A renewed partnership between the Public Technology Institute (PTI) and two national city and county advocacy groups should help to support public-sector leaders in addressing pressing technology issues, streamline event-level competition and potentially increase their procurement power, representatives of the organizations said in announcing the pact on Thursday, Feb. 2.
But the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National League of Cities (NLC) aren’t just committing to a new level of engagement with the Public Technology Institute (PTI), their directors said during an afternoon conference call — they’re moving in together.
NLC and NACo have occupied new Washington, D.C., offices in the same building since late last year, NACo Executive Director Matt Chase said. Later this year, likely in March, PTI will take the plunge, moving from the Old Town area of Alexandria, Va., to the same address.
Los Angeles County, the National Association of County Engineers and around seven other groups also have offices there, but the potential for physical synergy isn’t the primary reason for the partnership, Chase said.
Rather, it will bolster city- and county-level skillsets, enhance networking between the associations, their boards and members of the nonprofit, business and academic communities — and help all three groups keep pace with the level of dynamic change now happening as a result of the smart cities movement and the rise in technology through all levels of government.
Working together could help NACo, NLC and PTI better respond on such issues as the threats of cyberattacks during the recent general elections; on land records questions from assessors and recorders; on transportation matters like autonomous vehicles and other future-looking areas; and to health-care questions.
“We are really looking forward to working with PTI to bring policy makers together to generate results, improve outcomes and help our communities,” Chase said.
The very idea of technology has changed dramatically across all sectors since PTI was founded in 1971, said NLC Executive Director Clarence Anthony.
“City leaders are changing the way that they’re connecting to their citizens," he said. "More than 85 percent of local governments use social media to disseminate information to their communities. It’s about transparency, it’s about effective government service and more importantly it’s about accessing information so that we’re able to connect to our citizens."
Founded by several national associations representing state and local governments, PTI has long been an advocate and resource for early adopters, according to a news release. And PTI Executive Director and CEO Alan Shark agrees the technological landscape has changed dramatically in 46 years.
“When we were formed in 1971, technology was a mystery. We weren’t sure. Now we have an idea what the agenda is. Yes, it’s changing but it really requires … a team approach,” Shark said, explaining the arrangement will also help expand certification and training programs, increase the reach to members of educational books and monographs, and provide better programming overall.
“To work with these two organizations is an absolute privilege,” he added.
In pooling resources, the three will build a more structured and sustained network of policy makers and C-suite decision-makers, and work with policy makers in an effort to move RFPs and RFIs more quickly.
“We have to go to scale much quicker and yet have the political safeguards and just the practices that we need to help the taxpayers,” Chase said. “We’ve been very siloed in working with those partners separately. This is an opportunity to come together collectively.”
While the groups will still produce unique events, teaming up will likely enable some consolidation of webinars and similar offerings — but also the opportunity to better train and educate members of local governments, officials said.
The results could be useful to a variety of public officials, from city managers and CIOs to CTOs and chief innovation officers, Anthony said.
“Having this partnership with PTI will allow us to change our programming at our conferences to attract the entire city,” he said, describing NLC as “conveners.”
“This is an opportunity for NLC and NACo to create stand-alone opportunities for the professional and elected officials to convene,” Anthony added.
Some results will be evident this year, Chase said, noting that three technology-related events are already planned.
“We’re dealing with a very fast-moving target,” he added.