Douglas County, Colo., consistently ranks high in its push for innovation and technology adoption, bolstered by a fairly tech-savvy population where some 90 percent of the constituents have high-speed Internet connections at home.
In fact, in the latest iteration of the Center for Digital Government’s Digital Counties Survey,* the county noted that one of the benefits of their tech and innovation work is that the citizens expect the jurisdiction to keep pace with their needs — whether it be making financial spending data available online or having a decent Wi-Fi speed at the county fair.
This has created a more or less pleasant situation for county CIO John Huber, who started work in the local government in September 2017 after a long career overseeing technology work in the private sector, followed by a stint in the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology.
“The days of people walking into a building and wanting to engage with government are behind us,” Huber said of citizen expectations. “Government is more like any other part of the world — people want to do it on their own time, in their home and they want access to everything. It’s about self-service.”
Huber said that in addition to having citizens that are expectant of high-quality and comprehensive tech work, as the CIO of a tech-savvy county he also has the benefit of working with elected officials who know technology well and as a result are supportive of his efforts to procure, institute and use it.
A common complaint among IT officials in municipal and county governments is struggling to get executives to support increased spending on tech and innovation projects. Huber said that in Douglas County, the elected officials are not like that at all. In fact, sometimes he finds himself playing the role of a spoiler, urging caution with spending as it relates to less-proven innovation projects. It’s, overall, a good problem to have.
Another blessing that comes with overseeing technology and innovation work in a county with a savvy population is staffing. Douglas County, which is located just south of Denver, is home to many folks who have tech-heavy skill sets. Denver is also home to quite a bit of traffic, and so Huber said that at times he has little trouble recruiting technologists who already live in the area and don’t want to wrestle with a commute to the city every morning, and who would, in fact, prefer to do government work closer to home.
So, while the pressure to innovate and keep pace with the latest technology trends might be greater due to savviness in the community and among elected officials, Huber and others in Douglas County also benefit from not having to struggle with recruiting.
To that end, the county is working on many projects that other jurisdictions often talk about but are not as far along on, projects like making it so users can access all digital county services with a single login and shopping cart — even if Douglas County is not quite there yet.
*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology’s parent company.
Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.