The city and county of Honolulu, Hawaii, Olathe, Kan., Roseville, Calif. and Eden Prairie, Minn. received first place rankings in the 2011 Digital Cities Survey, according to the results announced on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
The 11th annual survey spotlights the municipalities that best show how information and communication technology are used to enhance public service. The survey is conducted by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology.
The top 10 cities are selected in four different population categories and judged on the criteria of enterprise applicability or impact across multiple program areas, measurable progress from the prior year, hard dollar savings or soft dollar benefits as a result of technology use, innovation and a demonstration of effective collaboration.
Survey entries are judged by senior fellows and executives from the Center for Digital Government. The cities chosen in each category were picked from hundreds of municipalities taking part in the survey, according to the Center. The survey was underwritten by AT&T; CDW-G; Hyland Software and Symantec.
In cities with populations of 250,000 or more, the city and county of Honolulu, Hawaii, took top-billing in the 2011 Digital Cities Survey. One of their most innovative projects that helped them capture first place is Kokua Wireless, a free island-wise municipal Wi-Fi Internet service installed without taxpayer money.
Gordon Bruce, director and CIO of the city and county of Honolulu, said he was “at a total loss for words,” when word came down that Honolulu had finished first in the survey. The Kokua Wireless system was at first, just a simple idea he and a colleague thought up over coffee: take a bunch of antennae and ask businesses to put them up in their buildings and share their Internet.
In exchange, the businesses receive free advertising over the system. Every 30 minutes the Internet connection is refreshed to prevent illegal downloading, and when it boots back up, and the user is reconnected, they are immediately routed to the website of one of the businesses who are housing the antennae.
“The first day we installed 15 antennae and only one store owner said no,” Bruce explained. “We announced it and word of mouth helped expand it.”
Bruce said the system is now up to almost 200 nodes and the loose grassroots group that put together the wireless network is looking to start an “Adopt Your Node” program. This way, groups of people can be responsible for individual antennae if they lose connectivity or issues arise.
In addition to Kokua Wireless, Honolulu has been busy on a number of other technological fronts. Bruce helped organize the CIO Council of Hawaii where CIOs from the public and private sector across the entire state get together to collaborate on issues such as disaster planning and preparedness and system implementations.
Honolulu has also implemented an ERP system that has replaced individual financial, human resources and payroll systems. By consolidating into one overall application, the city saved $12 million and reports that it will save an additional $18-35 million annually going forward.
Olathe took home the top spot in this year’s Digital Cities Survey for populations ranging from 125,000-249,999, thanks in part to a number of cost-saving and engagement projects. The first was working with Johnson County, Kan., to host cross-jurisdictional 9-1-1 dispatch services. Chris Kelly, IT director for Olathe, explained that a couple years ago, the city realized it “desperately needed” a new dispatch facility.
At the same time, Johnson County was in the midst of building their own, so Olathe officials reached out initially to work with the county to use their new center. As talks evolved, so did the request — ultimately, the county agreed to run 9-1-1 dispatching for both itself and the city, saving the city more than $300,000 annually in staffing, software and hardware costs.
In addition, energy consumption in Olathe is down as a team of city employees identified performance contracting as a way to fund other municipal improvements. For example, revenue generated by water meter upgrades in Olathe is funding other energy-efficiency projects, such as solar panels for the city’s car wash and controls that turn vending machines off when not in use.
Social media use really put the city over-the-top though, according to Kelly. He said that for years, the city wanted to improve its citizen engagement in budget meetings, but found limited success using traditional methods such as community meetings.
But recently, the city took to Twitter, Facebook and other online methods for E-town halls. The city brought its entire city council into its TV production studio, had a local news personality host the event, and had viewers and listeners write in with questions from social media networks and via e-mail and got a great response to the changes.
Kelly said the move has had a tremendous impact on citizen involvement.
“Facebook participation increased 60 percent during and following that event and budget Web page hits grew four-fold over the prior year so we really feel we had a great amount of involvement and it really allowed people to engage in a way that they were comfortable with,” Kelly said.
Roseville’s place at the top of the 75,000-124,000 population category in the Digital Cities Survey is due largely to its new IT governance model and redesign.
Hong Sae, CIO of Roseville told Government Technology that like many IT shops, Roseville went from a big server room to embracing virtualization. However, the management of the city’s computer network is what Sae believes sets Roseville apart.
He explained that there are a lot of different IT professionals out there that come to work with the idea of just managing a network. But Roseville focuses on how to link network uptime to business uptime, so that strategies and goals are established that link with the cities’ goals as one unified team.
“If we can do that, people will no longer treat IT departments as something to fix and repair [computers],” Sae said. “They’ll be including IT more in long and short term decision making processes in the entire department.”
In addition to consolidating 57 servers with 75 percent virtualization, Roseville has also standardized system features and policies and consolidated computing devices to the tune of $130,000 in savings per year.
IT has made significant changes from what I call a grade level of average to a much better level of a ‘B+’,” Sae added. “This award really confirmed where we are today and has given us a comfort level where we can celebrate where we are and work to move up to the next level.”
Eden Prairie, Minn.
Consolidation efforts were a large part of the reason Eden Prairie took first place in the 30,000-74,999 population category. The city has been knee-deep in application integration, service customization and hardware consolidation projects which have improved service delivery throughout the city.
Eden Prairie has also saved approximately 28 percent on its desktop and laptop computer purchases by switching to a local reseller and buying from a state contract set up by Minnesota.
Lisa Wu, IT manager and CIO for Eden Prairie, said the project the city is most proud of is implementing a joint police and fire dispatch system to better share information between city departments. Previously, there were four different disparate systems.
But now combined in one solution, Eden Prairie officials can share information with both Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota to enhance public services.
“That’s a big project we’ve been working on for the last two years,” Wu recalled. “It’s not just technology; it’s an integrated business collaborative between police, fire and IT.”
Wu said other efforts centered on the adoption of GIS and GPS technology to support various city departments and using local school and retail buildings to wirelessly connect city sites to help avoid the high cost of fiber connectivity.
The Top-10 Digital Cities Rankings (by population)
250,000 or more:
• 1st — City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii
• 2nd — Seattle, Wash.
• 3rd — Metropolitan Gov’t of Nashville & Davidson County, Tenn.
• 4th — Aurora, Colo.
• 4th — Chicago, Ill.
• 5th — Corpus Christi, Texas
• 6th — El Paso City and County, Texas
• 7th — Riverside, Calif.
• 8th — Boston, Mass.
• 9th — Baltimore, Md.
• 9th — Long Beach, Calif.
• 9th — Virginia Beach, Va.
• 10th — Fort Worth, Texas
• 10th — Louisville Metro Government, Ky.
• 10th — San Antonio, Texas
125,000 – 249,999:
• 1st — Olathe, Kan.
• 2nd — Winston-Salem, N.C.
• 2nd — Salt Lake City, Utah
• 3rd — Alexandria, Va.
• 3rd — Hollywood, Fla.
• 4th — Irving, Texas
• 5th — Augusta, Ga.
• 6th — Hampton, Va.
• 7th — Chesapeake, Va.
• 8th — Chula Vista, Calif.
• 9th — Madison, Wis.
• 10th — Modesto, Calif.
75,000 – 124,999:
• 1st — Roseville, Calif.
• 2nd — Lynchburg, Va.
• 3rd — Pueblo, Colo.
• 4th — Arvada, Colo.
• 5th — Ann Arbor, Mich.
• 5th — Simi Valley, Calif.
• 6th — Thornton, Colo.
• 7th — Avondale, Ariz.
• 8th — Roanoke, Va.
• 8th — Westminster, Colo.
• 9th — West Palm Beach, Fla.
• 10th — High Point, N.C.
• 10th — Independence, Mo.
• 10th — Santa Monica, Calif.
30,000 – 74,999:
• 1st — Eden Prairie, Minn.
• 2nd — Carson City Consolidated Municipality, Nev.
• 3rd — North Port, Fla.
• 4th — Danville, Va.
• 5th — Jupiter, Fla.
• 6th — Schaumburg, Ill.
• 7th — Fayetteville, Ark.
• 8th — Town of Manchester, Conn.
• 9th — New Berlin, Wis.
• 10th — Flower Mound, Texas
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.