In this year's Digital Cities Survey, which highlights local governments demonstrating IT best practices to better serve its constituents, four cities took top honors: Louisville, Ky.; Salt Lake City; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Marana, Ariz.
The Digital Cities Survey, now in its 12th year, is conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), a division of Government Technology's parent company, eRepublic Inc. The survey was underwritten by AT&T, McAfee, ShoreTel and Sprint.
Top ten ranking cities were selected from four different population size categories. Out of the hundreds that participate in the survey process, the top 10 are narrowed down and judged by a panel of the CDG's senior fellows and senior executives.
Selected cities have demonstrated that they’ve made progress from the previous year, realized a return on investment to some degree, and steered toward innovation and creative practices.
For cities of 250,000 or more in population, Louisville, Ky., took the top ranking in this year’s survey. The city is no stranger to top prizes – Louisville also earned a top spot for a city government in the center's 2012 Best of the Web contest, and was selected as a 2013 Code for America partner city.
One of Louisville Metro Government’s spotlight projects this year was the development of its performance metrics system LouieStat (short for Louisville statistics). The system extracts data from the various city/county data systems to generate reports on performance. The four enterprise performance indicators are unscheduled overtime, sick time usage, work-related illness and injury, and responsiveness to citizen concerns.
The LouieStat website was the first of the city’s websites to operate on the open source content management platform Drupal 7 and be hosted in Amazon’s cloud – all while utilizing responsive design technology, said Louisville CIO Beth Niblock.
The city will continue to migrate Web services to the Drupal platform in 2013, according to city spokesman Scott Render.
Louisville’s success in innovation can be credited to Mayor Greg Fischer and his collaboration on IT efforts, Niblock said. A combination of the mayor’s entrepreneurial background and an interest in approaching IT projects with creativity has helped the city stay innovative when budgets are limited.
“You don’t always have all the resources in perfect alignment for [IT] projects or whatever it is that you need,” Niblock said. “So you really have to not only be really creative in how you approach things because money is tight, but you also have to get buy-ins from across the different constituent groups to make it work.”
Salt Lake City took home the top award for the 125,000 to 249,999 population category in this year’s survey. The city – a longtime advocate for open government – has moved forward with IT projects that focus primarily on citizen engagement.
The city launched Open City Hall – a Web tool designed to serve as an online forum for the public to express opinions on topics pertaining to Salt Lake City. City officials then read the feedback posted on the site and incorporate it into the decision-making process, according to the website.
“Open government is a huge thing in Salt Lake City and has been for a number of years,” said CIO Bill Haight. “But up to this point, it’s kind of been preaching and preaching and preaching, and now people are really starting to embrace the ideas and the concepts and the precepts behind them.”
Beyond open government efforts, the city has taken strides to incorporate a BYOD approach to completing city services, he said.
Haight also said that more than five years ago, the city began rolling out free Wi-Fi in the downtown area – most city buildings and in major parks. Through a public-private partnership with a local Internet service provider, the city is provided with bandwidth to bring wireless connectivity to users at nearly no cost to the city.
In October, Salt Lake City launched a city services mobile app for both iOS and Android platforms. The app allows citizens to access city applications to pay utility bills, find alternate fuel locations and search bus travel, according to the city’s website.
In the 75,000 to 124,999 population category, Ann Arbor, Mich., took top ranking.
One of the city's highlighted projects was for the fire department, and includes an online platform that consolidated several projects into a single fire-dispatch platform, Firehouse RMS and ADASHII CAD. The siloed departments were integrated in a way that not only supports computer-aided dispatch, but also manages a fire scene so that data staged in the system can then be managed in the same system, said Dan Rainey, IT director and CIO of Ann Arbor.
“By staging the data for them, we give them a head start getting the correct data in their systems,” Rainey said. “So it took a complex, disjointed process for them and put it all into one nice package.”
Migrating to the platform has also allowed for different firefighting vehicles to use the same online map when being dispatched to an emergency, Rainey said. Vehicles in Ann Arbor’s fire fleet can also see firefighting vehicles from other cities’ fleets if they are using the same platform.
Rainey said a tribute to the city’s IT success comes from the ability to not only tackle the large-scale IT projects, but the smaller projects as well. By focusing on consolidation efforts and server virtualization technologies, the city has been able to concentrate on doing nearly 70 small-scale projects.
Top winner of the 30,000 to 74,999 population category, Marana, Ariz., has taken several strides to improve city services with IT.
Marana CIO Carl Drescher said one of the town’s spotlight projects includes its asset tracking and maintenance management application the city deployed a few years ago.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been doing – using technology to better manage our infrastructure and not only to make the town more presentable, but the roads are also in nice condition, the medians are weed free and things like that,” Drescher said. “To make the town look presentable and to make the town safe, we’ve really looked to using technology to stay on top of that.”
To continue efforts to improve the city’s presentation by utilizing technology, the town launched a 311 app earlier this year called My Marana to allow citizens to notify the city via smartphone when noticeable damage is spotted, such as graffiti, potholes or playground equipment repairs.
250,000 or more population:
1st – Louisville Metro Government, Ky.
2nd – Riverside, Calif.
3rd – Boston
4th – Seattle
5th – Aurora, Colo.
6th – Corpus Christi, Texas
7th – Henderson, Nev.
7th – Charlotte, N.C.
8th – Sacramento, Calif.
9th – Fort Worth, Texas
9th – Long Beach, Calif.
10th – Jacksonville, Fla.
10th – Fresno, Calif.
125,000 – 249,999 population:
1st – Salt Lake City
2nd – Cape Coral, Fla.
3rd – Winston-Salem, N.C.
4th – Chula Vista, Calif.
5th – Olathe, Kan.
6th – Augusta, Ga.
7th – Des Moines, Iowa
8th – Alexandria, Va.
8th – Irving, Texas
8th – Modesto, Calif.
9th – Lakewood, Colo.
10th – Chesapeake, Va.
75,000 – 124,999 population:
1st – Ann Arbor, Mich.
2nd – Roanoke, Va.
3rd – Arvada, Colo.
4th – West Palm Beach, Fla.
5th – Lynchburg, Va.
5th – Pueblo, Colo.
6th – Westminster, Colo.
7th – High Point, N.C.
8th – Avondale, Ariz.
9th – Thornton, Colo.
10th – Richardson, Texas
30,000 – 74,999 population:
1st – Marana, Ariz.
2nd – Wauwatosa, Wis.
3rd – North Port, Fla.
4th – Danville, Va.
5th – Schaumburg, Ill.
6th – Shawnee, Kan.
7th – Carson City, Nev.
8th – Marietta, Ga.
9th – Eden Prairie, Minn.
10th – Manchester, Conn.
For more survey results, please visit the Digital Communities website.
In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.