Showcasing this year’s top practices in public-sector information and communication technology, the 2013 Digital Cities Survey announced its 2013 winners with Boston; Irving, Texas; Avondale, Ariz.; and Palo Alto, Calif., taking first place in their respective population categories.

2013 marks the 13th year for the survey, coordinated by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), which is a division of e.Republic, also the parent company of Government Technology. The survey was underwritten by Accela, AT&T and NIC.

Ten finalists were chosen in four separate population categories: cities with residents of 250,000 or more; cities with between 125,000 and 249,999 residents; cities with populations from 75,000 to 124,999; and cities of less than 75,000. From the many survey participants, the field is narrowed and winners are chosen by a panel of CDG’s senior fellows and senior executives.

Many factors play into the judging process, including progress on information and communication technology practices made over the past year, return on investment, and a city’s demonstrated ability to innovate and leverage creative practices.

Todd Sander, executive director for the CDG, said he noticed an increase in the number of tech-savvy digital cities this year, particularly among larger jurisdictions.

“Cities that are investing in technology are seeing huge cost savings that are critical to operations and their ability to meet higher demand for services,” Sander said. “These cities are true innovators and we applaud them as they work in the spirit of collaboration to provide extraordinary value to constituents, despite budget setbacks.”

Priority was given to open government initiatives that promoted transparency and open data, mobility, finance management, staffing, connectivity, cybersecurity, shared services, cloud computing, disaster recovery and the use of virtualization techniques.

Top-ranked cities will receive their Digital Cities awards on Nov. 15 at a reception during the National League of Cities annual conference in Seattle.

BOSTON, MASS. — Category: 250,000-plus

Taking top honors for large cities, Boston implemented a number innovative projects in 2013 such as its Open Government platform, a site offering residents the ability to see city data through interactive maps, digital databases and user-friendly financial city performance records.

“We launched our Open Government platform to support our growing ecosystem of partners and collaborators – including local academic researchers that offer deep insight into our data and the challenges and opportunities that data reveals,” said Boston CIO Bill Oates.

 
The city made significant gains in its ongoing Tech Goes Home project as well, an award-winning broadband adoption program that the city supports with public Wi-Fi, citywide computing centers and a new focus on helping small business owners.
 
Expanding digital mobility to provide greater access to city residents, the city also offered City Hall to Go, a site that provides residents the ability to interact with city officials, receive direct services and get questions answered.
 
Boston also used the year to expand its Office of Urban Mechanics, an organization dedicated as an innovation incubator, building partnerships between city agencies, outside institutions and entrepreneurs to pilot digital projects that support resident and business needs.
 
"We are honored with the recognition in the 2013 Digital Cities Survey," Oates said. "It is exciting to see this rising tide of tech enabled innovation coming from cities around the country – and beyond."
 

IRVING, TEXAS — Population: 125,000 – 249,999

Irving garnered acclaim for its innovative use of data to streamline many of its services in cost-effective ways. In 2010, the city installed and implemented Information Builders WebFocus, a performance product used as a way to record and report business intelligence and performance management data.
 
When the program first launched, it was targeted toward law enforcement metrics. Yet due to its success, the city began applying the program to other facets of city government such as human resources, customer service, fire, planning and inspections, and water management. Users of the software can now be found in every department of the city.
 
Using Lean Six Sigma management concepts, city officials in Irving report significant efficiency gains, including saving $44 million dollars and reducing the city's staffing workload by 50,000 hours since 2008.
 
As part of the city’s commitment to digital service, Irving supports 40 remotely networked city facilities, has wireless access points in at all major facilities and has established secure network access for staff, inside and outside of the office for a variety of key applications.
 

AVONDALE, ARIZ. — Population: 75,000 – 124,999

Building upon its reputation as an IT investor for residents and businesses alike, Avondale, Ariz., garnered a top-tier nod for the city’s high citizen satisfaction rates and numerous IT projects across multiple departments.
 
The city’s Resident Satisfaction Survey and Internal Services Survey, both measuring satisfaction with IT, showed that more than 70 percent of citizens rated municipal services as “good to excellent” in 10 of 13 categories.

 

More than 80 percent of city staff rated internal services good to excellent across every category, while their overall satisfaction with IT services reached 93 percent in 2013. The high marks are reflected in Avondale’s project success rates that topped 80 percent, racking up multiple awards along the way.

Avondale’s CIO Rob Lloyd credited three initiatives that were strong achievements for the city: citizen engagement efforts, the city data center, and mobilizing Avondale's workforce. Speaking on the city’s engagement efforts, Lloyd pointed to A-Voice, Avondale’s online site for resident feedback and dialog, hailing it as a milestone achievement.

“A-Voice was a feedback program to connect with citizens online,” Lloyd said. “We used it as the city of Avondale developed and refined its 2030 General Plan, which then passed with over 80 percent voter approval.”

The city's data center initiative, Lloyd explained, prompted Avondale to eliminate two aisles of servers and storage by consolidating infrastructure and migrating nearly all of its servers into a virtual environment. The city also added fire suppression capabilities by using a thermal flow design as well as an advanced security room.

“Long-term, we're now better positioned to look at hybrid cloud infrastructure and storage options while we save almost 100,000 kWh of electricity per year,” Lloyd said.

To advance its workforce mobilization efforts, Lloyd reported that Avondale has assigned PCs to every patrol officer as well as launched a tablets incentive program that partially reimburses qualifying staff for tablets. The city also requires that all council packets, administrative meeting agendas, and budget book drafts be electronic only.

“We've invested about $23,000 into the program reimbursements. On the other side of the ledger, Avondale has reduced printing by almost 800,000 pages per year,” Lloyd said.

PALO ALTO, CALIF. — Population: 75,000 or Less

Reflecting back on the year, Palo Alto, Calif., CIO Jonathan Reichental credited the city for innovative work on two key projects: PaloAlto311, the city’s online reporting site for infrastructure issues, and its web platform for near real-time notifications on city permits.

PaloAlto311 was released in 2013 as a way for community members to report infrastructure issues such as potholes and graffiti from laptops or smartphones. Within just a few weeks, hundreds of citizens downloaded the app, reporting numerous infrastructure issues.

“Our community is delighted with the results, commenting on the timely notifications of work being done and on their gratification knowing an issue has been addressed,” Reichental said.

Improving on Palo Alto’s digital transparency, Reichental said, a new site was developed to make permit data available to residents in near real time.

“This means that instead of waiting weeks for permit data to be published, new transactions and updates appear within 24 hours on our open data portal,” Reichental said.

The new feature has been an informative service for homeowners, architects and construction-related providers. The two projects are just a part of the city’s three-year IT strategy that focuses on long-term IT governance, heightened security, and cost-efficient planning.

Reichental offered this advice for municipal IT leaders looking to innovate:

“Be sure to get full support from your elected officials, commit to the IT vision and strategy, work hard, pivot gently as necessary, take balanced and managed risks and celebrate often.”

The full list of 2013 Digital Cities Survey winners is as follows:

250,000 or more population:

1st — Boston

2nd — Louisville, Ky.

2nd — Philadelphia

3rd — Jacksonville, Fla.

3rd — Riverside, Calif.

4th — Henderson, Nev.

4th — Seattle

5th — Corpus Christi, Texas

5th — Las Vegas

5th — Virginia Beach, Va.

6th — Austin, Texas

6th — Chicago

7th — Albuquerque, N.M.

7th — Denver

7th — Long Beach, Calif.

8th — Mesa, Ariz.

8th — Tucson, Ariz.

9th — Baltimore

9th — Los Angeles

10th — Raleigh, N.C.

   

125,000 – 249,999 population:

1st — Irving, Texas

2nd — Augusta, Ga.

3rd — Alexandria, Va.

3rd — Durham, N.C.

4th — Salt Lake City

5th — Fort Collins, Colo.

5th — Hampton, Va.

6th — Chula Vista, Calif.

6th — Scottsdale, Ariz.

6th — Winston-Salem, N.C.

7th — Modesto, Calif.

7th — Tacoma, Wash.

8th —  Richmond, Va.

9th —  Fayetteville, N.C.

9th —  Simi Valley, Calif.

10th —  Springfield, Mo.

75,000 – 124,999 population:

1st — Avondale, Ariz.

2nd — West Palm Beach, Fla.

3rd — Roseville, Calif.

4th — Westminster, Colo.

5th — Lowell, Mass.

5th — Davenport, Iowa

5th — Richardson, Texas

6th — Lynchburg, Va.

7th — Independence, Mo.

8th — Arvada, Colo.

8th — Boulder, Colo.

9th — Roanoke, Va.

10th — Pueblo, Colo.

Less than 75,000 population category:

1st — Palo Alto, Calif.

2nd — Fayetteville, Ark.

3rd — Carson City, Nev.

4th — Marana, Ariz.

5th — Ponca City, Okla.

6th — Rancho Cordova, Calif.

6th — Shawnee, Kan.

7th — Auburn, Wash.

7th — Schaumburg, Ill.

8th — Hudson, Ohio

9th — Williamsburg, Va.

9th — Enfield, Conn.

10th — North Port, Fla.

More information on the 2013 Digital Cities Awards is available on the CDG website.

Government Technology Staff Writer Jason Shueh Jason Shueh  |  Staff Writer

Jason Shueh is a staff writer for Government Technology magazine. His articles and writing have covered numerous subjects, from minute happenings to massive trends. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Shueh grew up in the east bay and Napa Valley, where his family is based. His writing has been published previously in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Amazon Publishing, Bike Magazine, Diablo Magazine, The Sierra Sun, Nevada Appeal, The Union and the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.