This year’s top digital cities know data demands are only going to grow, and they want to be prepared.
Click points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, blue indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and yellow indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th. This information is also included at the end of the story below.
The 2016 Digital Cities Survey results are in. Dozens of cities were selected by a judging panel at the Center for Digital Government as the most strategic, efficient and innovative guardians of public-sector tech in the nation. The top-ranked cities will receive an award on Nov. 17 at the National League of Cities’ annual conference in Pittsburgh.
The first-place winners in five population categories are: Los Angeles; Virginia Beach, Va.; Durham, N.C.; Roanoke, Va.; and Tamarac, Fla. Judges evaluated the survey submissions of each city by considering 10 key characteristics of a digital city: open, mobile, engaged, collaborative, secure, staffed/supported, connected, efficient, resilient and innovative. And the six criteria by which the responses were evaluated are: city priorities supported by ICT; demonstrated return on investment; progress over the previous year; creative/innovative approaches; effective collaboration; and successful measures of transparency, privacy and security.
As in prior years, some common themes emerged. Open government, open data and citizen engagement initiatives (in various forms) were a common theme, as was baking in network security measures often on par with those of the federal government.
Strengthening digital infrastructure was another common topic. Cities realize data demands will only continue to grow in the future, and delivering data via aged infrastructure becomes increasingly difficult and expensive. A number of cities have therefore made strategic investments in their own fiber networks to enable them to offer faster services while eliminating or reducing costly fiber lease costs.
For L.A., it’s not enough to simply deliver city services. The city also wants to engage citizens and the community. And, with 4 million residents and 48,000 employees across 42 different departments, L.A. needs technology to accomplish that task.
“For most residents, city government is not foremost on their mind,” said Ted Ross, general manager and CIO of the city’s Information Technology Agency. “However, city services are often very important to them. For us, digital is the means to engage and serve our community — and we try to do this in a variety of different ways. We believe in promoting openness through open data; we believe in mobile and providing access to citizen services anytime, anywhere; and we want to be focused and energetic in applying technology to make life better for the average Angelino.”
The city recently built an extensive open data portal including a variety of APIs available to developers or businesses, as well as a plethora of GIS data. Both Code for America and the Sunlight Foundation have identified L.A. as the No. 1 open data city in the country.
“I think open data is a very important facet for how we engage our community,” said Ross. “We are proud of our openness and transparency — our ability to show and disclose who we are, what we are doing and how we’re doing it.”
L.A. leaders also believe in collaboration with businesses, education and nonprofits. Toward that end, L.A. uses its open data portal to create new relationships, partnerships and projects. One current partnership includes 11 universities that are analyzing data to determine ways to make L.A. a “smarter” city.
Ross said he plans to rely heavily on technology as he prepares for massive changes in the city’s workforce. About 50 percent of Ross’ IT staff of 450 are eligible to retire in the next two years.
“That poses quite a challenge when it comes to delivery of services,” he said. “We are therefore doing a lot of work around using technology to find efficiencies. We are also looking at the shift as an opportunity to promote gender diversity and equity in our workforce. We’re working hard to promote parity and to employ an IT workforce that represents the diversity of our community.”
Ross said he often hears people comment that because L.A. is a big city, it can accomplish its technology goals more easily than smaller cities. But Ross says that’s simply not true.
“My department has 40 percent less people than it did in 2008,” he said. “It’s not about having a lot of people; it’s about identifying technology opportunities and then making investments in the right areas. Sometimes small investments can yield amazing results.”
At the beginning of 2016, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms declared 2016 the “Year of Connectivity.” Since then, the city launched several projects to support that goal. Part of that effort involves installing its Next Generation Network, a fiber optic network that now connects nearly 60 government facilities.
“As the data consumption rate grows exponentially year after year, it increases our costs year after year,” said Virginia Beach CIO Matthew Arvay. “We therefore put together an approach to invest in our own fiber-optic network to connect facilities at a data rate needed to conduct government business, as well as to avoid what we estimated would be about a half-million dollars a year in increased operational spend.”
Word about Virginia Beach’s fiber efforts spread, resulting in the city being selected as the Mid-Atlantic subsea cable landing destination for the MAREA project — an effort by Microsoft to install the fastest fiber-optic cable ever connecting Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach also has an integrated public safety project underway that will replace its CAD911 and records management systems, and introduce a workforce management component.
“This will give us a fully integrated system for police, fire, emergency medical and emergency communications,” said Arvay. “It will give our public safety community the modern tools they need to excel at the jobs they do every day.”
Long term, the city hopes to install a new Citizen Relationship Management System to centralize multiple disparate relationship management systems and is also looking to upgrade or replace its financial systems.
Durham moved from eighth place last year to take first place in 2016. The city’s strategic planning leadership team aligns IT and other initiatives to the City Strategic Plan goal of an “Innovative and High Performing Organization.” For example, the city implemented an innovative enterprisewide IT Governance model to provide effective IT portfolio management; and the city’s new website received a Best of the Web award for excellence.
During the last three fiscal years, the city built new network infrastructure comprised of a centrally located data center connected to remote locations using Metro Ethernet and direct fiber connections.
Meanwhile, Durham’s open government and open data programs have grown significantly over the last 12 months. During that time the city also implemented new cloud-based platforms that offer mobile access to services and information and a citizen engagement initiative entitled “City Hall on the Go” — a Wi-Fi-enabled truck that takes city services to neighborhoods and city events.
The city is also working on enhancements to its performance management system and recently completed a security assessment and is implementing the resulting recommendations.
For Roanoke, success is all about its people. The city has ranked in the survey’s top 10 every year and has placed first seven times.
“We’ve done well because we hire people who are interested in public service as well as technology, and we’ve cultivated both along the way while creating an environment of learning, succession and dedication,” said Roy Mentkow, Roanoke’s director of technology, who has been with the city for nearly 20 years and in his current role for more than 11 years.
Roanoke recently upgraded its fiber backbone so it can move data faster with less lag. The city is a member of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, and as such was recently granted six additional strands of fiber for free.
“We saw that as an opportunity to expand high-speed services beyond the city campus to our libraries — particularly those in underserved, socio-economically challenged neighborhoods,” said Mentkow. “I think that is something that is very exciting to be a part of, to help break down that digital divide within our city.”
Meanwhile, Mentkow said the city’s social media efforts have helped it improve the way it interacts with citizens.
“The transparency it brings and the quick delivery of relevant news to citizens and businesses and community it enables is something that has become a real asset," he said, "and something other cities and other people notice when they are here."
Tamarac's recently-implemented collaborative strategic plan has been universally adopted by its executive team and city employees — and it reflects the strategic priorities of the entire city. And unlike many other cities, Tamarac follows that plan religiously.
“Our plan is funded properly, implemented properly and measured properly,” said Levent Sucuoglu, Tamarac’s director of Information Technology. “That way we can see that we are doing the right things and meeting the needs of our user community.”
Sucuoglu said he is particularly proud of the fiber infrastructure the city has built because it allows them to offer a wide variety of digital services with ease. The city originally implemented private fiber to connect facilities throughout the city in 1997. Since then, the city has consistently upgraded the network to ensure it meets citizen needs.
Looking to the future, Tamarac’s focus is to provide higher levels of mobility to both its workforce and its citizens.
“We want to make all our services available through the city’s website and provide a level of mobility to our workforce so they can accommodate services no matter where they are,” said Sucuoglu. “Everything we do now is geared to moving toward that more mobile environment.”
500,000 or more population category:
1st Los Angeles
3rd Phoenix, Ariz.
4th Charlotte, N.C.
5th Austin, Texas
6th Albuquerque, N.M.
7th Denver, Colo.
8th San Francisco
9th Louisville, Ky.
10th El Paso, Texas
250,000 – 499,999 population category:
1st Virginia Beach, Va.
2nd Kansas City, Mo.
3rd Pittsburgh, Pa.
4th Greensboro, N.C.
5th Riverside, Calif.
6th Long Beach, Calif.
7th Sacramento, Calif.
8th Cincinnati, Ohio
9th Henderson, Nev.
10th Omaha, Neb.
125,000 – 249,999 population category:
1st Durham, N.C.
2nd Fort Collins, Colo.
3rd Cape Coral, Fla.
4th Alexandria, Va.
4th Hampton, Va.
5th Baton Rouge, La.
6th Scottsdale, Ariz.
6th Winston-Salem, N.C.
7th Denton, Texas
7th Modesto, Calif.
8th Pasadena, Calif.
8th Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
9th Chandler, Ariz.
9th Norfolk, Va.
10th Augusta, Ga.
75,000 – 124,999 population category:
1st Roanoke, Va.
2nd Lynchburg, Va.
3rd Boulder, Colo.
3rd Independence, Mo.
4th Richardson, Texas
4th Westminster, Colo.
5th Lakeland, Fla.
6th Columbia, Mo.
6th Newport Beach, Calif.
7th Brooklyn Park, Minn.
7th Sugarland, Texas
8th San Leandro, Calif.
9th Arvada, Colo.
10th Ann Arbor, Mich.
Up to 75,000 population category:
1st Tamarac, Fla.
2nd Shawnee, Kan.
3rd Williamsburg, Va.
4th Carson City, Nev.
4th Schaumburg, Ill.
5th Palo Alto, Calif.
6th De Soto, Texas
6th North Port, Fla.
7th Marana, Ariz.
8th Ithaca, N.Y.
9th Hudson, Ohio
10th Punta Gorda, Fla.
1st // Los Angeles, Calif.
Los Angeles jumped one spot from 2015 to earn the first place designation in this year’s survey, with a number of tech-related initiatives driven by the priorities of Mayor Eric Garcetti. Aiming to knock traffic-related fatalities and injuries down to zero, the Vision Zero program evaluates data on bicyclist and pedestrian deaths on city streets. Analysis revealed the most troublesome intersections, which helps prioritize needed improvements. The city has also established partnerships with 10 local colleges and universities in order to apply their data analytics expertise to pressing issues like homelessness, resiliency and climate change. Over the last year, the city committed to performance-based budgeting, requiring all budget requests to align with policy priorities. To encourage broad understanding of city budgeting and performance, L.A. now publishes dashboard-style "data cards" that visualize key data related to specific budget areas. L.A.’s Web strategy includes a migration toward mobile-responsive sites across the board, using a shared Drupal platform. The mobility of its citizenry is met by a suite of mobile apps, including the recently upgraded MyLA 311, which offers personalized accounts, service request history, bill-paying options and more. The app generates about 300,000 service requests annually, but when paired with Web-based requests and phone calls, the total jumps to 1.5 million each year. The upgraded system enables the city to publish request fulfillment information publicly on a nightly basis.
2nd // Philadelphia, Pa.
A significant overhaul of elected and appointed leadership in Philadelphia hasn’t slowed its digital journey, judging by its second-place finish in this year’s survey. Elected in 2015, Mayor Jim Kenney’s brand of innovation is evidenced by the newly established Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation, charged with fostering transparency and user-centered services. One signature project is an update to the website, described as “the city’s main digital service channel.” A prototype is now in development, engaging citizens for feedback throughout the process. Philadelphia’s impressive open data efforts include data visualization tools, as well as an internally built metadata catalog that adds context and therefore increases the usefulness of the city’s many publicly available data sets. Many city priorities center around creating opportunity for low-income residents, including investments in STEM training and connectivity initiatives. The KEYSPOT program offers a website pointing residents to digital literacy tools and public computing centers. Like many leading digital cities, Philadelphia also continues to build upon GIS-based mobile solutions. The Parks and Recreation Department completed a citywide street tree inventory that now includes 111,000 tree locations spanning 2,500 miles of streets, using geo-referenced street tree imagery. The effort equips the workforce to much more efficiently manage and maintain street trees throughout the city.
3rd // Phoenix, Ariz.
Phoenix is staying strong in third place for a second year running, likely because it has honed in on smart growth through innovative infrastructure and fostering an innovation economy, priorities articulated by Mayor Greg Stanton and carried out by the city’s IT staff. Phoenix is dedicated to ensuring government transparency — it offers a searchable City Checkbook, its Budget Books, the Comprehensive Annual Financial report, a searchable Campaign Finance Database and posts on Phoenix.gov the real-time wait times for its development services counters to demonstrate that open government is also efficient government. As one would expect, an open data portal is also part of the city’s transparency efforts, and serves as a centralized site where residents can easily access such data sets as GIS mapping, spending, water usage, energy usage and property data. The site also links to information provided by partner agencies, such as real-time transit data from Valley Metro. To promote these open data resources, the city launched a community-driven campaign, called 28 Maps Later: You’ll See Phoenix Differently, which shared on social media interactive examples of open data for residents to learn about city services. After 29 days, the city had 41,000 Twitter impressions and more than 42,000 organic impressions on Facebook. The city also is committed to protecting its systems and infrastructure from cyberthreats, as evidenced by the creation of a dedicated Information Security and Privacy Office and appointment of a chief information security and privacy officer who heads up that office and oversees staff responsible for cybersecurity strategy, policies and standards. Phoenix also has awareness training, access management, end-point security, threat analysis and detection, Web analytics, and cyberinsurance in place.
4th // Charlotte, N.C.
Charlotte, N.C., has upped its digital ante over the last year, jumping five spots from ninth place in 2015 to fourth in the latest survey. And being a solid digital city means strong alignment of IT and citywide goals or focus areas — something Charlotte clearly demonstrates. It also is solidifying its commitment to open data with a portal that guides citizens to the city’s operations and statistical data with the goal of promoting community engagement, stimulating innovation and increasing productivity, and offers the data on an interactive map. The city is working with Code for Charlotte on a few initiatives to engage its citizens, including Open Budget, which seeks to create a budget game to help residents interactively learn how a budget is created, allocated and managed, and the public art initiative, which will test how the city can consume crowdsourced data. Images collected by volunteers of public art will be displayed around the city, with the goal of creating an app for a “public art walking tour” experience that includes the image, its background and the artist’s information. Also of particular note is Charlotte’s adoption of solar-powered compactors for trash receptacles, which are equipped with sensors that alert the appropriate city staff when they're full and ready for pickup. Cybersecurity is a priority in the jurisdiction, which has made enhancements and improvements over the last year, resulting in a solid backbone infrastructure and a next-gen Security Operations Center 2.0 that spends time and resources in visualizing the city's technology environment, protecting not just the network, but also the people and the devices they use.
4th // Seattle
Seattle held steady at fourth place, the ranking it also received last year. Seattle’s IT operations were revamped earlier this year when the consolidated Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) was formed in April. The new department is made up of 650 staff members that once worked across 15 city agencies and aims to create efficiencies and capacity for tech projects. Recent accomplishments include the launch of a mobile-responsive website, a customer relationship management system to improve communications with residents and a data analytics platform for the police department. Efforts to work with the city’s tech community include the hiring of a civic technology advocateâ¯to engage with those individuals, a Hack the Commute program that developed prototype apps to help solve transportation issues, and a partnership with Code for America on the development of a crisis intervention app to connect people in need with social services. In addition, an in-house innovation team is working on data-driven solutions to challenges in Seattle. While an open data program has been in place since 2010, the city’s “open by preference” policy was signed in February and calls on department heads to name “open data champions” to spearhead the release of information. And for monitoring IT performance, Seattle developed TechStat, which is modeled off programs like the New York City Police Department’s CompStat, to facilitate internal transparency and monitor metrics for operations and projects.
5th // Austin, Texas
Austin made a significant gain in this year’s survey, moving up five spots from its 10th place ranking in 2015. The growing city has developed both a comprehensive plan, called ImagineAustin, to guide development and an IT strategy that calls for it to “lower costs and leverage scale through collaboration, using the savings to innovate.” Transparency initiatives include an “open by default” effort and open data portal. Lean project methods were used to develop and coordinate the release of data sets from all city departments. In addition, the Performance ATX puts measurable data online, like crime rates, in easily digestible formats. Civic engagement is sought via numerous platforms including a participatory budget tool and the SpeakUpAustin portal for commenting on projects and sharing ideas. Austin was a finalist in the U.S. Transportation Department’s Smart City Challenge, and despite not winning will move forward with the plans outlined in the application. A move to Microsoft Office 365 was 80 percent complete at the time of the Digital Cities submission. In addition, a recently added chief information security officer is determining standards for security architecture and controls using the NIST Framework.
6th // Albuquerque, N.M.
Holding strong in the Digital Cities Survey, Albuquerque maintained its sixth-place ranking from 2015. The city has embraced the idea of “two-speed” IT, in which one area focuses on keeping the business running and the other on innovation and disruptive technologies. This allows IT to work quickly while not interfering with day-to-day activities. Open government continues to be a key focus. While it has had a transparency site since 2010, an open data portal since 2012 and a performance dashboard since 2013, the city added an online records request portal this year and is a participant in the White House’s Police Data Initiative. In addition, more than half of its 311 cases will be available as open data after the CRM system is upgraded in the fall. The next move will be to release data sets through APIs. The city portal was updated with responsive design last year, and the city has numerous apps including for 311 services and bus information. Another change was the evolution of the city’s Web managing editor position to be the digital engagement manager — this person is charged with staying current on new tech and helping departments understand their audience. Using the NIST cybersecurity framework as a guide, Albuquerque conducts real-time tests and assessments of its networks. In addition, one of Albuquerque’s goals is to become a smart city through data-driven decision-making, increasing broadband capabilities, increasing the availability of online transactions and laying the foundation for the Internet of Things.
7th // Denver, Colo.
From the new tools helping police impound and track vehicles more accurately to an award-winning all-access government mobile app, Denver is playing the part of a truly digital city. The impressive efforts on the part of city technologists is not just good public policy, it is also a necessity in the face of the city’s booming job and housing markets. More robust and scalable solutions are allowing the popular metropolis to better address the needs of its constituents. Emergency services also fall into this category of better service. Next-generation 911 collaborations have begun and will ultimately allow for more accurate and timely emergency response. The Internet Edge Project provides the city and county with Internet speed and reliability capabilities that meet modern needs. Police cars have been outfitted with Wi-Fi capability, and 15 new Wi-Fi locations have been added for residents through connectivity initiatives. The city also placed first in this year's Best of the Web competition.
8th // San Francisco
San Francisco has a big reputation to live up to when it comes to technology, innovation and being a digital city. Among other major initiatives in the sights of Mayor Edwin Lee, homelessness, police reform and quality of life are receiving the most attention. Wi-Fi connectivity plays heavily into addressing the needs of the city’s dense population and improving the overall quality of daily life for San Franciscans. The #SFWiFi Navigator project aims to provide free public Internet. Sixteen Wi-Fi access points have been added along Market Street and Justin Herman Plaza to the 33 existing points in parks and other public spaces. Funding for a public safety radio replacement project has been secured. In terms of key staff, San Francisco brought a chief information security officer and threat intelligence engineer on board to improve its cybersecurity standing.
9th // Louisville, Ky.
Louisville has been doing a lot in the data arena lately. Kentucky’s largest city has had an “open by default” data policy since 2013 and is migrating data sets to a new open source DKAN portal. Each new data set will have its own API. On top of that, the city has an open checkbook site and is upgrading its performance dashboard, LouieStat, which helps the city constantly evaluate and improve on performance. In October, the city hired its first chief data officer as part of its work to improve those efforts. Louisville has also made big strides in turning around its previously understaffed cybersecurity efforts. In the past year it’s spent $1.2 million to hire a chief information security officer and a cybersecurity team to build up protections ranging from an intrusion prevention system to a cybersecurity awareness program for all municipal employees. Louisville’s municipal government has 128 social media accounts, and in 2016 it hired a social media director to oversee the vision for those accounts. The team got tested when Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali died in June, prompting a series of events including a cross-city funeral procession. With a coordinated effort, the event had a Facebook reach of 3.2 million. The metro government has been expanding its broadband as well, laying down six miles of dark fiber in the past year and adding Wi-Fi to six community centers and a park. Smart trash cans also provide an Internet connection at bus stops. The city also placed fifth in this year's Best of the Web competition.
10th // El Paso, Texas
After a five-year absence, El Paso again makes the top 10 in the Digital Cities Survey. The city has done quite a bit of work on the mobility front, issuing cellphones, tablets and Wi-Fi hot spot equipment to many departments and crafting systems that allow employees to do more remote work from the field. A mobile-first strategy and new content management system ensure that websites are accessible. Then there is a whole host of citizen-facing mobile apps: One for accessing 311 services and reporting problems, one for noting park and facility maintenance needs, one for tourism, one for paying and adding time to parking meters, and one for the libraries. Another unique mobile app helps plan commutes across the Mexico border. The information and communications technology staff of El Paso has strongly aligned its work with the goals of elected leaders, offering multiple examples of work done toward meeting eight citywide goals adopted in 2014. El Paso has also been doing training and outreach, setting up an IT skills training portal and offering tuition reimbursement to employees taking classes in those areas. The IT department has worked with the University of Texas at El Paso’s Computer Science Department to advertise job openings to students and participated in a tech-focused event for middle-schoolers in 2015.
1st // Virginia Beach, Va.
Taking first place in its population category, Virginia Beach jumped up from its fifth-place ranking last year. In his State of the City address, Mayor William Sessoms Jr. declared 2016 the “year of connectivity” — the primary theme being the availability of broadband to support the city and its businesses. Through the addition of high-speed transatlantic fiber, Virginia Beach will add to its more than 200 miles of fiber from the city and schools to create the Next Generation Network. The focus on connectivity also will allow for the use of big data and exchanging large files, as well as supporting the city’s mobility efforts like its numerous apps. A number of interactive open government tools — open budget app, GIS open data, performance — aim to increase accountability and transparency, while the city also enlists an open data board and an open data working group to set long-term vision and work with departments on these efforts. A Master Technology Plan has plotted initiatives to leverage existing systems and build interfaces between systems. And to help move the plan forward, the city’s CIO has proclaimed 2016 the “year of the employee” as the IT department aims to enhance recruitment efforts and focus on attracting and retaining highly skilled employees. Virginia Beach’s mobile-first strategy and use of responsive design provides optimal viewing of the recently relaunched site from any device. Also in line with mobile is the city’s implementation of text-to-911 for when it’s not possible or dangerous for someone to call the emergency line. VB911 receives 400 texts per year.
2nd // Kansas City, Mo.
Enlisting a Digital Roadmap to guide its tech-driven future, Kansas City, Mo., moved up one spot from its third-place ranking in 2015. The five pillars of the road map — smart city, engagement, open government, digital inclusion and industry — set the path for key programs and goals. For example, an open data ordinance incorporates the Sunlight Foundation’s best practices, and smart city initiatives include interactive kiosks, smart streetlights and 50 blocks of free public Wi-Fi. Kansas City also partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies for its What Works Cities program to improve KC Stat and develop similar data-driven reviews in its departments. That program also helped advance the city’s work around open data and led to the hiring of an open data officer who started a Data Governance Committee to create an inventory of the city’s information. As a finalist in the U.S. Transportation Department’s Smart City Challenge, Kansas City secured $40 million in private money to address major challenges like the digital divide and develop a bus rapid transit line. Now in its second year, the city’s Innovation Partnership program builds relationships with civic technologists to improve its systems and processes. During a 12-week test period entrepreneurs provide their solution to the city, and if it’s a good fit the city may decide to purchase it. RFP365 was the first company to sign a contract with the city after going through the program in 2015. Its mobile app enables citizens to search for city bids, RFQs and RFPs. To boost security, a CISO was hired to develop cyberattack mitigation plans and oversee networks and access to systems. Also on the cyberagenda: Security awareness training will be rolled out to city employees.
3rd // Pittsburgh, Pa.
Survey judges gave credit to third-place Pittsburgh for how well the Department of Innovation and Performance — where IT resides — aligns its activities with the priorities of local elected officials. One such priority is transparency, supported by a significant staff investment in the city’s open data site, operated jointly with Allegheny County. Fiscal Focus offers detailed budget information that can be sliced and diced according to users’ specific needs. In addition, a new set of internally developed business intelligence tools is radiating throughout the organization, helping achieve new efficiencies using department-level data. One example is an interactive tool that maps relevant data for the Permits, Licenses and Inspections Department, as well as the Police and Fire departments. Pittsburgh is also looking for productivity gains by piloting Lean/Six Sigma techniques in various areas. The first group of projects targeted three city processes: hardware purchasing, the IT help desk ticketing process and trash collection routing. A second set of projects using the same methodology is expected before the end of 2016. The city also continues to expand its suite of mobile apps for citizens: A trash and recycling app texts residents with pickup reminders, a location-aware 311 app makes it easier to report concerns and a snowplow tracker allows real-time tracking during the winter months.
4th // Greensboro, N.C.
Greensboro, N.C.,’s fourth-place finish reflects significant momentum in several areas, boosted by the city’s selection as one of Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities. The city has a beta open data portal, where it is piloting ways of automating data releases to keep the site robust and make sure its data sets are as useful as possible to all potential consumers. An open data policy as well as a set of governance standards formalize the practice, and make sure internal and external audiences’ needs are met. Other transparency efforts include an online public records request system and a participatory budget program. Greensboro has adapted several major systems with mobility in mind, enabling remote productivity for field workers doing repair and maintenance work, as well as managers completing timekeeping tasks. Mobile options for citizens are growing too, including real-time transit tracking and a pay-by-smartphone parking option. Planning for its broadband future, Greensboro is part of a multijurisdictional partnership that recently issued an RFP under the name “TRI-GIG,” which aims to build on existing dark fiber to create a gigabit network to foster economic development, job growth and connect underserved areas.
5th // Riverside, Calif.
The Southern California city of Riverside made some digital strides since the 2015 survey, moving up from sixth place to fifth this year. Its Web-based 311 customer relationship system was revamped to include automated user management, and anonymous and partial contact ticket creation, and users can now add content such as photos and documents to their tickets, and find status and resolution notes to tickets they’ve created. The city is also making smart use of data and GIS: To reduce pet animal deaths in the city, Riverside’s GIS team works with Riverside County Animal Control to plot animal collection data on a map; utility field workers use an advanced mobile GIS solution for street light inspections; and police and fire use enterprise GIS with layers and master address data to help them respond to emergencies. Helping to improve quality of live in the community is the city’s Graffiti Abatement Tool (GAT), which was recently revamped to increase performance and streamline processing. The enterprise GIS Web application receives graffiti data from the GAT mobile app, and the Riverside Police Department uses it to build a case against graffiti perpetrators for multiple occurrences. Police enter the perpetrator’s moniker against each graffiti picture, and then the app calculates the cost against the graffiti cleaning effort. Staff can generate a report by moniker for presentation in court cases. Of particular note is the city’s new public records advocate, who manages the recently implemented online public records portal that lets citizens request public documents and track the request’s progress. This format replaces the decentralized process in which public records requests were handled by different departments around City Hall.
6th // Long Beach, Calif.
Being a digital city means IT aligns with the vision and direction outlined by the mayor and city council — something clearly in effect in Long Beach, a 2016 Best of the Web finalist, as evidenced by a council that’s committed to using technology to provide 24/7 mobile access to government services and data, and to serve as a catalyst for collaboration, engagement and connection for people whose lives touch Long Beach. And to ensure technology remains at the forefront of citywide solutions, procurement practices are getting an overhaul: Rather than asking for the cost of services and resources already predetermined by the city, Long Beach is working with CityMart to launch invitations for both ideas and their solutions. The belief in this constant crowdsourcing approach is “the cornerstone of the city of Long Beach’s Technology and Innovation strategy, whose results are building a robust and fully integrated smart digital city,” officials wrote in their 2016 Digital Cities entry, which was posted online in the spirit of “being a true digital city.” Long Beach also created a virtual data officer position, whose role is to crowdsource data sets that are considered most useful to the community. "This effort is designed to engage the community," the entry reads, "and get them excited about collaborating with the city to develop unique solutions to city challenges."
7th // Sacramento, Calif.
In Sacramento, technology and innovation are woven into the fabric of the city’s future. From a focus on innovation zones to better serving low-income populations through business opportunities, the city’s Sacramento 3.0 initiative has become the priority for outbound Mayor Kevin Johnson. Making the local government both more responsive and agile dovetails with efforts like going paperless and building on a solid digital strategy. Through a reorganization of the municipal IT department within the larger enterprise, staff members once spread across the city's departments are now housed under one roof. In addition, leaders in the jurisdiction haven’t stopped at simply opening data to the public, and applications like Finding Rover, a facial recognition app geared toward families looking for lost pets, offer constituents real-world tools. Innovation has also been at the heart of the new Golden 1 Center sports complex. Visitors to the downtown attraction can use helpful parking tools to ease congestion and improve the visitor experience.
8th // Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati's leaders have put a large emphasis on putting the city’s wealth of data to work for its citizens. In addition to building an open data portal with a range of oft-sought data sets, the city’s Office of Performance and Data Analytics turns available data into clear and actionable business decisions. This effort is bolstered by the reliance on performance management agreements, which help to outline the city’s key priorities and measure against them. The CincyStat program, an innovation lab, helps to focus the energies of the municipal government and streamline the overall processes. Through a partnership with Hamilton County and private utilities, Cincinnati has access to the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System, which allows it to access real-time information and resources for better management through the combination of GIS technology and business systems. In another GIS initiative, RAVEN911 has organized the multiagency assets — including fire, EMS, law enforcement, public health and volunteer agencies — to better prepare for, respond to and recover from natural or man-made emergencies.
9th // Henderson, Nev.
Henderson, Nev., returned to the winner’s circle for the 2016 Digital Cities Survey after placing in 2012 and 2013, but missing out the following two years. This return is no doubt due to its committed leadership and use of a five-year strategic plan and a specific strategic IT plan being implemented. Opting to set lofty goals including strengthening existing cybersecurity protocols and procuring and installing RFID tags to track IT inventory has positioned Henderson to take advantage of the available technology for government use. Included in the city’s 2016 accomplishments was adding data sets to its open data portal and public outreach to residents. The city recently unveiled its Henderson Strong: Comprehensive Plan Update, which includes a robust digital engagement component and a digital alert system. The site is optimized for the diverse population base, offering information in English, Spanish, Filipino, Chinese and Vietnamese.
10th // Omaha, Neb.
Making its first appearance as one of the 2016 Digital Cities, Omaha, Neb., hopes to set itself up for future appearances in the winner’s circle. The overriding theme for Omaha has been centralization of IT. Through websites, funding and apps, the city is working to make interactions with residents as easy and pleasant as possible. Working closely with Douglas County, the city and county formed the Douglas Omaha Technology Commission as a way to pool funding and reduce redundancies. Through the partnership, the cooperative has helped upgrade management, procurement, print, fleet maintenance and 911 services with the county. The city also partnered with Amazon Web Services to host more than 50 websites serving 250,000 unique page visits a month. With centralized hosting, government services can now be completed online, the city reports. On trend with the rest of the services it provides, Omaha has committed to serving its population and how the public accesses municipal services. By releasing more than 30 productivity and citizen-facing apps including inspections and metric tracking across multiple divisions, the city is optimizing interactions for mobile users.
1st // Durham, N.C.
Over the last year Durham, N.C., has made tremendous strides in its effort to strengthen and solidify its status as a digital city, jumping from eighth place in 2015 to the top spot in this year’s survey. This is no doubt due in large part to the fact that the major IT policies the City Council established are embedded within the City of Durham Strategic Plan. The city’s core strategic planning leadership team regularly aligns IT and other initiatives to one of the strategic plan goals. Also a contributing factor is that the city’s cloud-based Web portal was recognized as a finalist in this year’s Best of the Web competition, due in large part to its open government and open data programs, and the mobile access citizens have to services and information. And engaging citizens also is a high priority for Durham, whose City Hall on the Go initiative brings city services to neighborhood and city events on a Wi-Fi-enabled truck. The city also has spent the last three fiscal years building a centrally located data center that's connected to remote locations using Metro Ethernet and direct fiber connections, and is dedicated to strong cybersecurity, as evidenced by its multivendor, multilayer security model that ensures business resilience should one of its ISPs be compromised by a security breach. Of particular note is Durham’s IT Governance Model that is creating an IT Steering Committee tasked with making high-level IT decisions and establishing the city’s technology priorities. The city’s goal with this model, which began in a pilot phase in July 2016, is to improve IT portfolio and IT project governance in the city.
2nd // Fort Collins, Colo.
In the northern part of Colorado, Fort Collins is on point when it comes to digital stewardship, including its commitment to transparency that began many years ago with the OpenBook application and Community Dashboard that exposed the city's checkbook to the community. Given the increased need for transparency over the last few years, however, both tools have recently been enhanced and the city implemented the first phase of an open data portal, which is set to launch in full this fall. The city also has embarked upon extensive mobility and Web redesign efforts, which were recognized in the 2016 Best of the Web competition, and uses eight social media sites that are integrated and consolidated into the entire site. Collaboration also is a priority for Fort Collins, which partners with the county, university and many communities on a shared computer aided dispatch (CAD) and records management system. Called the Combined Regional Information System Project (CRISP), it provides a shared CAD for the majority of the county, allowing 911 call centers to coordinate services across boundaries. CRISP also allows agencies to share related data, which reduces duplication and enhances coordination. And all agencies achieve a high level of data consistency because the city GIS is the single source of data for the entire county as far as GIS centerlines and related data sets for use in the CRISP CAD system. Fort Collins also takes cybersecurity seriously, having deployed a robust, layered, redundant network design that is fully segmented, which means that should an area be exposed to a virus, staff can isolate and contain such issues without risking exposure to other parts of the network.
3rd // Cape Coral, Fla.
After placing second in the 2012 Digital Cities Survey, Cape Coral, Fla., dropped off the radar, resurfacing four years later to place third in the 2016 survey. The ability to jump right back into the top three after sitting out for a spell is directly tied to Cape Coral's IT goals being in alignment with and in support of the city’s clearly defined strategic plan that takes a multifaceted approach. Cape Coral has deployed cloud-based, interactive mapping and other digital services tools to enhance financial sustainability and increase economic development and redevelopment; it has designed a fiber-optics infrastructure plan to support future growth and implemented predictive analytics to improve upon utilities management; and to increase quality of life for its residents, the city added a dedicated Internet connection for public safety and expanded the existing police body camera program and video monitoring at public parks and recreational facilities. Another facet of the city’s public safety initiatives includes the installation of a network-based lightning detection system in every park and recreational facility in the city — a move made in July given that in 2015, it had the second highest number of lightning strikes in the country last year. This advanced warning system detects nearby lightning, helping park managers to enhance visitor safety by better managing weather threats. And threats in cyberspace also are a high priority in the city. IT’s third-party managed intrusion prevention/detection system provides 24/7/365 monitoring not only to identify intrusions and intruders as attacks are attempted, but also to keep intruders out of the network and proactively combat threats as they occur.
4th // Alexandria, Va.
Aligning its initiatives through a strategic plan, Alexandria uses IT to improve the effectiveness of city programs and activities. Although it fell from its 2015 first-place ranking, Alexandria continues to work diligently to serve the needs of its growing community. The city’s website was overhauled this year to improve navigation, and a transparency hub aims to promote access to information like GIS open data and financial reports. Another online tool, AlexEngage, aims to promote civic engagement by building on the “What's Next, Alexandria?” framework adopted by the City Council. Organized by topics, the platform creates a dialog between citizens and city staff members about projects. Microsoft Office 365 is now available to all staff members, with tools being used across different departments to increase collaboration. In addition, new collaboration initiatives include a budget proposal system, a shared service for local schools to work together on providing services to the public, and a knowledge base for departments to answer questions from residents. Alexandria is looking to implement advanced threat protection to provide “defense-in-depth” to its endpoints and has a cyberinsurance policy. In fiscal 2016, the city did a comprehensive review of IT job classifications to ensure they meet current needs and follow industry standards.
4th // Hampton, Va.
The city of roughly 137,000 people moved up three spots from its seventh-place ranking in the 2015 survey. Challenges identified by the City Council and city manager require officials in Hampton to think and act digitally — in order to communicate with citizens, address state-mandated projects and attract new businesses. The IT Strategic Plan from 2011 went under review in 2015 and for the first time included all city departments. An online survey sought feedback from department managers, which allowed for priorities to be identified and similar projects to be merged. The city has started working on open data, with a few data sets available to the public so far. In addition, police officers were trained on how to use the open data tools as part of the city’s participation in the White House Police Data Initiative. Hampton continues to work on mobile efforts, which included the relaunch of its website this year with a focus on the mobile experience and the addition of apps like one that integrates with a new 311 portal. Collaboration efforts include a radio system that’s used by public safety and other city entities like schools and public works, and a regional radio system is also in the works. Over the last year Hampton completed a study of IT staff salaries in which every employee’s job description was analyzed. Salary adjustments were made to all IT staff members with the exception of the director. Eleven percent of employees received additional compensation.
5th // Baton Rouge, La.
Fifth-place Baton Rouge is working toward a centralized IT environment, moving tech functions out of individual departments in order to operate more efficiently. In 2016, the city added high-value data on crime, purchasing, bids, parcels and more to its open data site, and maintained financial transparency with its Open Budget BR portal. The city supplemented staff work on these projects with help from student interns from the Futures Fund, helping to develop the local computer science talent pipeline in the process. In addition, Baton Rouge is one of 62 international communities to partner with the traffic app Waze, adding data from the app to Baton Rouge’s traffic management system. The city is actively considering mobility in all new technology endeavors, outfitting field inspection teams with connected tablets to maximize real-time productivity and rebuilding its Red Stick 311 system to improve mobile performance. Baton Rouge is also redesigning its website using mobile-first design principles. A new citizen engagement system is enabling real-time citizen feedback, complementing the leading work of agencies like the Baton Rouge Police Department on popular social media platforms. In one high-profile example, the city leveraged Periscope and Facebook Live to maximize the reach of press conferences held in the aftermath of the death of Alton Sterling. That event also tested Baton Rouge’s cybersecurity preparedness, as the city’s network was targeted by hacktivists bent on doing harm to digital assets. Working with internal, external and private-sector partners, the hacking attempts were successfully thwarted.
6th // Winston-Salem, N.C.
A multi-departmental IT steering committee has to sign off on technology investments for the North Carolina city of Winston-Salem, which placed sixth in its population category this year. The CIO serves on the committee alongside the City Manager’s Office, chief financial officer, budget director, and police and fire chiefs, collectively charged with ensuring that IT projects support the city’s stated priorities. One such priority is transparency, which the city strives to meet by providing visibility into many aspects of its operations, including expenditures, public meetings, city services and overall performance. City staff also continue to empower an increasingly mobile workforce. One especially impactful effort on that front is the public works work order application. City staff supplemented an externally developed system with a fully electronic mobile version called CWMap that streamlines the work of field crews, makes performance easier to measure, and eliminates the need for paper tickets and maps. Winston-Salem also continues to refine and build upon its cybersecurity strategies. It completed an update of its Cyber Security Incident Response Plan, and further demonstrated leadership through its purchase of cybersecurity insurance. The city's policy with CyberEdge AIG gives it coverage for liability, event management and extortion, along with tools to help manage cyber-related vulnerabilities. Among the IT Department’s plans for the coming year is to move its CRM system to the cloud.
6th // Scottsdale, Ariz.
The affluent Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Ariz., earned a sixth-place finish in its population category this year. Selected as a What Works City by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Scottsdale is leveraging the expertise of John Hopkins University and the Sunlight Foundation to support efforts like its open data portal. Open data pursuits are guided by a three-pronged policy that emphasizes openness, transparency and accountability; advances an “open by default” stance; and prioritizes data security, privacy and confidentiality. Scottsdale also tracks city performance across the organization, providing visibility into various metrics to citizens. An internal process improvement program, Keep It Simple Scottsdale, aims to shore up internal processes with a similar data-based approach. After early pilots with iPads, the city has now standardized on a Windows-based tablet that offers the features of a desktop computer, yet maximizes productivity when staff is away from the office. The devices can be docked at a desk, used with a mobile keyboard or operated via touchscreen as a tablet. As far as infrastructure, Scottsdale has combined what used to be separate IT facilities for the police department into a central data center managed by city IT staff.
7th // Denton, Texas
Denton partnered with the University of North Texas, community members and Serve Denton in creating an open data dashboard for such community problems as homelessness, which has been on the rise in the city for years. The city's role in this project includes coordinating the data from other agencies, providing more than 15 data sets. Denton has seen a 30 percent increase in companies using its open data portal to assist in developing applications. The initial open data goal was to initiate conversations to glean information from stakeholders about their needs and their ability to participate in strategies and applications. Denton recently installed a security information and event management system that works on the principle that relevant data about an enterprise’s security is produced in multiple locations. That allows the ability to spot trends and see patterns by viewing the data from a single point of view.
7th // Modesto, Calif.
Within the past year Modesto has deployed several projects that attempt to engage citizens and boost the city’s commitment toward effective, responsive and transparent government. Those include the website renovation project www.modesto.gov. The site, completed in June 2016, entailed a complete overhaul with more than 1,200 pages of content. It required nearly 30 employees working across departments to update all content and migrate it, review it and be on the new content management system. The result of the effort is an easy-to-navigate and visually appealing site. The GoModesto! official city app connects residents to government and allows a more responsive, agile government response to citizen needs. The city is prioritizing social media like never before. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have grown by more than 25 percent in the last year, and the city has registered accounts with Periscope, Instagram and YouTube.
8th // Pasadena, Calif.
Pasadena is making a name for itself as an innovation hub for technology and design. Leaders across the city government, business and education communities have been working together over the last three years to draw technology and design businesses to the area through the Innovate Pasadena partnership, which promotes tech entrepreneurship and collaboration through meetups and educational events. It also connects residents who want tech jobs with business leaders who need to hire employees. These efforts are helping the city become a welcoming home for tech companies while at the same time ensuring that it has a steady source of revenue. IT priorities are aligned with the City Council's goals, and an IT Governance Committee reviews project requests each year. Business intelligence and dashboards have been a recent area of focus, with the visual presentation of data leading to an increase in evidence-based decision-making for city operations. For example, an internal fire service dashboard shows five years of activity and response times and is being used to align equipment and staffing resources. And to keep updated on the dozens of projects in the works each year and more than $10 million in projects in the city's IT portfolio, a resource tracking tool helps keep the numerous initiatives on time, on budget and on scope. A mobile-first strategy helped guide the launch of a of a new city portal this year that ensures content can be viewed on any device, and numerous mobile apps have been rolled out for both internal and public-facing programs.
8th // Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Last year Rancho Cucamonga's City Council authorized the formation of the Department of Innovation and Technology, led by the city's first chief innovation officer, in order to improve transparency, encourage civic engagement, and develop and enhance tech platforms. The new department combined the city's GIS and information services divisions, and aims to leverage the experience of both to enhance interactions with residents. The city's public-facing tech initiatives include a public safety performance dashboard, an online development and permitting portal, and Esri Story Maps that display information about conservation efforts and public arts. An open data program, which began in 2015, continues to expand with metrics for community services, library and finance departments being added by the end of this year. The Police Department was one of the first 60 agencies to participate in the White House Police Data Initiative. With the San Bernardino National Forest on its northern border, some Rancho Cucamonga residents could have to evacuate their homes quickly during wildfire season. But they find out about these evacuations faster thanks to the Fire Protection District's social media warnings. A communications manager in the city helps coordinate digital engagement efforts across departments, including fire, police and animal services. This coordination has helped the city get on the same page and share important information quickly with residents on a variety of city and department social media accounts. Since last year, the city's following has grown by 61 percent to 8,700 on Facebook — the most popular platform for residents.
9th // Chandler, Ariz.
Last year, Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and the City Council committed to several new strategic goals. Key among them was becoming a highly connected city and a leader in transparency. Chandler had already been recognized by the Sunshine Review as one of the nation’s most transparent local governments on the Web for four consecutive years, but the city wanted to further encourage engagement with citizens, businesses and employees in the community. As part of that goal, the city is building an online form for requesting public records from the City Clerk’s Office, expanding citizen services through a new online bill payments system and collecting citizen input on new initiatives through its Lucity CRM system. In the interest of boosting transparency, Tibshraeny annually hosts Budget Connect, a live online forum where Chandler residents can ask questions and learn about the city’s budget and fiscal policies. The mayor moderates the event and answers questions submitted online alongside city staff and councilmembers. The initiative helps increase transparency and community interaction by allowing residents to raise concerns and receive timely answers.
9th // Norfolk, Va.
Norfolk wants to reach residents where they are. The city therefore employs multiple platforms to connect with residents (website, social media, newsletters, surveys, email, a call center, newsprint and television, and in-person community meetings). About 25,000 Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor followers now receive real-time city news and announcements. Norfolk also offers robust content on YouTube, including full City Council and Planning Commission meetings, city-produced programming, and newscasts. The city also promotes a “conscious culture of cybersecurity.” Its four-person cybersecurity team is responsible for establishing policies and procedures, selecting and supporting security software and appliances, monitoring user compliance, and detecting and analyzing threats. The city also places a heavy emphasis on creating a culture of cybersecurity where all users understand their role in protecting city information, including formal and situational awareness training based on cyberbreaches in other communities.
10th // Augusta, Ga.
In early 2016, Augusta’s Information Technology Department worked with a number of city departments, including the Administrator’s Office, Finance, Engineering, Utilities and Recreation and Parks, to bring information from those agencies into the public eye with CityWatch, a portal designed to increase transparency across city government. The key components of the CityWatch effort are ProjectWatch and BudgetWatch. ProjectWatch enables citizens to search for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Stormwater, Utilities and Transportation Investment Act projects. Each project includes information describing the project purpose, the project budget and its status. BudgetWatch enables citizens to search for information related to how the city uses its funds. Augusta also has a variety of innovative initiatives planned for the next 12 to 18 months, including enhancing public safety communication systems and augmenting transparency, accessibility and openness through online solutions to assist public participation.
1st // Roanoke, Va.
In just a year, Roanoke, Va., has climbed to a first-place ranking for cities with a population between 75,000 and 124,999. The city's continued high marks center on its attention to digitally accessible government (both internally and externally), an ongoing commitment to cybersecurity, and a progressive and realistic look at the talent landscape. While the city continues to improve upon things like employee mobility and connectivity, it has also pushed to secure city assets from outside threats. Among other initiatives, Roanoke has kept its focus on tracking and stopping threats to the city network through a robust application-based firewall that allows for the classification of traffic. Through partnerships with outside agencies, redundancies have been established to maintain operations during a significant emergency event. In addition, efforts to expand citywide broadband are underway, especially as it relates to underserved populations.
2nd // Lynchburg, Va.
Lynchburg, Va., skyrocketed from a sixth-place ranking in 2015 to second place this year. The city's successes center on an expanded concentration on technology throughout the whole of the local government. From a fully responsive host of websites to mobile-enabled departments, Lynchburg has upped its digital game to be more responsive, both internally and externally. A citywide policy enables employees to bring their own devices under certain policies and restrictions. This is important because of the city’s roughly 1,250 employees, only 330 city-owned smartphones have been deployed. Rather than adopt a mobile-first strategy, officials have tailored the city's mobile undertakings to better capitalize on potential implementations. This approach also reduces the costs associated with mobile application development. One important upcoming initiative features a collaborative, shared approach to connectivity between the city, Lynchburg City Schools and Lumos Networks to create a fiber-optic municipal network. Additionally collaboration with the state allowed for Lynchburg’s public safety answering point to interface with GIS data and laid the groundwork for a next-generation 911 system.
3rd // Boulder, Colo.
Boulder’s information, communications and technology staff has thoroughly followed City Council priorities; where it hasn’t, it has detailed plans to do so. One example is in open data — because it’s a city priority, ICT staff keeps an open data catalog with 45 data sets that integrates directly into the state’s open data portal. It added eight data sets to the catalog in the past year. An open data team meets monthly and is working toward a citywide inventory as well as a formal open data policy. A performance metrics dashboard brings progress on the council’s goals into focus. Mobile devices have been deployed among several departments to enhance fieldwork and gather data, which has in turn supported GIS products. That includes the rollout of a body camera fleet for police officers. All told, mobile devices now make up about 64 percent of the municipality’s computing devices — though the city doesn’t have a full bring-your-own-device program. Collaborations with universities, federal laboratories, school districts and local governments has enabled fiber-optic network sharing, and a July broadband feasibility study could expand Boulder’s efforts further via a public-private partnership. The city hired a full-time chief information security officer and has taken several steps to guard against damage, including a cloud solution that tracks file changes and allows for reversion. Boulder has its own chief resilience officer, who helped published a resilience strategy in April to prepare for future stresses of all kinds.
3rd // Independence, Mo.
Technology staff in Independence are in the middle of a major project to replace 10 legacy systems, including decades-old utility billing and financial management systems and enterprise resource planning. The upgrades will streamline workflows and allow more work from the field — all in the name of the City Council’s goal of making work more efficient through technology. Parks and recreation and code enforcement staff have mobile devices and software, and utility workers will join them soon. Independence maintains an open data portal, albeit one without the finance and expense data common in similar projects, and a formal open data policy. Staff plan on completing a data inventory to explore what can be added to the portal. The city has made several efforts to engage the public, with a clear and succinct performance dashboard, a mobile health app and a job listing board tied to social media accounts that is among the most visited parts of the city’s website. In the past year, staff have started using sweepstakes and giveaways as an engagement tool as well. The installation of gigabit-speed Internet for city employees has allowed the police department to access security cameras at transit stops and schools. This year the city created a GIS/Cityworks administrator position, though it lacks a chief information security officer.
4th // Richardson, Texas
IT works to support Richardson's departments to move forward on goals set by the City Council, including improving processes, customer service and accessibility to the city. Transparency is a top priority, and budget graphs and dashboards will be added online in the upcoming year. A mobile-first approach is used when new Web apps are developed, and an app that was developed in-house simplifies the process of reporting issues to the city while also providing up-to-date information about city news and events. Earlier this year Richardson was selected to participate in US Ignite's Smart Gigabit Cities Program to work on the development of next-gen broadband applications. And in another area of innovation, Richardson was the first city in Texas to partner with Yelp and Socrata to post restaurants' food safety scores on the review platform. To make this work on the back end, city employees spent time with Socrata to put the data in a format that app developers and businesses could easily use. Every time a food safety score goes into the city's computer system, that score shows up on the Yelp page for that restaurant.
4th // Westminster, Colo.
Westminster's 2016 IT Strategic Plan supports objectives set by the City Council while focusing on emerging technology to develop new and enhanced services. As part of its goal of providing more online services, the city's website has 23 forms and payment options for residents and businesses. In addition, a new electronic permitting system is being implemented. Through an online engagement platform, residents can tell the city what they think about its parks and other types of services. WestyCOnnect gives residents a voice in government so that even if they don't attend city meetings, they can still share their opinion. In addition, the City Council chamber is being remodeled to incorporate video streaming technology — currently the audio is streamed and archived. Over the last year, phase one of the city's Mobile Strategic Plan was completed and includes revamping the app development process to support a mobile-first strategy. In the area of cybersecurity, Westminster is updating its policies to comply with the NIST Framework. In addition, more than 96 percent of city employees have completed the SANS Securing the Human security awareness training.
5th // Lakeland, Fla.
Lakeland, Fla., has upgraded its digital services for residents in a substantial and meaningful way. The city has relied on opening up city services as well as data to constituents to offer a sense of trust and responsibility for managing city finances. Earlier this year, the city launched its open data portal with help from OpenGov. This tool displays 10 years of government spending and revenue detail in a user-friendly portal. City departments have also found this tool helpful for understanding how other government entities are allocating their budget. Matching its commitment to transparency, Lakeland has also partnered with GovQA to build a tool that allows citizens to make public record requests and track the progress online. TRAKiT Land Management Software has been integrated into the city site to automate land use permits and deliver information for tracking projects. ProjectDox has been integrated into TRAKiT, which enables users to attach electronic files for review. Lakeland is banking on these services to help facilitate a simple and pleasant experience with the city government.
6th // Columbia, Mo.
In Columbia, Mo.'s Strategic Plan (PDF), released in October 2015, the city identified five priority areas needing improvement: economy, social equity, public safety, infrastructure and operational excellence. One of the most helpful tools they developed to advance their vision for the city is the Community Dashboard. This Esri-powered tool enables users and government officials to layer different kinds of data on a map to help determine which communities most need help. One overarching strategy is to make all online resources accessible and optimized for mobile devices, and there is a good reason for this approach. Because lower-income families are less likely to own computers, some residents rely only on smartphones for Internet access. Redesigning Web pages with mobile use in mind better serves these constituents' needs.
6th // Newport Beach, Calif.
Newport Beach created a modern, succinct website with robust functionality. The city’s What's Happening in my Neighborhood map allows residents to quickly see a wide range of city activities taking place around them. The map interfaces between the city’s GIS system, the police CAD system, the Fire MetroNet system and the city permitting system to allow residents to see seven days of police incidents, 30 days of fire incidents, capital improvement projects, active building permits, and more in an easy to read and understand manner. What’s Happening in my Neighborhood is continually filtered (to protect public safety and privacy) and automatically refreshed without requiring any city staff time. Last year, What’s Happening in my Neighborhood was recognized with an award for innovation by the Management Information System Association of California. Over the last four years, Newport Beach also refreshed its data center, which is now 95 percent virtualized, replaced document imaging, CAD/RMS and ERP software and set up modern online interfaces for document search, GIS/mapping, mobile app service requests, and online class registration and bill pay.
7th // Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Winters are snowy in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and firefighters need to be able to access fire hydrants to protect citizens and property. Brooklyn Park’s Adopt a Hydrant app is a crowdsourcing campaign designed to get people to shovel out the hydrants located near them when it snows. Last winter, the city more than doubled the number of hydrant adoptions through a combined advertising effort between the GIS, communications and community engagement departments. The success of the Adopt a Hydrant app prompted creation of an Adopt a Park app designed to help keep the city’s greenspaces clean. Adopt a Park will also help the city track and report more accurate volunteer service information to the City Council. Finally, Brooklyn Park employed technology to help with a community planning initiative called Brooklyn Park 2025. Using the combination of an online forum, on-site meetings and whiteboards placed strategically around the city, staff members, residents and businesses are helping craft a vision of what the city will look like in 10 years.
7th // Sugar Land, Texas
Sugar Land, Texas, may be small (population 87,000), but its cybersecurity strategy rivals many larger cities. The city employs a defense in-depth approach, including both on-premise and cloud-based systems, to protect people, data and computing platforms from internal and external cyberthreats. Because no system offers complete security these days, the city also developed a sophisticated strategy around cyberthreat incident response and incident handling, including a systematic approach to defining cyberthreat levels within the organization. Sugar Land’s business continuity strategy is also forward-thinking. The city uses a combination of magnetic medium (tape backup), cloud-based backups and offsite data storage to provide multiple avenues to continue operations in the event of a major disaster or other emergency. Sugar Land’s leaders also believe in maintaining a financially responsible government. Toward that end, the city maintains an online interactive city budget presentation that clearly communicates revenue sources and allocations using easily identifiable graphical elements, making a complicated budget process easier for residents to understand.
8th // San Leandro, Calif.
San Leandro, a suburb of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, wants to help keep its residents active. Toward this end, the city created a robust parks and recreation program over the years. Recently, the city upgraded from an on-premise recreation management platform to a cloud-based system, enabling savings of nearly $35,000, which it can now reinvest in new recreational programs and other priority areas. The city also recently renegotiated its Internet contract, allowing it to provide higher bandwidth while saving up to 40 percent monthly through the elimination of redundant Internet lines and utilization of city-owned fiber to transport data. San Leandro is also undergoing a massive upgrade of its Police Department information system, which manages computer-aided dispatch, records, jail, and mobile and field reporting. The new version includes enhanced GIS functionality to increase public safety response times. Meanwhile, real-time Web-based dashboards provide police leadership teams with up-to-the-minute reporting of analytical and statistical information.
9th // Arvada, Colo.
Arvada has moved to promote mobility to better serve citizens and employees and those efforts have resulted in greater efficiency, quality of service and productivity than in years past. iPads and other tablets were used by almost every department and the City Council. Ticketing and records management have gone completely mobile, and tablets have enabled the city to have greater control in managing its assets. iPads in the field allowed for the building of a real-time utility assets inventory and aided completing the inventory of 13,500 city-owned trees that needed to be prepared for the potential of a harmful insect infestation. The city’s social media efforts have been carefully executed to supplement, not supplant, other communications efforts. This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Nextdoor. The city and police department promote general awareness and public safety knowledge via these channels. The number of Facebook followers has increased by 300 percent in the last five years.
10th // Ann Arbor, Mich
Mobility has been an area of improvement for Ann Arbor. The IT department worked with the fire department in refreshing the mobile technology in the fire apparatus and command vehicles to improve effectiveness of response and increase the safety of fire personnel. The city’s planning and development inspectors have been equipped with more mobile capabilities. They have been outfitted with iPads to record inspection data in the field, access permit and land records in the field, provide a means to manage inspection scheduling, and assist with routing inspectors efficiently. The city’s financial information took on a more open look, providing the public with transparency. Annual budgets and expenses are available and the data is pulled directly from the city’s LOGOS financial system. The Citizen Guide to Finance and Budget is a Web resource created to increase transparency with financial information and budgeting to aid citizens in understanding efforts to maintain a balanced budget while meeting service needs.
1st // Tamarac, Fla.
Following the lead of a 10-year ICT plan, staff in Tamarac have built a highly digital, cloud-focused, mobile-ready environment for municipal work. Adopting a “virtual city hall” concept, the city has made a variety of data and performance metrics available online, and offers all walk-in services on its portal as well. On another part of its website, employees can ask questions and citizens can answer them directly. The city is also in the process of migrating to a new enterprise resource planning platform, which will include a new customer relationship management system. Tamarac is moving its email and file systems to the cloud and replacing old devices with desk-docked mobile devices capable of accessing city information remotely. All that is backed up with a PCI-compliant cybersecurity program, including regular vulnerability scans and penetration testing. The city budget lasts for three years, cutting costs associated with budgeting and allowing for better resource planning.
2nd // Shawnee, Kan.
Data is driving decision-making in this city — after discovering certain areas with unacceptably high response times, Shawnee is building a new fire station. Citizen feedback identifying congestion as a major issue has led to more spending on improving traffic signal communications and releasing more information about snow and ice removal activities. Shawnee has set aside $150,000 to redesign the city portal to be more mobile friendly and focus on transparency. In 2016 the city expanded its CRM, Shawnee Connect, to give citizens digital access to more services. The city is also considering participatory budgeting, where citizens would tell the government where they think funding priorities should lie. Monthly reports keep residents updated on what the city is working on, how many service requests it has closed and even Web metrics. Shawnee has several partnerships in place with its hosting county and nearby cities that have allowed for regionally consolidated traffic management, GIS hosting, fire dispatch and more. The city has installed more than 25 miles of fiber since 2006, enabling many of those collaborations, and has money set aside for further broadband projects. The cybersecurity approach focuses on three prongs: security policy, change management and incident response planning. Through that structure, staff members have put in place many best practices, including setting up PCI and CJIS environments, blocking off unused network ports, and two-factor authentication for municipal mobile devices.
3rd // Williamsburg, Va.
This city of Williamsburg does a lot in the digital realm for only having a three-person IT department. An established structure ensures that its work follows City Council goals, while a performance dashboard allows for data-driven decision-making and budgeting. In 2016 the city moved from an in-house open data and performance dashboard to a Socrata-based system in an effort to add context to its established transparency work. Recovery from the last recession is enabling the staff to modernize the city's computers, and it is in the midst of an overdue replacement of its enterprise resource planning software. Williamsburg is also completely redesigning its website with a new content management system and the ability to pay for services from computers and mobile devices. The city has upgraded its security firewalls and backed them up with a security information and event management system that analyzes information passing through the firewalls and gives staff a path to act on events from one location. This year Williamsburg also replaced the equipment supporting its free Wi-Fi network for its tourism-supporting downtown.
4th // Carson City, Nev.
Carson City solidified its fourth-place ranking for populations up to 75,000 through an attention to transparent government and building a stable technology base in the face of funding limitations. Through a suite of online tools, residents are able to connect to city services, examine expenditures and search for important topics in City Council documents. The integration of mobile capability has also been a major priority for the city. Roughly 25 percent of city staff members have the ability to work remotely. Carson City police and fire have access to updated department-specific applications and computer aided dispatch. In terms of cybersecurity, Carson City is about halfway through the process to fortify its networks and infrastructure. In terms of connectivity, the city has taken steps to replace its building-to-building wireless with fiber infrastructure. Similarly, emergency vehicle broadband modems have been upgraded for improved connectivity. Further, restructuring the city’s IT department, CCIT, has put the organization in a better position to not only assist internal clients, but respond to the changes in IT demands.
4th // Schaumburg, Ill.
The goal for Schaumburg, Ill., was to focus on next-gen solutions to governance. With a major emphasis on communication between the city and residents, and exploring the solutions derived from big data, Schaumburg has earned its place in the 2016 Digital Cities Survey. Starting with its foray into big data, the village released its Police Productivity Dashboard, which was able to pull data from emergency dispatch systems, reports to police, police inventory application, GIS and the human resources information system to give a better picture of what was happening in real time for city staff, officers and administrators. Another area where Schaumburg shined was its ubiquitous 311 system. With 24-hour phone coverage, residents are able to not only call in reports, but also text or fill out an online service request to the village. Going along with the multimodal options for contacting the city, the village also offers on-demand transit. Although it is currently only through the phone, Schaumburg is working on an app to order municipal transit to whisk residents off to any place within the city.
5th // Palo Alto, Calif.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto has garnered a strong reputation as a smart city. And it did not disappoint in 2016. Taking on the massive congestion problem, the city is looking to integrate city employee commute information with the carpooling app Scoop. The app automatically matches commuters based on their route, and guarantees a ride to and from work. Additionally to solve the commuter crisis, Palo Alto co-hosted a connected vehicle workshop with the Ford Research & Innovation Center that brought together representatives from BMW, General Motors, Google and other automotive manufacturers to discuss the future of transportation. Part of the solution is implementing a connected vehicle module as one of the final elements of the new traffic signal system project that will allow the city to broadcast real-time traffic signal data to support the connected and autonomous vehicle marketplace. Palo Alto solicited input from automobile and system manufacturers on data sets that can be made available through the module.
6th // DeSoto, Texas
DeSoto, Texas, has made strides in its transparency and Web presence that any large city would be envious of. Beginning with fiscal transparency, city officials have released a spending portal, making it simple for residents to identify exactly where their taxes go. DeSoto has been awarded for its commitment to transparency by the state comptroller, who designated the city a Platinum Member in 2014. However, openness is not all of what makes DeSoto a Digital Cities winner: The city has taken the time and exerted the effort to provide many digital services online. One of the most innovative ways this has been realized is through its municipal e-court system. Starting in July, all citations issued to residents were accompanied by a QR code, which led the users to a virtual courtroom for arraignments through a municipal app. Throughout the year, the city’s tech administration has focused on mobile adoption and optimization. DeSoto offers three other apps: one for city services, another run by the police, and a third that allows for easy completion of request forms for damaged infrastructure.
6th // North Port, Fla.
To achieve more transparency, North Port deployed a financial transparency website. This allows the public to examine employee salaries, revenues and expenses, and can be viewed at the top level. Viewers can “drill down” into more detailed data. The information is exported in different formats and can be consumed in a variety of ways. North Port has a site for audio, video and agenda materials for all commission meetings. The materials and audio and video are created with Granicus and all are posted online. The city has rapidly increased its adoption of mobile devices to support several initiatives. The City Manager’s Office developed a social media policy to lead expansion of social media. The policy defines management and use of social media, and a four-person team of PIOs manages and disseminates content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and YouTube.
7th // Marana, Ariz.
Marana decided that instead of using tools available from the state, it would write its own applications for open data initiatives. The first was its financial dashboard, completed in November 2015. The Marana financial database provides information from the Marana financial system and enables a clear look at government operations. It provides an interactive, searchable way to browse expenditure data, vendor payments and revenue data. The town is in the final stage of completing its performance dashboard. This will provide information on progress the town is making on strategic initiatives. Mobile applications are top strategic initiatives for Marana. In 2012 the town deployed its mobile app My Marana. It had been a 311 application for reporting issues within the community until recently when it was enhanced to a more user-friendly version. It includes social link feeds, GIS maps, employment opportunities, news and event information and the ability to pay utility bills.
8th // Ithaca, N.Y.
Ithaca's officials emphasize public service as a common thread that ties major policy to everyday operations. The Ithaca Plan addresses drug use and addiction in the city — some of the city’s newest policies surround this plan. A major focus of the city’s drug addiction prevention plan is to use technology for youth programming. New software makes it easier for citizens to register for camps and youth programs by capturing forms and information online. Residents no longer need to go into city offices to register for programs. The data collected by the software is also valuable to the city, providing information on the demographics of who is using the programs and which ones are the most popular. That allows the city to make informed decisions about budgets and program strategy going forward. Also supporting the Ithaca Plan are police-worn body cameras and surveillance videos. Complaints against police have dropped dramatically after the deployment of the body cams, and other cities have sought advice about their implementation.
9th // Hudson, Ohio
Home to 22,000 people, Hudson has spent the last year focusing on government transparency — residents can now watch live and archived public meetings, view city budget information and provide feedback, and access multiple tools to see where tax dollars are being spent as well as how city funds are administered. Mobile initiatives focus on internal and public-facing features. For example, the Engage Hudson app allows residents to report and track issues, while the Mobile Stormwater Inventory App replaced a paper-based process and enables the city's engineering staff to collect and report information from the field. Hudson is also looking at utilizing the Waze traffic app to provide drivers with information about road crews, which would be particularly beneficial during fall and winter. Efforts around collaboration have taken on an official capacity through efforts like the Summit County Alliance for Innovation and the Global Institute for the Study of the Intelligent Community. In addition, Hudson is working to be a gigabit city: Fiber installation began this year on its broadband project. The city expects to have more than 100 commercial Internet and voice customers by the end of the year, and has started to analyze a residential offering of the service.
10th // Punta Gorda, Fla.
Punta Gorda is using IT to follow through on the five key areas identified in its strategic plan for the city's 17,800 residents. The high-level overview includes projects like launching a new website, implementing VoIP, server upgrades and GIS enhancements. A transparency website with budget dashboards is in the works, and the city is in the process of cleansing its data and establishing rules for it to help with the future transition to a big data approach. Mobility is a new focus for Punta Gorda, but is being considered for all initiatives going forward. For example, the fire inspector now uses a tablet to enter and review information and seawall maintenance crews can now input data from the work site. The CRM platform will be expanded and interface directly with work order management software, which will provide better analytics to better enable data-driven decision-making. Punta Gorda also is taking steps to ensure all employees learn about security by simulating phishing attacks to see what users will do. Along with user education, the city started using a next-generation firewall that helps detect and prevent attacks. In combination, these security efforts have helped more staff members identify phishing attacks and report them to IT.