California DMV Now kiosks, which are self-service terminals with touchscreens that motorists can use to complete license registration and renewal processes, are now available in about a dozen grocery stores in the Los Angeles area, from Palmdale to Santa Clarita.
Intellectual Technology Inc., the company installing these kiosks, has also announced plans to expand the locations to include about 40 total retail stores by the end of 2017. The kiosks seek to provide better and more convenient access to DMV services to Californians, who can use the kiosks whenever the stores where they are located are open for business, even if their hours include nights, weekends and holidays — a significant departure from the traditional Monday through Friday schedule during which motorists have been able to visit DMV offices.
The idea is that motorists can take care of their DMV business during routine shopping trips, completing renewals in as few as two minutes. With these kiosks, a process that used to involve long waits for service, may now amount to just scanning a bar code on a renewal notice or registration card, followed by swiping a credit card for payment and then walking away with a new printed registration or license plate sticker.
The kiosks are unable to complete all DMV-related tasks, such as showing proof of insurance, paying registration reinstatement fees, processing a change of address, and a few others. Even so, the California DMV kiosks have processed 6 million registration renewals to date.
As part of the San Francisco-based Startup in Residence program, a pair of private companies have been working for months within the municipal government of San Leandro, Calif., to develop tech-based solutions for challenges that face that city. Now, the companies are ready for San Leandro citizens to spend a couple of hours testing what they’ve made.
The companies are looking for a diverse group of between 12 and 15 residents, ages 16 and up, who can — on Aug. 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — test what they’ve developed. To participate, the residents need only be Facebook users who own a smartphone, tablet or laptop. In the interest of involving as many different types of testers as possible, developers also ask that potential testers complete a short survey.
This is the second year that San Leandro has brought tech startups in to help solve governmental challenges. This year they are working with YoGov, a group based in Oakland, Calif., that is helping the city create an easier, more accessible website that offers visitors a personalized experience based on their needs and tastes. The inspiration for this comes from massive private companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Google, which all tailor content for individuals.
The other company working with San Leandro is local company Bexi, which is working with the city’s library to use a Facebook Messenger bot (more on the increasing prevelance of government chatbots in a bit). The bot will serve as an interface that will help residents enjoy all that the city has to offer by collecting feedback on and spreading awareness of community events, culture and other public concerns.
Massachusetts’ cloud-based transparency and open records platform CTHRU is expanding its available open data sets to include nuanced and intricate information such as quasi-governmental financial summaries, quasi-governmental payroll, state and teachers’ retirement benefits, and executive department new hires.
This marks the first major expansion for CTHRU, which was built in seven months and launched in September 2016. The state describes the platform as a national model for financial transparency and open records efforts in state government, citing its depth, breadth and timeliness, as well as the intuitive experience it has created for residents seeking to learn more about how Massachusetts spends its tax dollars.
“I am enormously proud of our teams’ effort and collaboration with the Baker-Polito Administration, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Auditor Suzanne Bump, the Massachusetts State Retirement Board, the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System, and the Quasi-Governmental agencies, to offer this data to the public through our intuitive and engaging CTHRU platform,” said Massachusetts Comptroller Thomas Shack in a press release.
Massachusetts, however, is not only state that has recently accelerated efforts to be transparent about any and all government spending. In order to combat a vast budget deficit of nearly $500 million, West Virginia State Auditor John B. McCuskey recently launched an open data platform aimed at making it easier for residents to find, analyze and disseminate specific info about spending in that state. To do so, West Virginia worked with OpenGov, after hearing from Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel that the company had helped his state accomplish much the same feat.
In the interest of monitoring government's progress toward serving citizens better, Cincinnati’s city manager and the department heads of its various internal agencies recently created a set of target performance goals. Now, the city has launched a series of dashboards to highlight progress being made toward these benchmarks.
The dashboards are available through the city’s CincyInsights portal, and there are 22 departments involved from all throughout the municipal government, ranging from the fire department to human resources to the sewer district. Each dashboard is split into three sections that profile department performances, and those three sections are strategic priorities, budget and spending, and employee profile.
All of the data associated with these dashboards is already available on the city’s open data portal. But it's now being visualized in an interactive, graphic format that makes clear how various agencies are doing when it comes to meeting the aforementioned performance agreement goals. Basically, what Cincinnati is doing is attempting to keep its many governmental agencies accountable via technology that informs the public.
“All that we do with respect to performance and data analytics is about transparency, improved customer service and creating inherent accountability for combined performance,” wrote City Manager Harry Black in a memo to the mayor and City Council on Wednesday. “These results demonstrate the continued evolution and development of the City’s efforts to use data to make Cincinnati the best managed City in the country.”
Cincinnati recently announced the launch of these dashboards through a press release on its website, where visitors can also find a full list of the departments being tracked as well as links to the relevant dashboards.
To better understand road data and improve traffic patterns in real time, Louisville, Ky., has started using Amazon Web Services to store mass amounts of related information.
Louisville’s hope is that Amazon's tools will allow many different departments to access a vast trove of useful information. The ultimate goal is that Louisville will be able to take data from local, regional and state transit authorities, combine it with info from Amazon's community-based traffic and navigation platforms such as Waze, and then change signal timings, find malfunctioning equipment, and just generally ease traffic burdens for residents.
In other Louisville and Amazon collaboration news, residents can now use Alexa to learn about a wide array of municipal services and info, including trash collection, crime reports, air quality alerts and more, all with functionality tied to a user's specific location. What this means is that someone might be getting ready to leave the house, and they can ask Alexa about air quality in their neighborhood, whether there’s recently been a traffic accident on their commute, or whether trash pickup is today or tomorrow.
This is part of ongoing efforts in Louisville to expand the practical ways in which citizens can use the open data the city makes available to them. Another recent, and, indeed, directly related effort is Louisville’s use of Web-based service called IFTTT, which stands for "If This Then That," and was first rolled out in the city in January.
Chatbots are spreading through local and state government, helping us simple humans do things such as navigate Kansas City’s open data portal, or learn more about business opportunities in Los Angeles.
The latest domino to fall is Jersey, N.J., which will soon deploy a chatbot on its website called Hey Mayor!, which creators estimate will reduce the number of emails and calls that public agencies field from constituents by as much as 50 percent. The way this and other chatbots accomplish this reduction in workload is by interacting directly with residents so public servants don’t have to, guiding people through simple online tasks and pointing them to information that’s readily available on government websites, which can often be convoluted and hard to sort through.
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.