also be a useful GIS application that could be derived, Crandall said.
“Right now we have a really strong GIS-based work order system. We have a lot of community-facing GIS mapping capabilities,” she said. “One of the more creative things we’ve done in past years with GIS is that our community plan, which usually it’s a static document, we’ve made it interactive by putting it online and making it GIS-based.”
Collaboration also has proven a useful tool for the city, she said, and one it intends to build upon. “We just opened a joint dispatching center with the adjoining community and two of our townships, so four jurisdictions total, and we’ll probably be adding additional jurisdictions in the coming years.”
The city last applied to the Digital Cities Survey in 2010 and earned fifth place, so Crandall said that when their IT team learned they earned first place for 2014, it was both exciting and rewarding.
2014 Digital Cities Winners
250,000 or more population
1st Los Angeles
Los Angeles vaulted into first place in the big cities category this year after finishing ninth in the 2013 survey. CTO Steve Reneker's IT department had an extremely busy 2014, starting with the New Year's Day launch of a revamped city Web page. In addition, the city unveiled a new data portal – offering more than 800 data sets – and an online dashboard that tracks key performance indicators for the city economy, service delivery, public safety and government operations. Los Angeles adopted a cloud-first policy in July and now runs all hardware and software acquisitions through a "return on investment calculator" to see if hosted options make financial sense. One impact of the new policy is a decision announced in August to move 20 city websites – including the L.A. home page – to the open source Drupal content management platform hosted in the cloud.
2nd Kansas City, Mo.
Home of the nation's first Google Fiber implementation, Kansas City has enhanced its online presence and strengthened support for new businesses and entrepreneurs. A new city website launched earlier this year may be the largest municipal implementation of the open source Wordpress platform. The open source approach cut the cost of launching the new site by 75 percent compared with the previous Kansas City portal, according to the city. A new KC Bizcare service offers comprehensive online resources for opening a business in Kansas City, including selecting a location, obtaining licenses and permits, and complying with state and federal tax regulations. In addition, the city enacted an open data policy in March and launched data.kcmo.org, an online open data catalog offering more than 3,500 data sets. The online KCStat Dashboard lets citizens monitor city government’s performance on 24 strategic priorities.
Seattle has a full slate of initiatives under way intended to strengthen government operations and engage citizens. Internally, the city is centralizing technology services, which includes consolidating multiple data centers and developing coordinated IT policies. The mayor’s IT Subcommittee – comprising the deputy mayor, city CTO and six city department heads – was creating in July to oversee the effort. Externally, Seattle makes extensive use of interactive technology like social media – through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr – and mapping of crime statistics to build closer bonds between residents and its police force. A Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the mayor and city council on issues like community connectivity, e-government services and access to technology. Seattle also has multiple programs to promote technology use throughout the city, including a Technology Matching Fund that provides matching grants as large as $20,000 for community technology projects.
3rd Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville’s Comprehensive Performance Management Process combines internal and external components into one initiative designed to link city priorities with both citizens and municipal employees. Internally, JaxOps creates departmental scorecards that take into account operational excellence, customer satisfaction, financial management, talent management and process innovation. And JaxAnalytics provides analytics and business intelligence to optimize performance. Externally, the latest version of Jacksonville’s JaxScore performance dashboard lets citizens view the number of submitted, active and completed service requests by ZIP code. Color coding shows which ZIP codes have the most requests. In addition, service requests can be sorted by city council district or city department. In February, Jacksonville’s Information Technology Division unveiled a new service billing model for internal customers that provides more accurate calculation of IT costs and better transparency for how charges are determined.
3rd Louisville Metro Government, Ky.
Nineteen city departments now participate in Louisville’s LouieStat performance-tracking initiative, which uses data analytics to spot weaknesses, allocate resources and evaluate effectiveness of city programs. The city’s performance against the mayor’s six strategic objectives is tracked publicly on Mayor Greg Fischer’s online Strategic Plan dashboard. The site also collects citizen input on which goals are most important. Louisville enacted an “open data by default” policy in late 2013, and new online tools let users search for vacant properties and check for environmental hazards. Current initiatives include the installation of 26 security cameras downtown to improve public safety and replacement of the city’s occupational tax system.
Philadelphia continues to deftly integrate civic engagement, innovation and information technology. In February, the city launched an Innovation Academy in partnership with Philadelphia University intended to institutionalize innovative thinking and processes in city departments. A month later, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced a $100,000 fund to back innovative public-private projects intended to improve the city. A new program called the PhillyRising Collaborative partners with community members in high-crime neighborhoods to create civic technology solutions and deliver other resources to improve quality of life. PhillyCloud, a hybrid service delivery model that combines city managed infrastructure with off-premises cloud services, is helping more city departments shift to on-demand computing. Although 30 percent of legacy systems have been migrated to the public cloud, the remainder must stay onsite for regulatory or security reasons, according to the city. The hybrid solution allows those remaining systems to move toward a cloud-service model.
5th Raleigh, N.C.
A comprehensive technology initiative called Raleigh Connected is bringing free outdoor Wi-Fi to downtown areas, creating a fiber network for government facilities and extending wireless Internet access to underserved areas. In addition, the Raleigh Digital Connectors initiative teaches technology skills to youths and young adults from low-income households. In return, graduates of the free program perform community service as technology ambassadors, transferring their skills to others. This year, coding and open data modules were added to Digital Connectors classes. Raleigh is part of a group of North Carolina cities and universities working to build an ultra high-speed regional network dubbed the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN). Earlier this year, NCNGN members announced they were reviewing a proposal from AT&T to create the network. In addition, Raleigh is one of 34 cities talking with Google about a new round of Google Fiber deployments.
5th Riverside, Calif.
The new Engage Riverside transparency portal offers 3.4 million pages of city records, including open data, budget and finance records, and departmental goals and accomplishments. The portal is part of a revamped city website that makes extensive use of responsive design to support mobile device users. A recently launched project management office is tasked with implementing best practices across the city for executing technology projects. A project management portal, built with Microsoft SharePoint technology, supports a standard project management framework and improves communications among project stakeholders. The SmartRiverside digital inclusion program — which provides free computers and wireless access to low-income families that complete eight hours of computer training — was named a global best practice last year by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum.
6th Long Beach, Calif.
A bilingual virtual assistant greets travelers in a new $45 million concourse opened by the city at the Long Beach Airport. The holographic assistant, known as AVA, gives tips to passengers for speeding up security screening in both English and Spanish. The Long Beach Public Library offers citizens access to a variety of high-tech tools, including 3-D printers, graphic design programs and video editing software. Internally the city is replacing legacy systems. A new customer information system for the city Utilities Department went live in late 2013, along with a mobile workforce management application. The city also recently completed a shift to Microsoft Office 365. More modernization is on tap for next year. The Long Beach City Council allocated $10 million for technology upgrades in the fiscal 2015 budget.
The city Public Works Department uses data analytics to improve the efficiency of its garbage pickup service. Business intelligence software allows the department to optimize fleet routing and track performance measures. The municipal service is competitively bid against private-sector suppliers, and the department credits analytics technology with helping it retain the business. The Phoenix Aviation Department uses a mobile workforce tool that lets maintenance staff receive work orders and communicate with supervisors using inexpensive consumer-grade smartphones. The paperless system has cut staff administration and drive time by 10 percent. A recently created Taskforce on Technology Advancement includes residents, entrepreneurs, business leaders and public-sector officials who provide input on improving city systems and using technology to drive economic development. Taskforce recommendations will help shape the city’s technology strategic plan.
7th City and County of Denver
Denver uses the citistat model for conducting metrics-driven performance reviews of city programs. Dubbed Peak Performance, the Denver program links performance metrics to departmental strategic plans aligned to the policy goals of Mayor Michael Hancock. Budgets, strategic plans, and performance review data for 23 city departments and programs are available online. In addition, Denver’s transparency portal lets citizens view city expenses, revenue, contracts, investments, property data and other information. A new permitting system automated and streamlined processes for planning, permitting and business licenses. And extensive information from the police department and sheriff’s office has been consolidated into a data warehouse to provide productivity data and predictive analysis.
8th Oakland, Calif.
Oakland’s non-profit Hack the Hood program introduces low-income kids to technology careers by hiring them and training them to build websites for small businesses in their communities. Participants attend six-week “boot camps” where they gain experience developing mobile-friendly sites and executing search engine optimization. In addition, Oakland created a citywide fiber master plan and is forming public/public and public/private partnerships to expand its fiber network, including an initiative to light up dark fiber in two blighted areas of the city. Internally, the city is making extensive use of cloud services to upgrade systems, including Microsoft Office 365 for email and collaboration, along with hosted GIS, service desk and building permit systems. A new open-source based RecordTrac portal lets citizens submit open-records requests online and view every request that has been submitted.
9th Albuquerque, N.M.
Albuquerque implemented new technology to manage maintenance, revenues and expenses at approximately 500 commercial properties it owns or occupies. It’s also deploying an automated timekeeping system to eliminate manual employee timecards and absence management. A strategic alliance announced in May between Microsoft and the city is intended to bring more technology access and computer-skills training to residents. The plan calls for the city to identify citizens with gaps in digital literacy and train them in digital basics using Microsoft’s Digital Literacy Curriculum. The alliance also will focus on developing startups and small businesses.
9th Sacramento, Calif.
The Sacramento Fire Department is working with Kaiser Permanente and a technology vendor to transmit patient EKG information while en route to the emergency room during emergencies. The new technology transmits information directly to hospital, allowing it to decide whether doctors must be called in for emergency surgery. Kaiser estimates the technology could save $30,000 per month. A new citywide digital strategy was created by the Sacramento Department of Information based on a comprehensive assessment of technology needs gathered through more than 150 hours of interviews with management, subject matter experts, users and technical staff.
10th Mesa, Ariz.
Mesa is engaging citizens in the city planning process through an initiative called “This is My Mesa.” A Web portal and mobile app provide information on the city’s history and let residents share ideas on how Mesa should evolve over the next 30 years. Citizen input is being used to shape transportation and general plan updates. Mesa residents also can report non-emergency crimes to the city Police Department online, and a new police mobile app provides residents with news, event information and alerts from the department. The Mesa Public Library’s THINKspot gives citizens access to digital cameras, 3-D printers, photo- and video-editing software, holographic computers, and other technology.
125,000 – 249,999 population
1st Winston-Salem, N.C.
Winston-Salem is a technology leader in a number of areas — and the city is 2014’s leader in its category after ranking sixth in last year’s Digital Cities Survey. It’s been improving online services to better meet residents’ needs, with offerings that include a custom 311 app and portal, a transparency Web app and engagement via social media and surveys. The city has embraced mobility, which has moved forward organization and business process changes. Mobile device management provides security for city-issued devices and allows for BYOD. And inspectors are now able to spend more time in the field — tablets, 4G connections and virtual desktop capabilities keep employees connected no matter their location. As part of a partnership, the city also works to bridge the digital divide through the community technology initiative WinstonNet, which provides computer labs and training to the public.
2nd Augusta, Ga.
The city of nearly 200,000 people has a big focus on transparent government, which can be seen in its use of an online dashboard that showcases statistics for budgets, taxes and crime. In addition, a number of Augusta agencies — including emergency management, animal services and the sheriff’s department — have Facebook pages to increase public engagement, with the Recreation Department, in particular, using the platform as an efficient way to communicate with citizens. The city relaunched its portal in December 2013, but isn’t stopping there. Staff members from the IT Department review analytics on an ongoing basis in order to make updates based on customers’ needs and available technology. Augusta also has an award-winning GIS operation that developed a transit system map among other tools to aid processes internally and for residents.
2nd Roseville, Calif.
Located in the Sacramento area, Roseville is home to 127,000 residents and uses technology to drive the future infrastructure of the city. And it’s moving up both in population and in the Digital Cities Survey — last year it ranked third in the 75,000-124,999 population category. An E-Government Strategic Plan approved earlier this year, serves as an outline for how the city is moving forward. Using enterprise architecture provides Roseville with a standardized technology road map, which improves interoperability and collaboration on projects. The portal features outstanding e-government functionality, including mobile-friendly navigation and a helpful top navigation bar. Launched in September, a local Wi-Fi network provides public Internet access in downtown Roseville, which the city hopes will increase economic development and promote digital inclusion.
3rd Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City focuses on being a digital community, a drive that has helped it to move up in the Digital Cities Survey from last year’s ranking of fourth in its category. The SLC Mobile app allows users to report 311 issues as well as access digital maps that the GIS team can update in real time. In an effort to bring high-speed broadband to the city, officials are working on a joint planning process with Google to look into the possibility of becoming home to the company's ultra-fast fiber network. To increase sustainability for the future, SLCgreen is based on Mayor Ralph Becker’s Livability Agenda that outlines initiatives to protect resources and enhance programs. The Sustainable City Dashboard tracks progress toward the goals, including increasing solar energy capacity within the city. 3rd Tacoma, Wash. Tacoma, home to nearly 200,000 people, took a big step toward transparency this year when it launched an open data portal that features more than 40 data sets. It’s also made leaps in the Digital Cities Survey, after placing seventh in 2013, this year it moved into third place. A performance management program provides insight into city services by providing information quarterly on the efficiency of Tacoma’s operations. Viewed as the centerpiece to city services, the TacomaFIRST311 Customer Support Center acts as a one-stop shop that citizens can interact with in person, by phone, online and via a new mobile app that was added this year. Also of note is the City Council and Committee automation Web page that features details on meetings including video footage, agenda and minutes.
4th Durham, N.C.
The city of 228,000 people has invested in IT alignment, helping to optimize business practices. Using the Strategic Plan to guide decision-making, an online tool measures progress across a series of goals. Another Web tool, Durham Neighborhood Compass, integrates data from all levels of government to track quality of life and provision of services throughout the city. The Durham Emergency Communication Center was the first call center in the state to enable text-to-911 functionality, which benefits the deaf and hard of hearing community as well as potential victims who are unable to make a voice call. The city also works closely with Durham County on a number of joint programs, including an open data initiative.
4th Hampton, Va.
When Hampton’s 137,000 residents have a question for the mayor they can ask him themselves — via a weekly Web chat. Citizen engagement is key, whether it’s using social media and online surveys among other tools or providing accessibility to a number of open government initiatives. Bid and contract information, for example, is posted openly for residents and businesses to view. And a real-time crime map provides transparency into public safety. With more than 80 percent of the city located in a flood zone, disaster recovery has been an important focus and the plan now includes cloud services, SaaS and replication of data and systems. These are a handful of the initiatives that have moved Hampton’s ranking in the Digital Cities Survey to fourth place, after coming in fifth in 2013.
5th Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Scottsdale IT Department has implemented a number of initiatives to streamline operations from fleet tracking to police off-duty scheduling to cellphone management. Cybersecurity has been a major focus over the past year — work has included enhanced virus and malware protection; a new spam filtering solution; and memberships with InfraGard and the Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance increase Scottsdale’s security posture. The myScottsdale app puts 311 services in citizens’ pockets. Resident input is also key: The city requests feedback when developing plans, and it asked for ideas and feedback earlier this year as it prepares to rebuild its portal. And the work is paying off: Scottsdale moved up one place this year to be ranked fifth in its Digital Cities Survey category.
6th Springfield, Mo.
With a population of 162,000 people, Springfield relies on IT to keep the city running 24/7. And that technology focus has driven it up in the Digital Cities Survey from 10th place in 2013 to sixth this year. Numerous new systems have been implemented in the last few years, including police records management, online payments and enterprise resource planning. An easy-to-navigate website features tools that seek to engage the community, while also providing job-critical functions like the Developer Resource Center, a one-stop shop to help builders navigate multiple city departments. Additional Web features — for example, a redesigned map gallery for GIS data and online registration for Parks and Recreation activities — show the importance of having Web-based services to help the public.
7th Fort Collins, Colo.
North of Denver, Fort Collins is working to make its portal the go-to place for information and services as it continuously updates the mobile-friendly site. It was named a finalist in this year’s Best of the Web awards, due in part to features like a utility monitoring tool that provides an easy way for customers to monitor their use. A key initiative is the Building on Basics 2.0 tool that allows the city’s 144,000 residents to indicate which future projects they support and also know the cost of each initiative. In addition, the Idea Lab portal allows for two-way information sharing and engagement between residents and Fort Collins officials. The city also is a partner in the local technology incubator the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, which had its largest graduating class in 2013 with 13 companies.
8th Chula Vista, Calif.
Chula Vista is taking its ERP system to the cloud this year in a move that will enable cost-savings due in part to reduced onsite hardware and software licensing. After researching both in-car and on-body camera operations for police officers, the city is moving forward with a program to purchase more than 100 body cameras. Both an IT and police department effort, the city sees this technology deployment as an important milestone to building community trust and ensuring public safety. Chula Vista aims to be a digital city, which can be seen in its numerous tech-related features from sewer pumps controlled via radio to paperless processes to an upcoming open data portal.
8th Hollywood, Fla.
The Hollywood of the east — home to 140,000 people — is preparing for an influx of visitors to the beach and is enlisting IT to provide services and make information easy to access online. To prepare for potential power outages from hurricanes, equipment running mission-critical applications is co-located in a redundant data center that has numerous power sources. After spending millions of dollars to run and maintain a dispatch center, the opportunity was made available to participate in a countywide facility. Since making the move, cost savings are being realized throughout the county. The easy-to-navigate portal features the “How Do I?” tab that covers a rich array of services and topics.
8th Pasadena, Calif.
Since creating a five-year strategic plan for IT in 2010, more than 50 projects are currently under way, with the ultimate goal of upgrading or replacing nearly every app and system in the city. An open data portal was developed earlier this year as part of a hackathon. The city continues to move forward with improving transparency and working with the technology community in the development of an open data investment strategy. Monthly stats from the Citizen Service Center allow city officials to track the response to requests and determine areas that can be improved. Officials also have been toying with the idea of sensor networks in months past, talking with vendors to identify how sensor-driven data can help their city. “We don’t have an official smart city program, but we are definitely collecting a lot of data on our streets, and it’s being collected to help model traffic,” said CIO Phillip Leclair.
9th Alexandria, Va.
Grounded in a sound and practical IT Strategic Plan, the city of 140,000 people continues to move forward with technology investments. Recent progress includes upgrading enterprise computers to Windows 7, operationalizing a redundant Internet connect for business continuity, and improving security with a network access control system. In addition, more than a dozen apps are being integrated into an ERP system. Public safety legacy systems also have been upgraded, including CAD and a modernized records management system. A mobile device management strategy allows Alexandria to secure access to its resources and is currently used for city-issued devices but could incorporate personal devices. Also in the mobile realm, a library app provides access to the online catalog, allowing users to do a number of tasks like renew a book and check due dates.
10th Olathe, Kan.
Olathe has been selected to be the third city to get Google high-speed fiber to the home, an accomplishment that’s representative of its citizens. The 132,000 people living in the city expect digital services and the efficiency they bring — and Olathe’s response has come in the form of websites and mobile apps. For example, more than 40 percent of customers use the trash day app and Web service. An open data portal improves government transparency, and the city also uses data internally to measure progress and allocate resources. A performance management system, called COMPASS, monitors department metrics and requests for new resources are presented with data showing potential impacts via the tool. Citizen engagement is done via social media accounts as well as annual satisfaction surveys.
75,000 – 124,999 population
1st Avondale, Ariz.
The city of Avondale, Ariz., ranked highest in its population category based on several key programs, including its comprehensive branding initiative that paired traditional stakeholder meetings with electronic engagement activities like social media outreach and online surveys to arrive at its new brand: "Avondale: Aspiring, Achieving, and Accelerating." A strategic IT work plan guides technology projects in the city, with frequent updates ensuring alignment with departmental goals. Citizen engagement priorities include a mobile app, recently refreshed based on community feedback, and an "A Voice" online forum that solicits ideas that other residents vote up or down. As a lead agency involved in the Arizona Cyberthreat Response Alliance, Avondale is working with four other jurisdictions to better protect its digital resources with enhanced cybersecurity services. Story idea: The Arizona Cyberthreat Response Alliance (mentioned above) -- several jurisdictions collaborating on cybersecurity, now awarding contracts that many agencies can use. (Question 7 on Avondale's submission)
2nd Ann Arbor, Mich.
A hallmark of Ann Arbor's transparency efforts is its A2 Openbook financial tool that reveals spending details for city agencies, pulled directly from the city's financial database, in most cases on a daily basis. And not only is the data available and timely, it's user-friendly: judges compliment city officials for the strength of their dashboards, presenting metrics in an easily digestible format. The city also highlights its transparent bid and purchasing processes. Ann Arbor also scores high for its collaboration efforts, including several shared services agreements with Washtenaw County for backup, enterprise content management and other IT services. 2nd Greenville, N.C. Also notable for its commitment to transparency and citizen engagement, the Greenville, N.C., Police Department makes various types of crime data available online, mapped for easy reference. Residents have ample opportunity to interact with the city online, including the Your NextBus transit planning tool and mobile app offering real-time bus tracking data, and signing up for events through the Recreation and Parks Department. An ambitious ERP overhaul streamlined and modernized city operations, positioning the city to better serve citizens with advanced e-government services.
3rd Boulder, Colo.
Boulder's visually appealing and feature-rich website earned it a third place award in the Center for Digital Government's Best of the Web survey this year. Built on an open source content management system in collaboration with the city of Arvada, Colo., officials' intentions were to share the code with other interested local governments. Boulder also benefits from savings of more than $100,000 yielded by the open source approach. The responsive site also offers an archive of city records, integrated social media throughout, as well as a robust data catalog. The Inspire Boulder campaign is billed as a digital city hall — an online effort to engage citizens on the strategic path Boulder should follow on issues like housing, parking and city planning.
3rd Roanoke, Va.
Among the innovative initiatives in the digital city of Roanoke, Va., is the use of predictive crime analysis, with iStar, which stands for intelligence, statistics, technology, analysis and research. The program allows Roanoke police to focus their resources based on detailed crime patterns. Roanoke's IT governance board in 2014 added an innovation fund which makes $10,000 or less available for one-time project costs for creative uses of technology to increase efficiency. So far, monies have gone toward library self-checkout stations and an iPad-based mobile real estate inspection program. Judges also noted Roanoke's unique pavement management system, which catalogued the city's 557 lane miles using high-res panoramic images and 3-D pavement distress data in order to assign ratings and generate a multi-year pavement management strategy.
4th Davenport, Iowa
Davenport, Iowa, has spent the last 10 years building its fiber network, which saves the city more than $300,000 annually. Its Gig City aspirations include sharing the network with citizens, an integral part of an economic development strategy which aims to deliver high-speed broadband to all residences and businesses. Forward-thinking leaders have created a digital infrastructure that is flexible enough to accommodate changing needs, including a smart grid network that positions Davenport as a smart, sustainable city. In addition, a new citywide work order management system will facilitate data-sharing across departments, allowing real-time management of city assets. The cloud-based system equips mobile workers to more easily complete tasks in the field, and a self-service portal and mobile app empowers citizens to report and track service needs.
4th Santa Monica, Calif.
A 2013 Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayor's Challenge winner for its quest to create a Local Wellbeing Index, Santa Monica uses several types of data, including economic, education, health, social connectedness and physical environment, to direct its priorities. The city also recently upgraded its free Wi-Fi service, with 35 active hot zones. Bandwidth was increased to five times its previous capacity, and a security-filtering appliance was added to help safeguard users' devices from malware. Service improvements related to the broadband capabilities are many, including traffic signal synchronization, real-time parking signage, traffic and security cameras, virtual learning for local schools and expanded telemedicine options for local hospitals and clinics. A comprehensive mobile workforce initiative lays out the city's protocols to support its workforce, whether on- or off-premises through a BYOD program, mobile device management, unified messaging and other cloud-based collaboration tools.
4th Westminster, Colo.
Westminster's leadership is easily seen in interactive tools like the Backseat Budgeter, a simulator that encourages citizens to select budget priorities for a fictitious budget surplus and immediately see their impact. The Westy Connect citizen engagement platform encourages active participation in city decision-making, soliciting ideas that are voted up or down in a user-friendly forum, integrated with city social media pages. IT projects in Westminster effectively align with stated City Council priorities, as outlined in the department's recently updated strategic plan. The prevalence of mobile technologies is also acknowledged in a mobile-specific strategic plan, which describes the development of the city website featuring responsive design, and mobile apps enabling internal functions like building and manhole inspections as well as citizen-facing service requests and access to library resources online.
5th Lynchburg, Va.
Lynchburg, Va., encourages citizens to engage with government through its multi-faceted Lynchburg is Listening program, which includes many ways for residents to submit ideas and get their concerns addressed, including a moderated online forum and a "Citizens First" info center. Strategic IT planning for the city of nearly 80,000 is formalized every three years. The most recent edition outlines parameters for technology projects, including a defined business need and departmental sponsor, an enterprisewide focus wherever possible, a positive return on investment and supportability by current staff, to name a few. In an example of the city's commitment to intra-governmental cooperation, Lynchburg IT staff now locates several servers at a separately maintained emergency management data center to improve its capacity for disaster recovery.
6th Sugar Land, Texas
An informed, engaged citizenry is clearly a priority for Sugar Land, Texas, where an impressive array of services are available to website visitors. An AskCity online feature offers a view at current issues as well as the ability to report and track new ones. According to the online town hall, officials are paying attention to feedback on issues like land use and transportation: "Join the discussion. City officials will consider all input in their decision process," citizens are assured. Neighborhood-specific services and amenities are available too, via the My Neighborhood page. GIS use in Sugar Land is sophisticated, with feature-rich sites offering layers of data on economic development efforts, transportation projects and capital projects citywide.
7th Independence, Mo.
Independence, Mo., is working diligently to leverage technology for positive outcomes in many city service areas, including public safety. Enhanced data capabilities include a new server linking the city's public safety system with a regional terrorism early warning group, while a new Fire Department server and software allow for more advanced analysis and reporting. The Fire Department is also well positioned for an upcoming mobile implementation that will equip responders with critical information at incident scenes. The city workforce has transitioned to Microsoft 365 for email, and officials are exploring a deeper dive into the cloud for data storage and disaster recovery. A new mobile-friendly tourism website is earning rave reviews, with a similar overhaul planned for the city's main online home. Earlier this year, Government Technology wrote about a new app for Independence's code inspectors that uses GPS and photo-sharing to achieve huge efficiency gains — an estimated 1,500 hours of labor annually.
7th Richardson, Texas
The nearly 100,000 residents of Richardson, Texas, have a comprehensive reporting app available online and on the go, allowing them to file and track concerns in 57 different areas, including animal control, code enforcement and environment issues. The police department is just as accessible, inviting non-emergency submissions as well as crime tips from citizens. A new alerting system replaces outdated technology with robust capabilities that include reverse 911, sophisticated filtering options and confirmation requests. Richardson's animal shelter also recently got a technology overhaul, with an updated website that tracks locations of lost and found animals and lets residents upload their own photos. In-shelter touchscreen monitors display details on available pets, and laptops in animal control vehicles offer real-time data to shelter staff. Digital photo frames at various locations in the city help spread the word about animals needing a home.
8th West Palm Beach, Fla.
Mayor Jeri Muoio of West Palm Beach, Fla. is the force behind Project Open Access, described as a social collaboration project to encourage citizen feedback and civil dialog. A cloud-based engagement platform gathers public input on topics like city budgeting and activities at the nature preserve, in an effort to foster increased public trust in how the city is governed. Other innovative endeavors in West Palm Beach include automated workforce management for the city workforce of more than 1,400 that helps control labor and overhead costs and streamline inefficiencies in the previous, manual system. In addition, electronic signatures have been implemented in the legislative approval process for ordinance and resolution files, eliminating the scanning and data entry requirements from hard copy documents. West Palm Beach now also uses predictive analytics to thoroughly evaluate flood risks. Models, floodplains and other information will help inform infrastructure improvements and public outreach activities, as well as improve the city's capability for disaster response and recovery.
9th Boca Raton, Fla.
A recent survey by 24/7 Wall St. ranks Boca Raton among the top 50 U.S. cities to live in, and its digital prowess bears mention too. The city's downtown library now offers 70 virtual desktops, providing Internet connectivity for residents with minimal support requirements. The city's goal of maintaining a safe environment is enhanced by a network of 300 closed circuit TV cameras, located in city facilities, parks and other public spaces. Public safety personnel are also using predictive analytics to help address crime proactively. The forward-thinking city utilized Drupal content management for its recent website upgrade, empowering department-level employees to keep content current without relying on IT staff.
10th Duluth, Minn.
City Council meetings in Duluth, Minn., are livestreamed and archived online, demonstrating a commitment to open, transparent government. Recent improvements to the city's one-stop shop for planning, construction and engineering services include updated software that simplifies approvals and enhances tracking throughout project lifecycles. A GPS tracking system now keeps tabs on city vehicles, improving routing and fuel efficiency as well as constituent communication on snowplowing activities during harsh Minnesota winters. In addition, Duluth's role as an anchor site for the Northeast Service Cooperative Middle Mile Fiber Project has brought new efficiency and reliability to city operations.
Up to 75,000 population
1st Dublin, Ohio
When it comes to enterprise technology solutions, GIS, dependable network infrastructure, and cloud applications and storage, Dublin, Ohio, is top-notch for cities with populations of less than 75,000. In fact, Dublin, population 43,600, ranks better tech-wise than most other cities in the region. Thanks to its collaborative processing, shared information and streamlined workflows, divisions and departments work together efficiently and effectively. Its network infrastructure boasts a 99 percent uptime, and nearly 100 percent of Dublin’s server environment is virtualized, a level that surpasses most cities – and means improved server reliability and management, and reduced electric consumption. Moving forward, Dublin officials understand that it’s critical for the IT organization to harness the potential of technology. Though Dublin’s technology is kept very current, it’s important to note that the city does not implement tech solely because it is new – only technology that is appropriate and beneficial to the city is purchased and utilized.
2nd Palo Alto, Calif.
Over the last three years, Palo Alto, Calif., has become a leading city when it comes to technology. CIO Jonathan Reichental came on board in December 2011, and leaders of the city, population 66,000, began focusing on how to connect with citizens – it deployed an innovative use of crowdsourcing to develop citizen-oriented mobile apps, enhanced civic engagement capabilities via the city website and social media tools, and bring-your-own-device policy and set up mobile offices so that work can be performed anywhere, thus improving service to the community.
5th Williamsburg, Va.
Williamsburg, Va., is perhaps best known for its restored area of the city called Colonial Williamsburg – a living history museum on 301 acres that includes buildings and exhibits dating from 1699 to 1780. But beyond this notable tourist attraction, Williamsburg is more advanced than meets the eye – it is one of the top five digital cities in the U.S. for populations under 75,000. Citizen engagement is a high priority for officials, who in September 2014 launched the citizen engagement website, Speak Up Williamsburg, which lets citizens learn about ongoing projects; participate in topical discussions; create, share and vote on citizen-generated ideas; and connect with others who have common interests. Also of note is Williamsburg Wayfinder, a new app that provides one place for citizens to interact and conduct business with the city, and the Everbridge Alert System that makes sure residents and visitors are quickly and easily notified of weather or emergency situations. The Williamsburg IT Department – which consists of just three people – uses technology to further connect and inform its citizens while simultaneously improving operations and governance.
6th Evanston, Ill.
For Evanston, Ill., officials, promoting the highest quality of life for all residents is a top priority, and they do this by providing fiscally sound, responsive municipal services – and being transparent about these services. The city provides as much data as possible through its website so that residents can be better informed about what is going on, and to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Currently Evanston is in the process of overhauling its open data portal using Junar, and the updated portal will offer real-time open 311 data for residents and business to view in various forms, including maps. The city also is rolling out a BYOD program that will enhance productivity, save the city money and increase employee satisfaction.
6th Marana, Ariz.
City officials in Marana, Ariz., population 40,000, have laid the groundwork for the town to become a model digital city. Technology is being used to engage its citizenry, help attract business, and build a safe, clean and intelligent community. Behind the scenes, Marana has a completely virtualized server environment, which has contributed to a significant cost savings in both hardware and staff costs, and has allowed the town to meet its disaster recovery needs. It also has deployed cloud solutions for benefits enrollment, agenda management and employee performance evaluation, and will utilize Amazon Web Services to run its new Utilities Inspection app that was developed in house and is in final testing.
7th Shawnee, Kan.
With a strong emphasis on transparency, accessibility and citizen engagement, Shawnee, Kan., 7th place winner in the under 75,000 population category, offers open records online along with interactive maps. And soon, it will launch the pilot phase of its next-gen CRM – future phases of which will include citizen and business Web portals that will give access licensing, permitting, service requests, project data and citizen relationships. Also of note is the city’s collaboration with Google for fiber installation, which will create opportunities to expand city automation and monitoring initiatives, and its data center remodeling project that has resulted in fully redundant data centers. On the whole, officials in Shawnee know what’s important – thanks to priority-based budgeting, funding for IT increased by 25 percent in 2014, and it will increase by 50 percent in 2015.
8th Hudson, Ohio
For Hudson, Ohio, being a digital city isn’t just about using technology to enhance government – it’s also about using technology in education. The city, population 22,500, maintains a fiber connection to all of its facilities that provides 1 GB and 10 GB high-speed connections, and has saved more than $300,000 on Internet access by partnering with the local school system. Hudson also live-streams all city council workshops, regular meetings and boards, and partners with the schools to stream their board meetings. In addition to its server virtualization, GIS utility mapping, cloud-based email archiving and use of iPads for city council meetings, Hudson also is looking forward: The city’s High Speed Business and Residential Broadband Initiative will result in a broadband needs assessment and business plan for implementation of future network projects and funding strategies. The goal of this effort is to provide a tool to implement a three-phased installation of citywide fiber that will connect the business parks and implement fiber to the homes.
9th Marietta, Ga.
The primary focus for IT officials in Marietta, Ga., is to demonstrate value in technology services they provide to citizens and the community, and they do this by improving operations and connecting with citizens to improve their quality of life. The city has consolidated services within the Department of Information Technology, which supports not only traditional city government functions, but also a full service electric and water utility. Marietta also has tackled cybersecurity by expanding security measures as technology evolves, and having two members of the IT networking group earn one of the highest security certifications – the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification
10th Manchester, Conn.
IT systems in Manchester, Conn., are comprehensive – they don’t just support city government, they also are used by schools, public safety and the citizenry. And the Information Systems Department handles not only tech installation and support for town departments, but also website hosting for these departments, as well as nonprofits, schools and regional enterprises. The IT team develops, procures and supports Web, mobile and enterprisewide software systems; and it provides a municipal citywide fiber-optic network that connects every municipal and school district building, and includes muni Wi-Fi locations in buildings and in public spaces across the city. And in response to the Newtown Sandy Hook School killings, Manchester also has started integra