Digital Cities 2018: Winners Stretch Far Beyond IT Basics

This year's winners in the Center for Digital Government’s Digital Cities Survey are finding creative ways to solve government problems with technology, pushing the envelope of what is possible in the public sector.


Click through the rest of our story for detailed write-ups on each winner.

The winners of this year’s Digital Cities Survey, presented by the Center for Digital Government,* are redefining the role of the public-sector technology leader at the city level. 

They’re looking beyond the nuts and bolts of IT, exploring creative ways to leverage their technology investments, and building new, more effective coalitions. This year we saw a nonprofit effort to donate used government computers to the needy; a broad interagency push to collaborate on a strategic plan for IT; and an initiative to leverage IoT sensor data in support of economic development, to name just a few of the standouts. 

What do these efforts have in common? All take the IT department far beyond the role of a mere service provider. Each winner is elevating the role of the IT leader to make technology a driver of better, smarter, more responsive government.

Coral Gables, Fla., 1st Place, Up to 75,000 Population Category

Leveraging a $100,000 Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge grant, IT leaders in Coral Gables, Fla., have made this a smart cities year, with a range of digital initiatives. 

The city’s free public Wi-Fi has been greatly expanded to encompass nearly all of downtown, a move that planners say could be an economic development boon in this hurricane-prone locale. “After a hurricane, businesses that depend on Internet access can be affected. Now with the free Wi-Fi, those businesses will be able to open their doors sooner,” said Director of Information Technology Raimundo Rodulfo. 

The city also has expanded its fiber-optic network, a connectivity play that could likewise yield public safety benefits in a storm. “Because we have a fiber backbone and cellular and satellite — because we have multiple layers of redundancy — we were able to provide high-speed connectivity to emergency providers, fire and 911 in Hurricane Irma. That mission-critical connectivity proved its value,” Rodulfo said. 

Beyond issues of connectivity, IT leaders here also have invested heavily in their Internet of Things infrastructure. “In the last year we deployed pedestrian-counter sensors in the downtown area, which are generating a lot of strategic data for businesses. A business owner can see by the hour the pedestrian traffic nearby, which gives them actionable data. It also helps municipal planners in making transportation decisions,” Rodulfo said. 

Recently, for example, the IT team was able to use this IoT data to pinpoint the economic impact of a downtown art exhibit. 

Also on the data side, the city has been pursuing an enterprise-wide infrastructure upgrade, implementing hyperconverged systems, software-defined networks and hybrid cloud, all with an eye toward better data management and eventual AI implementations. 

With the enhanced infrastructure, “we get higher performance, we get redundancy, we get faster access to our applications. And with the scalability of the cloud, we have higher capacity, instead of having to buy more and more physical services and physical infrastructure,” Rodulfo said. “We have a strategic plan to make this a smarter city, and we are implementing consistently around that.”

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Westminster, Colo., 1st Place, 75,000-124,999 Population Category

David Puntenney isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel. 

As director of information technology for the city of Westminster, Colo., he made it his mission last year to find out what the best cities were doing in terms of IT management, and to learn from their examples. 

Puntenney and his leadership team visited civic IT champions across North Carolina — Greensboro, Durham, and Winston-Salem, all Center for Digital Government award-winning digital cities. “We wanted to look at ways that we could do things even better than we have in the past, looking especially at the way other cities were doing cybersecurity and how they were doing their IT governance,” he said. 

The fact-finding mission paid off. 

“We came back with some additional ideas on what we can do to further our cybersecurity expertise. We hired a cybersecurity administrator in 2017 and a cybersecurity apprentice, and so we have been able to make some significant progress in those areas,” he said. 

The visits also gave a boost to technology governance, as the IT team came home with new strategies for making software investment decisions. “We will have a more formal process for conducting business-case analyses, with an executive committee that can weigh the value of different proposals,” Puntenney said. 

The city also leveraged its North Carolina learnings to boost its measurement efforts. “We established a performance metric dashboard to provide internal and external audiences with an opportunity to see how the city is doing,” he said. “It’s an open data dashboard that is updated on a continual basis.” 

Puntenney said he continues to look for opportunities to swap knowledge with other city tech executives. “As the IT department, it’s not enough to know that you have been successful in the past,” he said. “It’s a continual effort to learn what is changing so that we can be smart about how we are doing things in the future.”

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Bellevue, Wash., 1st Place, 125,000-249,999 Population Category

Sabra Schneider sees no reason why the IT department should go it alone. As CIO of Bellevue, Wash., she’s made collaboration the keystone of city technology initiatives. 

“The foundation of our digital cities efforts is built off of strong partnerships across the city,” she said. “Those start with a strong council vision for a smart and connected digital city, and they include extensive partnerships with internal customers.” 

Over the past year those collaborative efforts have given rise to a new Enterprise Technology Strategic Plan for the city, a plan that emerged through multiple conversations with department heads about their IT needs. “It’s not just technology driving the business or the business driving technology, but rather a true partnership for how we can leverage technology to advance city goals,” she said. 

The strategic plan lays out new guiding principles to drive a more affordable and effective technology investment process. “Those principles will make our project work more clearly and will make us better stewards of technology projects,” Schneider said. 

In-depth conversations with business-line leaders have helped IT to focus in on specific, practical needs, for example in a series of mobile-workforce initiatives. The tech team’s support for worker mobility grew directly out of its interactions with government end users. Field workers wanted to manipulate significantly larger files while on the road, so the IT department worked to update their download capacity. 

“Absent these strong partnerships we would not know as much about their pain points and we would not be able to propose technology solutions that overcome those pain points,” Schneider said. “I will never know as much about transportation innovation as the transportation department does, but working in tandem we can talk about how to leverage the technology to help meet their specific business needs.”

Collaboration “provides not only better technology outcomes, but better outcomes for the taxpayers,” she said. “We do not want to do technology for technology’s sake. We want to really support the business of government.”

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Virginia Beach, Va., 1st Place, 250,000-499,999 Population Category

Virginia Beach, Va., recently became the U.S. landing point for a 169-terrabit transatlantic fiber, and city IT leaders are leveraging that connectivity. 

“We have started working with four fellow cities to extend access across the entire region, as a means to bring economic development. We have our first intercity connection, between Norfolk and Chesapeake, and now we are extending that out to higher education, where they need the capacity in support of their research,” said CIO Peter Wallace. 

“We have the fastest fiber coming into the country, and it should benefit the entire region,” he said. “We have a governance model and all the cities are playing nicely together, so things are starting to take shape.” 

Internally, the city has been building up its data analytics capabilities, hiring a chief data science officer, bolstering the data science team, and forging new interdepartmental ties to bring data science, GIS, and the database administrators under a common governance model. As a result, department leaders across city government are beginning to leverage data more effectively. 

“We are able to train the departments to understand their own data and the value behind that data. It’s no longer just information,” Wallace said. “We also have given them tools to extract that data and do what they want with it, rather than having to come to IT to generate reports for them.” 

At the same time, the IT department has been rethinking its approach to project management, migrating off of a waterfall model and adopting instead an agile-development approach. 

“We do sprints to ensure that the customers are more involved in the entire process. We build something and have them try it, and then incorporate their feedback. This way at the end of the day we know it is exactly what the customer expected,” Wallace said. 

This approach helps ensure the city stays ahead of the IT curve. “Things are changing really fast right now, and we need the right tools to adapt to those changes,” he said.

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

Los Angeles, 1st Place, 500,000 or More Population Category

Los Angeles IT leaders are working to turn the city’s technology investments into broadly available public assets. Why throw away old government computers, or hoard cyberdata for civic use only? In L.A., the IT department is leveraging those things for the benefit of the wider community. 

Launched in August 2017, the continually expanding LA Cyber Lab effort makes the city’s cyberthreat intelligence available to local businesses — for free. “This gets to the heart of what government is, taking this internal asset and sharing it out in support of the business community,” said Ted Ross, chief information officer of Los Angeles. 

Because the city is a high-profile target, with lots of financial data and other high-value digital assets, L.A.’s cyberdefender may see attack vectors that the business community on its own would never know about. 

To leverage and disseminate that knowledge, the city set up a freestanding nonprofit entity. Operationally, this ensures the information-sharing effort doesn’t become a drain on city resources. Philosophically, it expresses the cooperative spirit of the endeavor. “We didn’t want it to be seen as just a government effort, with government just pushing everything at people. We wanted it to be a true partnership,” Ross said. 

The department also has partnered with human-I-T, a nonprofit, to refurbish discarded city computers and give them away to those in need. 

“They are often in good enough shape that they can be reused,” Ross said. “The nonprofit entity hires people to wipe the hard drives and refurbish the machines, and then we distribute them to communities where there is a need: Students who need a computer, or people transitioning out of homelessness, or victims of domestic violence.” 

The city has given away more than 3,250 machines in the past year and a half. “It’s a great example of government taking an asset, bringing in a nonprofit and then distributing it back into the community,” Ross said.

Click here to see all the winners in this category.

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.

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Up to 75,000 Population Category


Hover over points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st City of Coral Gables, Fla.

A city of more than 50,000 just south of Miami, Coral Gables took first place in its population category this year, demonstrating the city’s ability to use technology to improve residents’ quality of life. In light of this objective, the city recently launched its Smart City Hub, which makes a wide range of data available to the public in one online location. The Hub encompasses a wealth of open data and public records, including Internet of Things sensor data and dashboards, GIS applications, transparency portals, and an applications store. There is also a Crime Intelligence Center, which provides residents with information such as analyses on crime data, GIS, and AI video, as well as a CrimeView feature and cloud data systems.

Also of note, Coral Gables was one of 35 cities selected in the beginning of this year to participate in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. With innovation funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the city has begun work on a pilot implementation of a smart energy microgrid system to keep the power on in public safety buildings during natural disasters. The city is about to implement a prototype system in partnership with researchers from the University of Miami.

However, this won’t be the first natural-disaster-resistant system that the city has created. When Hurricane Irma struck Florida in late 2017, Coral Gables’ new resilient communications system was put to the test. Not only did it stay active throughout the hurricane, keeping first responders and constituents connected in a time of crisis, the city also won the IEEE Standards Association’s 2017 World Standards Day contest for its efforts.

2nd City of Tamarac, Fla.

2018 marks Tamarac, Fla.’s fifth consecutive appearance in the annual ranking of Digital Cities. Building on years of investment in technology, Tamarac is paying for a comprehensive study of how it can do more — in everything from automating lights in sport facilities, street lamps and offices; to measuring the use of its public facilities; to centralizing climate control systems; and automating meter readings and bus schedule updates. As new facilities are built, the city connects as many devices to the network as it can, such as fire alert systems, HVAC systems, SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) systems, exhaust control systems, generators and fuel tanks.

Much of Tamarac’s modernization has been geared toward community engagement and transparency, and that continued this year as the city partnered with cloud software company OpenGov on an interactive Web portal from which residents can access financial information. Tamarac redesigned its website to support mobile access and launched a companion mobile app, Tamarac To Go; instituted an Open City Hall from OpenGov, which helps staff post questions and gather feedback from residents; made several GIS maps available online, for things like floor plans, commission districts, parks and zoning; made GIS public data available online and launched a new online lien search tool. The city is working on a new public records request portal, and over 16,000 of the city’s approximately 65,000 residents have signed up to receive online communication.

The city is producing more video and is conducting a survey to determine what customers want from city communications. Tamarac is in the process of converting its paper forms to electronic ones via a SeamlessDocs Web app, gave 106 hybrid laptops/tablets to city staff for accessing the network remotely, and for cybersecurity implemented role-based access control (RBAC) and undertook a comprehensive overhaul of security permissions.

Tamarac is working on an online bidding process and set a goal to turn some of its public spaces into smart parks that are fully automated, safe, digitally powered, energy efficient and unmanned, with automated lights and sprinklers, Wi-Fi, video surveillance and kiosks.

3rd Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

The rural North Carolina village of Pinehurst has been growing relatively quickly, its population increasing about 8 percent in as many years according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To deal with that growth — using input from residents — the village has turned to technology. IT staff have set up a website to give information to residents about long-term planning and gather their feedback, one of several transparency and citizen interaction tools they use. Pinehurst also has a mobile app where citizens can submit service requests.

The staff have also pushed forward on cybersecurity this year. Aside from strong fundamental practices, the village has also implemented new email protections such as link rewriting, as well as end-user security awareness training and monthly phishing tests. The village also recently joined the MS-ISAC security consortium.

The village has embraced performance management as well, using software to track key performance indicators for every department and working to make the updating of progress on KPIs as seamless as possible. There are “red flag” levels associated with those KPIs that are triggered when they reach a specified threshold. In the next year, the village plans on publishing those dashboards online.

The village is also working on a GIS strategic plan that will weave geospatial data into its overall planning process.

4th City of DeSoto, Texas

DeSoto, Texas, has a well-established customer relationship management program, GORequest from GOGovApps, and uses it to track issues in the community, create reports for city administration and improve services for citizens. After an issue closes, the requestor is automatically notified via email and asked for feedback, which is used to improve service. This citizen feedback is also used in reporting performance measures, to establish trends, to support budget purposes and in customer service training. 

The Dallas suburb of 52,870 residents prioritizes transparency. The city budget is published on the transparency website, as are reports and charts to help interpret the numbers, a searchable check register, a downloadable check register including payroll, debt transparency information, pension information, and investment policy and tax rates. 

This year, the library extended its offerings of digital services programs aimed to attract citizens and increase their involvement in technology. Patrons can check out a GoPro Hero5 camera kit and shoot still photos or videos, then come and edit them at the Sound + Vision Digital Creation Multimedia Station; attend a 3-D printing class and then use the 3-D printer; learn with the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) kit for Nintendo labo; use a virtual reality headset; or make an appointment for Tech Help, where they can get assistance on personal devices from experts.

5th City of North Port, Fla.

In fifth place in its population category this year, up from ninth last year, North Port, Fla., prioritizes transparency, engagement and efficiency, and has made many recent gains in each area. This year, the city began publishing a weekly podcast with quick hits on city happenings, accessible via Amazon Alexa devices, as well as other podcast platforms. In hurricane country, North Port has effectively leveraged Facebook as a communications tool, noting that 28 posts related to Hurricane Irma in 2017 reached nearly 500,000 users. A cloud-first policy is also positioning North Port as more disaster resilient, as it has pursued remotely hosted solutions for many core systems, including ERP, email, websites and others related to human resources. Redundant connections for the Emergency Operations Center are now in place, while cable-based connections have been upgraded to fiber. 

To further its transparency initiatives, city commission meetings now stream live on YouTube, and many upgrades to city websites are currently in the works. One new online project on the horizon is a portal for public records requests being developed in conjunction with the City Clerk’s Office. GovQA will track requests for citizens and make it easier for city staff to manage them from a single location. GIS infrastructure has also been upgraded, enabling better mapping capabilities that support city priorities like the protection of the gopher tortoise. Among North Port’s other recent improvements are the addition of the SeeClickFix citizen concern tracking application, a “Recycle Coach” mobile app and upgraded document management capabilities.

5th City of Shawnee, Kan.

Shawnee, Kan., finished fifth in the up to 75,000 category. Located in the Kansas City metro area, Shawnee has instituted a good deal of work often found in larger jurisdictions. The business Shawnee citizens can conduct with government online has grown as the city has added things like burn permits and apps for building inspections and right-of-way permits. The city's new CivicWeb portal also provides a comprehensive set of online tools, allowing users to make public records requests, stay abreast of city meetings and even view how elected officials have voted. Data-driven governance is also taking hold, specifically as it applies to the fire department. With GIS technology, Shawnee used fire response times to decide where to locate a new station, which will be built in 2019. A separate but related infrastructure effort sees the city expanding its fiber network by eight miles, supplying the forthcoming station with broadband while also moving Shawnee closer to its goal of establishing citywide fiber connectivity. 

Shawnee is also one of an increasing number of jurisdictions to embrace SeeClickFix, a platform for tracking citizen requests and concerns. SeeClickFix has a double purpose of providing transparent government while creating data about the efficiency of municipal services. Shawnee, like many cities, is also investing in mental health professionals with an eye toward reducing costs associated with individuals moving through its public safety system. The idea is that mental health professionals can help would-be repeat offenders get services they need early on so as not to be a drain on first responders and other agencies. Finally, new funding transparency mechanisms have been put in place so citizens can easily access info about how their tax dollars are spent, down to the department level.

6th Village of Schaumburg, Ill.

Paying for city services and fees in Schaumburg will soon feel as familiar as filling an online Amazon cart. The village is putting the final touches on its online payment portal, one of several Web-based improvements in progress. Recent improvements to the city’s 311 system allow residents to text a message any time of the day. A city representative will respond via text or route the message to the applicable city department. Residents can also chat with the city through its website. 

A video security camera project, which will include 26 cameras around city facilities, is partially complete. The footage will be stored for 90 days. A data analytics dashboard receives real-time information related to traffic, police activity, and rental property. Traffic monitoring technology has also been installed at key intersections, monitoring vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic flow, and adjusting signals accordingly. More cameras mounted at more intersections are planned to allow better monitoring of traffic during inclement weather or other emergencies. 

Schaumburg purchased cyberinsurance this year to cover the replacement costs of hardware and other infrastructure losses incurred during a cyberattack. The city is also a member of several cybersecurity organizations such as Anomali ThreatStream, to better understand threats and how to avoid them.

7th City of Lebanon, Mo.

To date, Lebanon, Mo.’s approach to digital government has not relied on the shiniest new tech, but rather a measured strategy to meet the needs of citizens. While Lebanon maintains standard IT undertakings, such as an updated website and mobile app, the city has also been focusing its efforts on expanding Internet access to residents and partner organizations. Recently, the city partnered with Laclede County to provide network connectivity, a move that resulted in savings, safety improvements and more efficient inmate logistics. Similarly, an ongoing project with Verizon will see small cell antennas deployed throughout the city, a welcome addition to its mesh network, which occupies five strategic locations for visitors. These efforts tie into the overarching goal of making the city’s workforce more responsive and mobile. In addition to a claims system that tracks and automatically responds to resident reports, mobile tablets offer the ability for staff to work from the field and more quickly track and address issues. 

IT efforts in Lebanon are not without their challenges, however. The fact that the IT department is not funded by revenue generation means it must rely on tax dollars to operate. Further, priorities often shift with changes to the city council lineup every two years. This makes constant collaboration with other departments and leadership essential for the IT department to be as effective as possible. 

When it comes to data-driven decision-making, the clearest example is that of the police department, which uses software to visualize crime within geo-fences and adjust their patrolling routine accordingly. The city has two Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 drone pilots on hand to assist with public safety missions and public works inspections. In the near term, the city hopes to adopt interactive digital kiosks for the residents to pay bills and connect with the city while out and about.

8th City of Salem, Va.

As a small city of just over 25,000 people, Salem, Va., which moved from 10th to eighth place in its population category this year, leverages partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions to bolster its IT efforts. In collaboration with two other cities, Salem received a public safety answering point (PSAP) grant to create a regional next-generation 911 system, improving response capabilities and efficiencies for emergency services. The public safety project is anticipated to be completed in the next 12 months. By joining a regional broadband authority and letting that group use space in one of the city’s data centers, Salem in return gets free municipal fiber to connect with other partner cities for public safety and disaster recovery. Salem cites cybersecurity as its greatest challenge, and in response is working to shore up its cyberdefenses, including implementing new training protocols for staff and joining MS-ISAC for 24/7 threat monitoring following attempted breaches by foreign governments. 

In the last year, Salem has rolled out a new transparency site that includes open checkbook and budget dashboards so residents have better insight into city spending. Going forward, officials want to add information on crime, public safety, parks and recreation facilities, and more, as well as a custom tool to allow citizens to see where their specific tax money is spent. Also looking ahead, Salem is looking into developing an Amazon skills app, “ask Salem City,” for citizens to find answers to questions about trash pickup, upcoming events and more. As for emerging tech, the city is exploring the development of an Internet of Things testbed, as well as the possible use of drones for infrastructure inspections, pothole reporting and more.

9th City of Weston, Fla.

In 2018, Weston, Fla., published its first Technology Strategic Plan, which plays a big part in the core goals of the city and its 2028 Strategic Value and Business Plan. IT plays a large role in supporting business objectives and promoting good customer service to its constituents. These objectives, via the Technology Strategic Plan, aim to offer a positive return on investment by improving efficiency and therefore reducing expenditures; improving accessibility and decreasing complexity of services and resources; increasing transparency; and mitigating risk by improving cybersecurity and privacy measures. 

The Technology Strategic Plan calls for a self-service data portal through the city website to improve service and transparency. Within the past year, the city has implemented open government initiatives, including a master data framework, using Esri’s Local Government Information Model, to connect with other city data systems and facilitate big data business intelligence tools and open, e-government services. The city has utilized Microsoft Power BI as a visualization and reporting tool on integrated data sets. The city enhanced its public website and content management system, improving usability, accessibility and content delivery.

10th City of Punta Gorda, Fla.

This coastal city of nearly 20,000 in southwestern Florida, the only incorporated municipality in Charlotte County, won plaudits this year for its IT governance practices and a robust social media presence. Punta Gorda uses analytics to track spend in IT, which is completely centralized. It measures IT performance against objectives in its strategic plan and performs regular project review and oversight; its IT advisory committee also meets quarterly to review benchmarks.

The city connects with residents via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Nextdoor; and a content management tool mirrors informational posts to the city website on Facebook. Officials also link to city council meeting videos promptly afterward, post weekly departmental status reports, post daily fire department incident logs and offer a police outreach site for residents.

The municipality continues to build on an enterprise GIS software license from Esri, and will add a geospatial aspect to its disaster recovery plan to improve cleanup, reporting and plan renovation. Officials also have hired a GIS analyst, the first new IT division position in several years, to help transition GIS use from a distributed to an enterprise model. The city also collaborates with the county on fiber, running its software-defined network over a collapsed ring fiber structure that’s part city-owned dark fiber, part shared county fiber.

One initiative underway in 2017, an open checkbook portal with more detailed budget information from enterprise resource planning financials, is now close to deployment. It’s part of an increased focus on the aggregation and analysis of data that officials hope will enable enterprise-level decisions and drive the new GIS platform.

10th City of Williamsburg, Va.

Home to one of the nation’s better-known living history museums — Colonial Williamsburg — the city of around 14,000 is known for its extensive and innovative use of technology for services and operations. Williamsburg was an early adopter of data dashboards and with the implementation of a modernized ERP system, it expects to increase the amount of data available for measuring performance and financial functions. 

The city has installed a citizen engagement platform and has begun to explore early stage artificial intelligence to boost citizen services. For example, the city is beta testing a recycling notification service that is driven by AI. Williamsburg has also become the second city in the country to launch Citibot, a scalable AI platform that allows the city to communicate with citizens through text messages. When citizens text the city with a problem, the request is automatically routed to its customer relationship management (CRM) system. The AI platform has made city hall a 24-hour operation that can respond to citizen problems and concerns around the clock.

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75,000-124,999 Population Category


Hover over points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st City of Westminster, Colo.

Taking top honors in its category, Westminster, Colo., can count 25 completed IT projects in the last 12 months among its achievements, all of which demonstrate alignment with the goals of the seven-member city council. The technology team is playing a key role in the creation of a fiber network backbone in the downtown area, which will serve as the foundation for future smart city efforts. Among other enterprise efforts of late are a move to cloud email with Microsoft 365 and the purchase of a business analytics tool (Microsoft Power BI), which it’s putting to use in several areas. 

Recent transparency-focused initiatives include a new open data site, linking to key city information, as well as IT-focused performance dashboards, with key metrics on things like staffing, attrition, budget and cybersecurity. Visitors can drill down on the type and number of blocked intrusion attempts, for example, as well as view stats on blocked malware and the percentage of employees who have completed cybersecurity training. Westminster boasts a comprehensive cybersecurity program with 14 components, including adherence to NIST standards and a cyberinsurance policy it’s looking to upgrade. One dedicated staff person and a recently hired apprentice are in charge of cybersecurity efforts for the city, which serves a population of about 110,000.

2nd City of Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Lee’s Summit, which resides in the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area, stepped up its regional collaboration this past year. It joined an interconnected radio system for emergency services and tapped into a separate collaboration in order to fund lidar-based gathering of elevation data. It’s working on a fiber-sharing agreement with the state and is in the process of discussing regional cloud services as well. 

In the past year, the city launched a new website, designed from the ground up with the perspective of the citizen — not the city — in mind. The city also consolidated its social, newsletter and digital media communications into a single team, launched a 311 mobile app and created a skill for Amazon Alexa so residents can ask their digital assistants what’s happening in Lee’s Summit. 

The city also made it easier for residents to follow council meetings, adding closed captioning to the live broadcasts of the meetings and creating a “council debrief” that highlights major talking points. 

Internally, Lee’s Summit has been covering a lot of ground. It hooked up three departments with iPads so they could complete more work in the field, and invested in training to help departments use their own data. Additionally, the city formed a data governance committee, appointed data custodians for each department, then went through and got rid of duplicate data and generally made data easier to find and use.

2nd City of Lynchburg, Va. 

Lynchburg, a city of around 80,000, received a second-place ranking by delivering on the promise of data, GIS and collaboration. Officials brought technology to bear on poverty, making geospatial and other research data available to a local college professor to generate maps that would aid in action planning. When a dam was in danger of failing recently, the city used GIS to map homes and businesses at risk and show road closures, publishing maps online and on social media within 12 hours of an emergency declaration. 

A Waze partnership via its Connected Citizens Partners program has enabled a live feed of lane and road closures. The city GIS office has used Esri’s Target Hazard solution to rank properties based on potential fire and natural disaster risk; and GIS data is also helping shape Lynchburg’s work on next-gen 911. 

The city updated its Open Data Portal with an intuitive interface and improved search feature, expanding available information into 16 groupings including demographics and utilities. Residents can utilize My City Services, an interactive portal that lets them find available services based on location. Elsewhere, they can check the status of projects submitted to the Planning Department. 

A collaboration between the city, longtime partner Lynchburg City Schools, and Lumos Networks has strengthened a fiber-optic network connecting more than 80 city and school locations. It’s managed by the city, but aspects of support, expansion and maintenance are handled by Lumos. Some core switches are located at schools, enabling the district to create local area networks to support its needs, and the city has rights to eight strands of fiber wherever Lumos builds.

3rd City of Boulder, Colo.

Boulder continues to make improvements to its open data program, placing a number of real-time metrics on its Boulder Measures dashboard. Its goals are to publish 100 data sets by the end of 2018, increase the number of departments represented and increase the number of data sets that publish automatically.

Boulder has taken other steps to better engage constituents, such as redesigning the city’s website to make it more user-friendly, and launching a new platform known as Be Bold Boulder, which makes getting involved in local government easier. The online town hall feature received about 6,400 visits during its first three months. Other technical improvements planned include the development of a broadband backbone in the next three years and implementing a cloud-first strategy for infrastructure in the next two years.

Boulder has demonstrated leadership through its numerous collaborations and partnerships. The transportation department is working with the University of Colorado to explore an autonomous vehicle pilot project. IT is considering a Startup in Residence program to help grow affordable housing options and opportunities. And Boulder will continue to be a lead city in the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance. Boulder is also one of the first 32 Resilient Cities, a movement by the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities around the world stand up to forces like climate change or social and economic challenges. With the help of its chief resilience officer, Boulder has completed a Resilience Strategy document.

4th City of Roanoke, Va.

When it comes to leveraging IT, Roanoke is focused on strategy and social media, two important themes that have helped the municipality of just under 100,000 residents punch above its weight as a digital city. To better serve its departments, the city’s Department of Technology has shifted from a five-year strategic plan to one that is updated annually. It uses the Lean Six Sigma methodology to evaluate business processes for the best way forward as far as efficiency is concerned. The result is better investments in systems that deliver results, such as the expanding functionality of its permitting system to boost economic development.

Roanoke has an aggressive social media program with more than 60 separate accounts, including a city Facebook page that has over 82,000 followers. This kind of engagement and citizen-centric focus has translated into a series of data-sharing projects, including one with Waze, the popular traffic app. There are also public GIS maps and a city performance app that gives citizens information on what the city is doing to respond to their queries, questions and complaints.

In other areas, the city is expanding its broadband connectivity to support local education and public libraries. It’s also installing more resilient infrastructure and increasing the use of data analytics to measure overall performance and assist city police with crime analysis.

5th City of Pueblo, Colo.

In Pueblo, Colo., technology has many facets, though much of the newest tech centers on its application within public safety. From a push to bolster communications tools and share data to its move away from legacy 911 systems and toward the use of drones, the city and local partners have drilled down on the essentials of law enforcement in the digital age. The new VoIP 911 system allows residents to not only establish a more reliable connection from their mobile devices, but also allows them to text dispatchers in the event they are unable to make a voice call. Fleet tracking and in-car modems across the city’s mobile assets — transit included — have allowed for better, more secure connections from the field, while enabling real-time GIS tracking. A new parking and citation system, complete with license plate recognition, has streamlined parking enforcement. IT officials are also in the first phases of a push to modernize the police computer ecosystem.

Beyond the public safety realm, the city has also invested substantial effort in transparency and government efficiency. A new ERP system, launched in 2017, has offered city staff granular control over budgeting and reporting, while at the same time allowing leadership to make data-driven decisions. Similarly, the city launched its financial transparency and data sharing portal in May 2018 and continues to share information with local, state and federal partners and residents. Plans to include pertinent police and fire data are in the works. The legalization of marijuana in the state has forced the city to respond with a comprehensive permitting and licensing process within its ERP system. The single point of access through the ERP allows officials and businesses to streamline this process and more carefully manage these businesses.

When it comes to protecting city and resident data, Pueblo makes a concerted effort. The “zero trust” initiative is part of an annual training regimen hosted by the city cybersecurity insurer. The police department has moved to two-factor authentication across all mobile devices.

5th City of Sugar Land, Texas

This past year for Sugar Land, Texas, has been one of building out and extending existing projects as they apply to tech and innovation work. For example, last year the Houston-area city established a 311 contact number. This year, it launched a 311 Contact Center facility and also pushed the platform online, broadening the ways that citizens can report potholes and other infrastructure needs.

As far as new work, Sugar Land was heavily involved in the response as the Houston area grappled with the impact and aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. For IT projects, the city has been using GIS in support of related studies to augmenting other work with sound IT infrastructure. Sugar Land also annexed some spaces in the past year, which necessitated IT scaling out some of its existing infrastructure to accommodate the increased size of the jurisdiction. In terms of public-facing efforts, open data and transparency work is ongoing in the city, with story maps that include street address information ranking as a nice service for citizens. Similarly, helpful services include an online town hall and a real-time traffic map, which also features flood gauges. The city continues to expand its social media presence. This past year, Sugar Land garnered 71,845 followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a new account on Nextdoor, an increase of roughly 40 percent. For its use of social media during Hurricane Harvey to get info to citizens, the city was awarded a statewide award from the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.

6th City of Independence, Mo.

The website for Missouri’s fourth-largest city was designed and developed in-house and provides quick access to the most popular services, trending news stories, employment opportunities, social media connections and an open government section. There are more than 70 different processes for citizens and business owners to pay for services. The city’s new Customer Information and Utility Billing System for electric, water and sewer customers replaced a 30-year-old legacy billing system.

Independence’s Cityworks enterprise asset and work management project has greatly improved operational efficiencies through technology. In the last year, the city migrated its business licensing operations from a legacy system into Cityworks. Also, as part of the Cityworks project, Independence consolidated all of its separate GIS databases, creating an enterprise GIS system. This lets the city see asset data in the same environment with building permits, business licensing and code enforcement cases. 

The city has expanded its open data presence by adding new data sets to the website for public use each quarter. Independence also enhanced its Wi-Fi infrastructure, enabling a more mobile workforce and offering additional public Wi-Fi access. 

The city partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to become part of What Works Cities, evaluating Independence’s performance dashboard and open data portal and identifying many changes that could be made to improve their usefulness. Independence also has regular status-check meetings with the What Works Cities organization to spotlight other tasks that can improve the city’s transparency.

7th City of San Leandro, Calif.

Many of San Leandro’s goals involve information technology and include: advancing projects and programs to promote sustainable economic development; a smart cities/broadband goal; providing quality public safety service that encompasses using cameras for crime prevention; and an upgraded dispatch building. 

The city plans to optimize these goals using its fiber-optic network and develop a smart city that includes digital transformation, or a digital city government experience. That includes digital services; open data; smart buildings and facilities; connecting facilities; and using integrated management systems for climate control and HVAC energy. Additionally, the plan will cover intelligent traffic signal systems that adapt to real-time traffic conditions and the use of intelligent services like cameras, drones, robotics and data for public safety. 

The city developed an open data policy that commits the city to implementing practices that allow it to make available useful data in useful format; provide access to free, historical archives of data; and support innovative uses of the city’s publishable data by external agencies, the public, and other partners.

San Leandro’s cybersecurity accomplishments include replacing existing firewalls with redundant Cisco Firepower 2140 Next-Generation firewalls. The agreement calls for the full suite of Next-Gen security functionality and includes identical models, which can be configured for automatic and instantaneous failure to avoid service disruption.

8th City of Avondale, Ariz.

Avondale, Ariz., has been preparing for the future by investing in emergency response, data management, cybersecurity and other sustainability measures. The city installed 16,000 feet of fiber this year, connecting its main data center to a disaster recovery site and two other facilities with a 10GB link. It also extended a communications tower from 30 feet to 70 in order to accommodate growing infrastructure demands; brought an additional Internet service provider to its main campus facility as a backup, in preparation for moving more services to the cloud over the next few years; and upgraded and replaced Wi-Fi infrastructure, with plans for more access points and park upgrades next year.

Avondale made security and cybersecurity its top priorities in 2018. Besides sending all IT employees through a 12-week training course for managing cyberissues, the city’s IT department bought online awareness training and phishing tests for all city employees; started upgrading the city’s Wi-Fi network to differentiate between city and public users; and started a “micro-segmentation” project to separate Web traffic between individual applications and servers instead of just inside and outside the network, which will allow the city to block or approve individual users for specific parts of the network.

For non-cyber emergency preparedness, Avondale worked with several agencies including ISM Raceway, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Phoenix Regional Fire Dispatch and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to update communications equipment at the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), making this EOC a command center for major events, training exercises or emergencies.

IT has an integral role in two of the city’s strategic plan priorities: foster sustainable development and create a connected community. So far this has involved providing body cameras for police officers, improving the city’s budgeting and financial reporting software, launching an online public records system called NextRequest, upgrading A/V hardware and software in city council chambers and conference rooms, keeping a video archive of city council meetings, and installing $75,000 in upgrades to the city court’s video system to reduce how many defendants must be transported to court in person.

Beyond that, Avondale is assembling an IT Governance Steering Committee to oversee future technical developments, planning to add mobile payment options for city services, switched its police to e-citation ticketing, and had its GIS Department enlist a private contractor to develop a stormwater mobile app that allows field crews to share information and images of their work in real time.

9th City of Bloomington, Ind.

The city of Bloomington defines its civic technology presence as “small but mighty,” with an IT team dedicated to innovation and effective and efficient services. The Information and Technology Services (ITS) Department is leading a Gigabit Fiber Broadband Initiative that will connect all residents and businesses to gigabit fiber. CTC Columbia Telecommunications was hired as the consultant for the project, and the department and city hosted a public symposium that featured high-profile panelists including FCC National Broadband Plan Executive Director Blair Levin. The city is now in the final stage of negotiations, having released an RFI and narrowed the field of respondents down to four possible vendors. Final awarding of the contract is expected within two months. Additionally in the infrastructure space, the city is developing a Certified Technology Park/Trades District and Switchyard Park in the downtown area. Fiber and wireless systems are currently being installed.

Also notable this year was the launch of BloomingtonRevealed.com, a citywide data visualization effort. Created by the Office of Innovation, the Web portal uses visualization tools and citywide data to give residents a look at the homelessness and addiction issues facing the city, as well as its responses. Bloomington also launched an open data portal and open source performance dashboard. The former, known as B-Clear, was built on CKAN’s open source platform and currently houses 142 data sets, which the city hopes to grow to 200 by the end of the year. B-Clear is one of the locations from which the city’s performance dashboard draws the data for its metrics. Other sources include uReport, Bloomington’s Open311 system that is updated each night, and the city’s Google Forms data, obtained through the use of a Google application programming interface (API). Furthermore, since it is open source, all of the source code for the dashboard application is available on GitHub.

10th City of Columbia, Mo.

Since last year’s Digital Cities Survey, Columbia, Mo., has continued its efforts in the areas of transparency and citizen engagement. The city met its financial visibility goal by launching a website in September 2018 that provides interactive charts, graphs and other tools that citizens can use to access city finances, and the portal is updated weekly. While shrinking tax revenue means Columbia’s IT department has a smaller budget, the agency is strategically planning its spending five years out, aligning business needs with smart spending, and implementing technologies like VoIP, which reduced telecom costs by $120,000. And although that lower budget has contributed to relatively high employee turnover, the department is filling some gaps by hiring high school students from the local public school district to learn computer networking. The city hopes those interns will return for subsequent summers, potentially creating a new talent pipeline. To shore up internal cyberdefenses, any Columbia staff member who opens a phishing email must take a mandatory four-part online training, which has resulted in a small drop in such opens in the last year.

Columbia has also added hardware that will allow for software-defined networking, doubled its Internet bandwidth to 2GB and added more than 100 Wi-Fi access points throughout the city. In terms of public safety, IT worked to help complete the transfer of 911 services to the county, which will help integrate with all county agencies, enabling real-time data sharing. Columbia’s drone program is getting off the ground, and the initiative, headed by the fire department, will also be used to market new Parks and Recreation facilities. In addition, the city can use the drones for things like flyover landfill monitoring, which will reduce the costs of this traditionally outsourced project.

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125,000-249,999 Population Category


Hover over points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st City of Bellevue, Wash.

Bellevue, the third-largest city in the metropolitan Seattle area, rocketed from fourth place last year to first by using data, enabling online functionality and realizing plans. Its open data program has added information around fire risk mapping, collisions and building permits. The city also provides Wi-Fi and hot spot mapping. Next year, the Information Technology Department (ITD) will build on a 2017 data analytics pilot to create an enterprise data solution. Last year’s soft launch of the online Public Records Center is also moving out of pilot with a more public-facing debut expected this fall.

During the next year to 18 months, the city of nearly 150,000 plans to migrate its website, which had a search engine upgrade this year to open source, to better exploit functionality. Officials also plan to stand up a new customer relationship management solution.

ITD’s updated Enterprise Technology Strategic Plan, a best practice, brings tech goals in line with city council priorities. The city’s use of My Building Permit as a one-stop shop Web portal for building permits and related activities is part of a larger success story as 15 area jurisdictions, including King County, now use the site. Bellevue is also a founding member of the eCityGov Alliance, a public nonprofit that provides regional online municipal services including hiring, recruiting, permitting and mapping.

Bellevue has built on existing data and surveys to further assess its performance management practice and culture. ITD is now working with internal partners to pilot a Data-as-a-Service program around improved data access and insight. It’s slated for wider use in 2019. The Bellevue Smart planning initiative has sparked partnerships centered on smart mobility, including an electric mobility solution that would connect south King County areas with limited commute options. Officials have requested a federal grant for the concept.

2nd City of Cape Coral, Fla.

Cape Coral continues to expand its open government and transparency abilities and has beefed up its open data collections to 64 data sets, including sites to track public records requests, search meeting minutes, election filings and other information. The city is also working with the Sunlight Foundation and GovX to leverage open data by implementing a data and performance metric tracking system and better engage with residents. 

The Cape Connect 311 app allows residents to report issues as well as photos. Another app, Etrakit, provides mobile access for permit applications and business licenses. Ping4alerts! allows public information officers to send geo-specific alerts for events in a particular area.  

Cape Coral is installing a smart streetlight system, along with other Internet of Things devices to support public Wi-Fi, license plate readers, security cameras and other functions. Artificial intelligence, combined with video feeds from the security cameras, will make the video data easily searchable. A drone project is being used to create a database of city-owned trees, which is made available to the public.

3rd City of Winston-Salem, N.C.

This year, North Carolina’s fifth-most populous city, Winston-Salem, leveraged technology to help deliver information to citizens and improve city services. The city was selected to participate in Bloomberg’s What Works Cities initiative in 2017. The city focused on “Fostering Livable Neighborhoods” by leveraging data to better allocate city resources and combat issues like blight. It has used its open data policy to form an Open Data Governance Committee, which is headed by the CIO and is in charge of overseeing Winston-Salem’s Open Data Program. The crux of this program will be the launch of the city’s first open data portal, which is currently still in the development phase. The main feature of the new city website, which is currently in alpha form, the portal’s first data set will be from the city’s Livable Neighborhoods initiative.

Winston-Salem launched an online sign-up tool for citizens who wish to get involved and speak at meetings. Citizens sign up ahead of meetings, and the mayor can call on each of them by name to invite them to speak. This tool allows everyone the chance to be heard and the city can track in detail what issues are most important to residents. It can be used to generate reports on topics discussed, such as how many people want to speak about them and how often they come up.

Winston-Salem also made strides in the cybersecurity arena. The CIO’s recommendation to form a Security Task Force met with unanimous approval. The group plans and authorizes everything from spending to best practices related to enterprise security. One thing the task force did was expand the city’s cybersecurity insurance coverage — it now covers cyber extortion; emergency management; network interruption; and security and privacy.

4th City of Alexandria, Va.

Alexandria, Va., is developing a new municipal fiber-optic network, which will form the bedrock for plans to build future smart city technologies, IoT, autonomous vehicles and anything else it needs in the years ahead.

The network is still in progress, but it started with connecting Alexandria’s two data center facilities with dedicated fiber. The new network is expected to be faster, more secure, better able to accommodate intelligent transportation services and an answer to one of the city’s biggest external challenges: the strain on public school infrastructure from a growing population (160,000 and counting). The municipal fiber-optic network will connect schools, libraries and support economic growth down the road.

Alexandria has partnered with Arlington County on a shared Smart911 website that allows residents to make their medical information more accessible to first responders; created a task force to work with business representatives on a Mobile Device Management program to make mobile tools and services more accessible and collaborative; created a “challenge team” of stakeholders to train city employees on Microsoft Office 365; revamped various processes for people to report streetlight outages, order mulch and get contracts approved; and launched the first phase of a new stormwater utility program, including a way to estimate fees, apply for credit and forward fee data to treasury for billing. This program earned Alexandria the Public Technology Institute’s 2018 Sustainability Award.

To expand Wi-Fi access, Alexandria has installed over 135 access points across 21 city sites, with immediate plans to add almost 100 more. The city also conducted an overhaul of its official website, alexandriava.gov.

Alexandria drafted new policies for data protection, established a tiered network to separate highly privileged users, instituted two-factor authentication and has added several other cybersecurity functions, protocols and best practices. The city also added a chief information security officer and drafted a multi-year strategic plan specifically for the ITS department, involving surveys, assessment of the department’s primary functions and interviews with department stakeholders.

5th City of Fort Collins, Colo.

Fort Collins, which tied with Norfolk, Va., for fifth place in its population category, has made citizen engagement its main digital theme. Last year, Fort Collins launched an online platform designed specifically to help with engagement. OurCity provides residents with online tools for giving feedback to the city, including discussion forums, surveys and polls, and an ideas bulletin board. Already the platform has been used by 12 projects to develop discussions about ideas and topics, and more than 30,000 people have visited it while nearly 3,000 have registered as participants. Also, to solicit citizen input, the city used a collaborative process to build its budget called Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO). BFO used mobile budget booths; online surveys and budget simulations; and priority ranking sheets in order to get communitywide input on the biannual budget. 

In another effort to reach citizens, the city is in the early stages of a broadband initiative that will provide fiber and Internet connectivity to every resident and business in Fort Collins. Following years of research and analysis and three public votes, a $150 million bond was approved to fund the project. Over the last nine-plus months, the city released RFPs for services and equipment necessary to build the network. Contracts were signed in July and the first paying customers are expected to be on the network by August 2019.

5th City of Norfolk, Va.

Norfolk, Va., created its open data policy in 2017 and launched its data portal in March this year, giving residents free 24/7 access to information such as the Norfolk Cares call center, permits and streetlights. The portal has 16 data sets, with more to be added in the future. What’s more, the city’s Open Data team is working with the Sunlight Foundation on a Tactical Data Engagement. The foundation is guiding Norfolk in identifying an issue that can be solved with data: resilience and flooding. Another transparency highlight, Balancing Act, gives residents a chance to give input on city budgetary decisions like increasing taxes or decreasing services.

Norfolk plans to upgrade its decade-old 311 tracking system this year to integrate the city’s workload management data. This will include launching a service portal that will upload and track residents’ issues; it will also be available as a mobile app. Norfolk has also striven to provide residents with more access to online services by building on its free public Wi-Fi network. That effort began in city libraries and expanded to free Wi-Fi in public spaces. There is also a MiFi program in public libraries, which permits residents to check out MiFi cards to access Wi-Fi.

6th City of Hampton, Va.

The Hampton City Council has pushed technology to enhance city services and that has translated into increasingly automated interactions with the public, simplifying the customer experience; increasing the availability of Internet access to residents and using technology to increase overall city efficiency. 

One area of technological enhancement has been law enforcement, where patrol cars have been equipped with cellphones to let officers check social media, view images from cameras, use publicly available tools to find relatives of suspects, get tips via apps and take and share photos. The city also deployed a real-time crime center with the ability to view public cameras, including traffic cameras, and track suspects in real time. 

Crime data has been available online for years, but technological upgrades have allowed the data to be mapped and manipulated by citizens. Police received a $2 million budget increase from 2016 to 2018 and technology is a large part of that. The city also continues to lead in innovation and transparency and the multimedia feature, For the Record, increases citizen engagement by providing interactive access to public meetings regarding budgets for crime and safety. 

6th City of Pasadena, Calif.

The city of Pasadena has made the use of data a top priority and has heavily utilized the IT department to execute its plans. The city had one of the first open data sites in southern California and continues to become more transparent, especially around budgeting and city council activities. Pasadena also looks for innovative ways to use data, like leveraging it for performance measurement. In addition, it proactively shares its data with Caltech (The California Institute of Technology) for use in data analytics courses. In return, the city has been able to use the results to gain insights into its operational areas. 

To serve citizens better, Pasadena has an active social media program (28,000 Twitter followers and daily posts to serve a population of more than 142,000) and has launched a universal online payment gateway pilot. The city is also testing Alexa as a voice assistant service for its residents. In terms of connectivity, the city runs a 25-mile fiber backbone and has leveraged the network to bring free public Wi-Fi to city parks.

7th City of Baton Rouge, La.

For Baton Rouge, La., the move toward a centralized IT environment is backed up by a multi-year strategy. This effort, prompted by external challenges, will ultimately allow for more efficiency, pooled resources and using attrition to reach staffing goals. The city relies heavily on data for daily operations, including the use of GIS and drones for public works projects. Broadband has been an ongoing focus and the completion of a strategic expansion plan was the city’s first milestone in its efforts to strategically deploy infrastructure.

With support from the Sunlight Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities, Baton Rouge has charged ahead to create an open data program and the policies and procedures that surround it. In addition to the formal policy, adopted in December 2017, the “open by default” standard helps to ensure residents, organizations and the media are seeing valuable data. This effort is further supplemented by the city’s Data Governance Committee. The data team is also working to make Open Checkbook BR a valuable resource for people curious about city spending. Staff are also working to relaunch Open Budget BR, which was taken offline until the launch of a new ERP system is complete. That new system replaces disparate and outdated technologies that are more than 20 years old. In addition to the normal efficiencies delivered in the update, the city has also included a vendor self-service portal to allow companies working for the city to find real-time information about new opportunities, pending payments and more.

In the public safety arena, city IT staff are working with Baton Rouge Police Department and Information Services to develop a real-time crime center to help reduce crime in the jurisdiction. A push to update the city’s cybersecurity stance includes the development of its first cybersecurity policy — though officials admit that current staffing levels make the overall effort difficult to take on. A cyberinsurance policy is also being considered. In a similar vein, the city has moved to harden its IT infrastructure by moving it out of flood-prone areas. A new 911 computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system is also expected by April 2019.

8th City of Montgomery, Ala.

Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery is focused on maximizing its citizens’ experience with their government. The city’s open data portal generates transparency for community members, creating trust with residents and businesses. It also works internally to assist with data-driven decision-making, helping to identify efficiencies that can help save on costs. This is part of Montgomery’s smart cities efforts, which are focused on improving quality of life within the city and improving communication with citizens. For example, Montgomery worked with RoadBotics to track street conditions, the findings from which will help prioritize repairs. In another private-sector partnership, the city is making garbage trucks central to its IoT efforts and using real-time service tracking data to monitor issues that residents may be facing throughout the city. To increase city Internet speeds, Montgomery partnered with the county of Montgomery as well as Maxwell Air Force Base to provide up to 100GB speeds for its 25 members, with the goal of attracting businesses to the area by offering faster connections at lower prices.

Montgomery’s No. 1 priority is to hire and retain talent, and while the IT department has recently experienced a relatively high retirement rate, new employees now take part in job rotation, by undergoing stints on the GIS team or with Web development, for example, to help them understand the big picture of what’s happening across the city. 

9th City of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Responding to shifting demographics, ninth-place Rancho Cucamonga adopted a master plan last year to provide high-speed fiber-based connectivity to residents and businesses in partnership with a local provider. The buildout will include the installation of video analytics technologies, automated license plate readers and smart irrigation devices, demonstrating the city’s commitment to quality-of-life planning that takes advantage of the capabilities of the Internet of Things.

An emphasis on data-driven government is evident in the initiative from the city manager to establish performance metrics for each department, which will be used to fuel budget decisions. Plans are also underway to feed key performance indicators (KPIs) into dashboards using data analytics tools. The city’s mobile app has also been revamped to gather better data on events reported by citizens. Similar effort is going toward citizen engagement and transparency efforts, with recent investments in new tools from Esri and Socrata aimed at advancing detailed financial reporting goals.

In the area of security, the city has upgraded its firewall and reconfigured its network for both device and identity-level security. Core business traffic on the network is separated from public and mobile network activity. A comprehensive cybersecurity training program boasts 90 percent completion for key staff, and IT employees stay current on skills with ongoing training and attendance at vendor educational events.

10th City of Corona, Calif.

After not making last year’s Digital Cities ranking, Corona showed its tech strength this year in open data and citizen-centric services. The city has created a data warehouse in the cloud, allowing for easier use of cross-departmental data, and that feeds an open dashboard as well as performance management and business intelligence software. It also enables a chatbot that helps answer citizens’ common questions. It credits the What Works Cities initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University for helping in those efforts.

Corona also has a “Citizen Tax Receipt” project to show residents how their tax dollars are being spent, a construction projects story map, an open checkbook, a SeeClickFix app and a city app to communicate with residents. In the future it plans on integrating some of these systems — 311 and the chatbot, for example — so they work together. The city has also made good progress on the back end, moving about half of its servers to the cloud, improving its firewalls and anti-malware protection and working to upgrade its network architecture.

Corona’s ongoing work includes an IT department re-organization, phishing training, a 5G deployment plan and creation of a mobile app to help people apply for homeless services — to name just a few projects.

[slideshow-break]

250-000-499,999 Population Category


Hover over points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st City of Virginia Beach, Va.

The city has taken an aggressive but practical approach toward innovation, using cloud services and new technology to identify solutions to problems and ways to streamline processes that used to be manual. One example is StormSense, which involves a fleet of sensors the city is in the middle of deploying that will gather measurements to allow for near-real-time data gathering on flooding — important for a coastal city vulnerable to both sea level rise and torrential downpours from Atlantic storms. The data is integrated with digital assistants, which the city has also used to help deliver information, and soon municipal services, to residents. The city also uses Accela to enable code enforcement inspectors to do more with tablets on the go, has implemented a new CAD system for police and streamlined election night reporting with secure cloud-based systems.

Virginia Beach also leads in regional collaboration, getting other cities on board with its smart cities working group so they can identify ways to share benefits of new technology. The city participates in a regional broadband steering committee, which is important because Virginia Beach is home to two undersea fiber cables connecting to Spain and Brazil, respectively. It’s preparing to connect with a third undersea cable that will link up with France.

As part of an open data-open source initiative, the city has migrated its open data portal and city intranet to open source software and has added transparency to a number of efforts. For example, the city has launched a new online Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) tool and has implemented new legislation management software that will index city council meetings to agenda items. The city has also accomplished quite a bit in securing its information technology, using continuous monitoring and cloud access security brokers while upgrading its Internet firewalls, gaining better visibility into threats hidden in encrypted packets and detecting malicious links in emails.

2nd City of Durham, N.C.

Maintaining its second-place ranking in this year’s survey, Durham is working to create a culture of innovation, equity and transparency. The city has a strong open data presence, including its Data Academy, now in its second year, to train staff in data analysis, as well as its Data Community of Practice, a group that meets quarterly to discuss transparency and data use. Durham wants to be sure to identify those communities that are not being equally served by government, so it can work toward closing the digital divide. In a related effort, the city has partnered with Duke University and Durham County to build a fiber-optic network to city buildings and Durham Housing Authority locations, which saved more than $400,000 in initial investments and will help close the connectivity gap going forward. This initiative also lays the groundwork for future smart cities work, as well as the growing need for fast, effective and affordable access for residents, which will be essential in overcoming what Durham identifies as its greatest challenge: a population anticipated to grow by more than 75,000 in the next five years.

In other areas, Durham’s security strategies are supported by both the city council and city manager, and IT has a strong commitment to cybersecurity training. In the future, Durham plans to use a chief information officer-as-a-service model to further shore up its defenses. Data is stored both on-premises and in the cloud, creating strong barriers against attacks like ransomware and breaches, as well as aiding in natural disaster recovery. When it comes to workforce, IT is committed to high standards for its hiring processes, which results in an impressive retention rate — employees stay with the city an average of 12 years.

2nd City of Kansas City, Mo.

The KCMO Digital Roadmap guides the city’s digital future along five key paths: digital inclusion, open government, engagement, industry and smart city. In March 2017, the city adopted a Digital Equity Strategic Plan for residents, with the goal to “chart a path from digital inclusion to economic mobility and entrepreneurship.” The plan aims to expand employment, education opportunities, business development and entrepreneurship.

Kansas City plans to launch an online open data portal known as Open Checkbook, which will illustrate how money moves into and out of the city in the form of salaries, overtime and other spending. The portal will be updated daily. Other data sets to be added to the city’s open data portal will include permit information related to the city planning and development departments, 911 calls to the fire department, as well as resident surveys, (in a form that conceals individual identities).

Another “Resident Survey Dashboard” is an interactive data set with information related to quality-of-life metrics, which can inform decisions in areas like planning or policymaking.

Kansas City is building on its smart city efforts, which include 328 Wi-Fi access points, 178 smart streetlights and 26 connected kiosks in a 54-block downtown region. New projects will include expanding the city’s streetcar line, implementing a “smart sewers” project as part of a $5 billion sewer overhaul, and increasing the number of smart kiosks to 108. The e-scooter company Bird was recently approved to operate up to 500 electric scooters in Kansas City.

3rd City of Mesa, Ariz.

The city of Mesa has several strategies that are enhanced by IT supporting measures. One is a sustainable Mesa economy. Along with the Economic Development Department, IT engages with commercial carriers to use city conduit and dark fiber to enhance services for potential business partners. A proof of concept project demonstrates how city digital infrastructure can provide broadband service to businesses interested in locating downtown. 

The first customer is the LaunchPoint technology accelerator, which provides entrepreneurs and small companies with business development assistance, networking and training opportunities. Transforming neighborhoods — keeping them clean, diverse, and economically vibrant — is another strategy and the MesaNow mobile app provides a central hub for services and information that includes utility payment access, news, calendar and video.

Cultivating vibrant spaces, ranging from a city block to entire economic centers that benefit residents, businesses and visitors is another goal. To help achieve this, Mesa has deployed public Wi-Fi in several locations throughout the city, including downtown, the Mesa Arts Center, city pools and many parks and education centers. 

To engage residents and businesses, the city deployed ImagineMesa, an online digital forum for conversations about community priorities and unique ideas. Data is gathered from social media sites, such as Facebook, Nextdoor, Instagram, as well as Google Analytics. Since its launch, more than 65,000 people have visited the site and 10,000 people have shared comments or supported an idea.

4th City of Long Beach, Calif.

Moving up from sixth place in 2017 to fourth place this year, Long Beach, Calif., has implemented mySidewalk, an economic insight dashboard that lets the community report neighborhood-level data and allows the city to track, analyze, and share progress on citywide economic objectives. Topics cover population, economy, housing, transportation and health.

Long Beach continues to expand its DataLB public data portal, offering more than 125 data sets. Last year, almost 11,000 unique visitors accessed the data. This year, the Technology and Innovation Department launched a crime incident mapping application in DataLB to provide current crime activity information for residents. The entire 2019 Proposed Budget was published on BudgetLB, enabling users to compare expenditures and revenues throughout all city departments.

The Southern California city averages 15,000 unique website visitors daily and has increased mobile views by 51 percent over 2017. The mobile-optimized website is supplemented by the Go Long Beach apps, which let people submit and track service requests, find lost pets and locate polling places, among other things. The city’s video team, LBTV, creates videos to explain and promote each app. These videos are published via TV, the Web and social media. The city’s communications team also launched the InsideLB blog to share articles and creative videos on human interest stories related to the city’s work and highlighting the people that work and live there.

Long Beach’s Justice Lab, launched in January 2018, has several initiatives underway that aim to break the cycle of incarceration. This includes Long Beach GUIDES (Government User Integrated Diversion Enhancement System), a mobile app developed by the police department and the city prosecutor’s office to give first responders needed information to quickly identify the most appropriate services for residents in need. The city’s Data Warehouse, part of the Data Driven Justice Initiative, is a clearinghouse for multiple data sets that let users crosscheck information about police, health, fire, and the city prosecutor’s office services to help coordinate services for residents. The GUIDES app is currently being tested for the Long Beach Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that aims to divert likely offenders to social services, including stable housing, counseling and rehabilitation. The Justice Lab also collaborated with the California Policy Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles to conduct a city data-driven, randomized control trial to identify likely repeat offenders and reduce recidivism rates.

5th City of Miami, Fla.

Miami’s new vision statement boldly proclaims that it is a modern and diverse city and “a global leader in technology, innovation and resilience.” The city manager recently led a departmental reorganization in order to help achieve this vision, bringing together the Office of Innovation, the Department of Information Technology, and the Office of Strategic Management to form the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT).

This new office will develop a technology road map as an addendum to Miami’s strategic plan. The city has secured a grant from the Knight Foundation to hire a full-time researcher and project manager. They are leading a comprehensive study of Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city technology to contribute to the road map and assist in future smart city development.

The city also recently launched an open data portal in beta, with data on things like 311, the budget and frequent permit requests. Additionally, in preparation for its future open data policy, Miami process-mapped some initiatives related to open data, such as intake and governance.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma last year, Miami leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS Collector technology in order to assist with debris removal. Personnel teams from Public Works and Planning were able to report on the status of streets and debris with smartphones, accelerating the process. The city also used Esri’s technology to create public-facing maps of flood data gathered from the teams’ smartphones.

6th City of Henderson, Nev.

Henderson, Nev., made a significant jump in this year’s survey, up four places over last year in its population category. The IT department continues its work aligning priorities with city initiatives, and this year has made strides in smart cities, connectivity and more. Henderson is working to offer low-cost or no-cost home Internet solutions for students, particularly those in unserved or underserved areas. The city is also meeting with private-sector companies to get fiber to areas determined to have Internet accessibility issues, and IT has expanded Wi-Fi accessibility throughout the city in part to help create safe, connected places for students to go after school and get homework done. In the last year, Henderson brought together a Smart City Working Group that includes representatives from almost all city agencies, and has worked with the state, the local school district and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on developing a regional smart city strategy. Plans are also in place to incorporate the use of big data from the city’s traffic sensors, and getting that information into the hands of data scientists will further bolster smart city plans. The city is also looking to launch a Smart City Innovation Corridor to serve as a test bed for emerging and civic projects, and is developing a strategy around autonomous vehicles operating on city streets.

To strengthen cyberdefenses, Henderson is working on communication around cyberbreach incident response with the state. This year the city conducted three tabletop exercises with city agencies including law enforcement, HR, public relations and more, and plans to update its Cyber Security Incident Response Plan to reflect the potential for breaches in the cloud as more applications are moved off-premises.

7th City of Riverside, Calif.

Riverside is battling back from a structural budget shortfall that resulted in three positions being eliminated from the Innovation and Technology Department and tech replacements being tabled for 10 years. IT staff in Riverside now expect an injection of $8 million spread over the next four years from the passage of a ballot measure in 2016. With the additional funding secured, IT is working on 13 priority projects in areas like cybersecurity, system upgrades, hardware and infrastructure. This well-orchestrated recovery is representative of an IT strategy that is well documented and closely aligned with the city’s overall goals. One example of a recent achievement is the deployment in the past year of more than 100 high-speed access points to boost the speeds and coverage of Riverside’s Wi-Fi network. The additions include in-vehicle devices that expedite uploads of body-worn video from law enforcement.

Transparency efforts were bolstered by Riverside’s selection as a What Works Cities jurisdiction, which allowed the city to add a GIS portal to its robust open data site, Engage Riverside. The city’s IT Department has created an Innovation Division to support a culture of modernization, and an Innovation “Lab” is now available for employees to collaborate on challenges that cross departmental lines.

The city’s multifaceted workforce development program includes a career road map tool for IT staff to help set a path for continual learning and growth. In addition, Riverside’s successful internship program converts many interns to permanent staff, like the Client Services division within IT, where almost two-thirds of personnel once served as an intern.

8th City of Greensboro, N.C.

Greensboro, North Carolina’s third most populous city, has emphasized citizen services as its central IT mission. Open data and transparency have been given priority, which is reflected in its data portal that the city says is the only one containing city council emails, along with budget information and data that supports decision-making at the community level. Greensboro has redesigned its website to focus on its target audience and includes an easy navigation system and interactive tools that make the site more responsive. The city is laying down plans to build a smart corridor that will take advantage of the latest in IoT, including kiosks, smart water meters and other sensors.

Internally, Greensboro is leveraging its data through the use of dashboards that track performance. A major fiber-optic installation will provide economic development support to the region, but it will also enhance government operations. In the area of security, Greensboro has achieved an ISO/IEC 27001 certification, a globally recognized standard for its cybersecurity management program that protects the city’s systems and programs from threats and cyberattacks. The city is one of only a few worldwide to achieve this prestigious cybersecurity certification.

9th City of Wichita, Kan.

Data is at the center of just about everything happening in Wichita. Projects are prioritized based on the value they provide to local residents and daily operations. For example, rather than rolling out gunshot detection systems across the entire city — a costly endeavor — city staff look to GIS heatmaps to determine where they are likely needed the most. An advisory council helps city leaders and IT staff take a “realistic view” of local needs and feasible solutions. The city is also focused on improving performance while saving taxpayer dollars through zero-based budgeting and reassessment of existing resources. Recently, an inventory gave staff new insights into programs and allowed for a reappraisal of what was needed and what was not. 

When it comes to keeping city operations transparent, Wichita is no stranger to sharing information. Code for America, local media and Wichita State University are all part of a data steering committee that helps staff to publish high-value data sets. To date, 70 of the most common records requests have been published to save staff time and provide ease of access. In September 2018, the city embarked on a mission to replace its CRM to better allow for data mining.

Like in many other cities across the United States, the need for access to the Internet has prompted aggressive action. This year alone, efforts to expand the broadband network resulted in a 171 percent growth rate. Over the course of the next two years, officials anticipate connectivity will jump by 762 percent.

IT officials are also excited about the potential for an AI chatbot they feel will improve the interface between the city — specifically the website — and residents. There is also potential for augmented reality to help utility staff locate underground power and water infrastructure. In a similar vein, the city and Wichita State University are working on a project to improve wayfinding for the visually impaired.

10th City of New Orleans, La.

New Orleans wasn’t ranked in either the 2016 or 2017 surveys, but a modern website, an emphasis on open data and the ongoing use of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework for quality assurance and IT change management have earned the municipality of 400,000 a place in this year’s ranking. Several federal consent decrees during the past half-decade have impacted IT funding, but the city has doubled down on cybersecurity, protecting endpoints internally, segmenting networks — and satisfying one decree through the implementation of two-factor authentication. Plans are to stand up a new integrated cloud security tool within the next year.

New Orleans has built on its open data portal and data policy to create a data inventory, link GIS data sets, and launch external data hosting and sharing. Its responsive website enables online payment of taxes and tickets as well as early notification of land-use changes, address-based services and information research and searches of the muni code. Recently, the city reached a pact with Waze to integrate its traffic data into New Orleans’ new Streetwise app, which tracks flooding and traffic accidents.

A cloud-based ERP will launch next year, and future plans around data include deploying an open checkbook dashboard to increase transparency. Recent projects using data virtualization have had ancillary benefit as the city has been able to leverage them to keep pace with the private sector in attracting new talent. New Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who took office in May, hired the city’s first chief technology officer in July. 

10th City of Sacramento, Calif.

Sacramento’s primary technical achievement in 2018 was beginning a citywide switch to 5G. Accomplished through a public-private partnership with Verizon in June 2017, Sacramento’s overhaul of high-speed data infrastructure involved more than $100 million of investment in fiber-optic infrastructure, “smart cities” solutions, youth development and public Wi-Fi. By adding small cell towers to more than 200 utility poles, Sacramento plans to make 5G available everywhere and put free Wi-Fi in 27 public parks.

The partnership made Sacramento one of the first markets in the nation to have citywide 5G residential broadband service. The city’s website also describes plans for digital kiosks in various neighborhoods, with touchscreens that offer access to real-time transit information and public transport maps, emergency services, information about events, historical information and neighborhood news.

Complementing its push toward mobile solutions, Sacramento started building a portfolio of useful apps for residents, launched a new search website, made a new Sac311 app its go-to resource for reporting issues or requesting services, and converted a parking map to a GIS-driven interactive map to help people navigate the new Golden 1 Center and elsewhere downtown.

Sacramento is also attempting data-driven improvements to make garbage-collection routes, police citations, water meters, building inspection and invoice payments more efficient. Hoping to attract professionals to support its digital future, the city’s IT department is conducting a study to ensure compensation, classification and staffing levels of its IT professionals are appropriate.

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500,000 or More Population Category


Hover over points on the map above to learn more about each winner. Red indicates 1st place winners, yellow indicates 2nd place winners, green indicates 3rd place winners, and blue indicates winners that placed 4th through 10th.

1st City of Los Angeles, Calif.

America’s second-largest city (population 4 million-plus) prides itself on being a digital municipality run by a data-driven government. The statement is backed by this year’s ranking of Los Angeles as the best Digital City in its population category for the third year in a row. Led by Mayor Eric Garcetti and IT General Manager and CIO Ted Ross, the city has held on to its top ranking with significant achievements. Take, for example, how it is tackling the thorny problem of homelessness with technology tools that support collaboration and communication across agencies and third parties. The city also uses data analytics to identify at-risk individuals before they become homeless and get them additional services. Additionally, the city has provided free Wi-Fi in homeless areas.

IT strategies that have reaped benefits include the city’s exceptional open data platform, which receives data sets from every city department. In addition, Los Angeles has rolled out various data visualizations, dashboards and storytelling tools to ensure data can impact city policies and practices, whether they have to do with sound finances or clean streets. Reinforcing the city’s dedication to data is its Data Science Federation, a partnership between city departments and 18 local universities, engaging hundreds of faculty and students to tackle a wide variety of analytic challenges, including predictive tools aimed at the city’s housing problem.

Los Angeles also sees wireless as the future and is committed to replacing most of its wired infrastructure with wireless. Investments in mobile technology prove that the city is dedicated to providing all of its citizen services anytime and anywhere on a mobile device. Other examples of innovation include third-party data sharing to increase the range and variety of resident services, and the use of new technologies, such as artificially intelligent voice assistants. To reduce its risk as a connected community, the city has implemented a robust cybersecurity framework, which includes an event management system that can monitor 1 billion data records daily from a single platform. The city’s overall security program has been nationally recognized for its exceptional protection of city data, certainly one of its most valuable assets.

2nd City of San Diego, Calif.

San Diego’s Department of Information Technology has undertaken a number of initiatives with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for its residents through technology. And while some of the department’s efforts — like the cybersecurity awareness training for all 11,000 city employees — are more felt than seen, they all tie back to keeping the city running as effectively and efficiently as possible. But this mission is not without challenges: Traffic congestion, homelessness and the commitment to rigorous climate action goals are just some of the areas where technology is being put to the test.

When it comes to accessibility for residents, staff has invested in creating online portals and applications that are both aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. A prime example is the MyWaterEasy app, which allows residents to not only pay their water bill, but also to make donations toward the payment of other residents’ bills. Open data and transparency have also been key priorities, and efforts here have earned the city an ISO 37120 Platinum certification. When it comes to cybersecurity, some 2.5 million attacks per month have pushed the IT staff to move toward single sign-on, awareness training across the board and partnerships with a large cross-section of private, local, state and federal partners.

In efforts to become a smarter, safer place to live, the city is in the process of deploying 3,200 smart streetlights to improve traffic and pedestrian safety, monitor air quality and optimize parking. The savings from this project will be an estimated $2.8 million in energy costs each year. The data pulled from this sensor network will ultimately tie into efforts to refine parking meter rates. A commitment to working smarter not harder is also evident in the city’s efforts to coordinate fiber-optic installation with ongoing water and sewer pipe replacement, so they don’t duplicate digging efforts and unnecessarily disrupt the community.

San Diego has also put substantial energy into building partnerships. One such example is the two-way data-sharing agreement with Waze that is helping the traveling public and the city make better decisions to reduce congestion.

3rd City of Louisville, Ky.

Louisville continues its strong push toward the top of the Digital Cities Survey, coming in two places ahead of its 2017 finish. This year, the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) and the Office of Civic Innovation (OCI) worked with leadership on the city’s 20-year plan to make sure technology is addressed, and were sure to include resident input, which is in line with Louisville’s strong digital inclusion efforts. To address the digital divide, DoIT and OCI are working to get low-income residents signed up for low-cost Internet, adding Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the city, and building more than 100 miles of new fiber-optic backbone for smart city technologies. Louisville's goal is to be a truly smart city by the end of 2022, and also has plans to build a new smart transportation corridor over the next couple of years.

Louisville acknowledges that to be useful, open data must make sense to more people than just data scientists, and this year hosted its first internal hackathon using data from Waze, which introduced more people to what can be done with open data sets. The Open Government Coalition is a new program that brings together private- and public-sector groups to create and maintain cloud initiatives for multiple cities, paid for by private-sector partners. In a second project, more than 80 governments can use Waze data for traffic analysis and more. 

The city has an impressive array of civic engagement offerings, including an ever-evolving website and 131 social media accounts, and this fall launched a new online portal for citizen reporting. In terms of cybersecurity, Louisville has adopted a hybrid cloud approach that gives staff protections outside of just the premises of city buildings, and in a single month identified and blocked more than 9 million threats. And in an aggressive move to solve IT workforce issues, DoIT added a position to the agency dedicated to working on recruitment, retention and training.

4th City and County of Denver, Colo.

The combined government of the city and county of Denver ranks fourth among large cities, with a population around 700,000. Much of that population — about 100,000 — has moved to Denver within the last seven years. The significant influx of new residents has put a strain on the city’s ability to deliver services with the same number of staff. A forward-thinking technology program with an emphasis on innovation is at the heart of the city's efforts to bridge the gap.

Denver is on the leading edge of data use, reporting the recent deployment of an Enterprise Data Management (EDM) system, which it points to as foundational for smart city efforts. The system collects real-time information on weather, environmental health, transportation and freight, giving the city baseline data it can use to test tech-driven innovations. More than half of Denver’s organization-wide applications are now in the cloud, made possible by recent investments in platforms from Microsoft, Workday, Accela and Salesforce. And those investments were made possible by Denver’s creation of a dedicated funding stream for technology innovations — a practice some jurisdictions are starting to embrace. Many elements of the workforce can now do their jobs from the field, saving the time and expense of more manual workflows, while expanding digital access to citizen services provides residents and business owners the same conveniences.

Mayor Michael Hancock signed Denver’s Protected Data Privacy Policy this year, which created a dedicated privacy position to focus on the proper handling of city data, with participation from a newly created Information Governance Committee. A citywide privacy training program is now being created, with full program rollout expected within five years. As for cybersecurity, Denver adheres to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework, and has added new automation tools, including one that automatically blocks the sender and URL of phishing emails and removes all other emails with those same identifiers.

5th City of Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte’s Innovation and Technology Department has brought a data-focused mindset to many initiatives. One example are the North End Smart District projects, which have incorporated citizen feedback into efforts to improve the northern part of the city. Residents have lowered utility bills using weatherization and smart home technology, while the city has gathered data from those efforts to demonstrate cost savings.

The Office of Data and Analytics has improved its open data portal by increasing the number of data sets from 48 to 121, creating a function that allows departments to tell stories using their data; and, it has set up 15 peer-led training courses for other city employees to learn how to use data.

The city’s IT staff has built a dynamic, smart cybersecurity paradigm. Artificial intelligence engines scan traffic for threats in ways that used to require staff. An outside vendor will perform audits, compliance checks and penetration tests regularly. Charlotte is currently working on a system that allows employees to apply for, check the compliance of and complete firewall exemption requests on their own using automated workflows. Another effort underway is to set up geographically dispersed servers to render denial-of-service attacks ineffective.

The IT Department has done good work supporting public safety functions as well. It’s involved in a six-county interoperable radio network for public safety offices as well as other local government agencies and is working on text-to-911 as the first phase of a Next-Generation 911 project. Another effort will make it easier for police to access various agencies’ video systems for crime investigations. A pilot with HAAS Alert notifies drivers through Waze when a fire truck is responding to an emergency nearby.

6th City of Boston, Mass.

Massachusetts’ state capital and largest city has a reputation for engaging the public with available data and focusing on digital equity. This year, the city of more than 685,000 rose into sixth place for continuing to deliver on data analytics and connecting residents to modernized infrastructure and processes. Boston responds to all feedback received, is upgrading its popular 311 system, and is creating a mobile-responsive version of its website so users will no longer need an app. 

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics facilitates smart city developments and partnerships. The Citywide Analytics Team has added two data sets focused on Vision Zero fatalities and crash information to Analyze Boston, its open data portal, which hosts more than 140 data sets and maps. The transportation department will use them to mitigate accidents.

Boston’s quest for digital equity, which saw the city award one $35,000 grant this fiscal year, will more than double during the next fiscal year with an additional $100,000 for grants. In a special partnership, Internet provider Starry, the city’s housing authority, and the Department of Innovation and Technology are collaborating on a pilot to provide free and low-cost Internet to public housing communities. Via its small cell license program, the city is overseeing installation of small cell infrastructure in a process aimed at ensuring 4G and future 5G deliveries meet connectivity needs.

Three years ago, DoIT hired an IT procurement lead and a talent acquisition manager who have increased DoIT’s competitive procurements by more than half, lowered its procurement life cycle by one week and enabled work with more than 150 new vendors — without expanding its capital budget. The city also recently hired a cybersecurity liaison to work with municipalities in the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region.

6th City of San Jose, Calif.

San Jose advanced two spots this year, moving from eight place up to sixth place in the 500,000 or more population category. Larger cities like San Jose tend to have a great potential for innovation, and San Jose has certainly seemed to make good on that, making great use of initiatives such as the My San Jose website and app, which went live in July 2017; residents can now use them to request and track city services. A wide variety of smart city projects, branded under the mayor’s San Jose Smart City Vision, represent an ambitious drive to become the nation’s most innovative city by 2020. What’s perhaps most impressive, however, is that San Jose has successfully worked to reduce staff vacancies, doing so in what is arguably one of the most competitive regions to recruit and retain tech and innovation talent, with private-sector companies offering big salaries to draw tech workers to nearby Palo Alto and San Francisco.  

San Jose has also undertaken efforts to better equip itself for the future, collaborating with telecommunications companies to prepare for the wide-spread advent of 5G connectivity. Meanwhile, open data trends have recently demanded that cities do more than just release open data, with storytelling also coming into fashion. San Jose is addressing this by converting its open data approach to data journalism, which puts an emphasis on using its open data to tell community stories. This continues to manifest in work such as the San Jose Police Use of Force Data Analysis, among other portals. These efforts seem likely to soon accelerate with an RFP for a new San Jose data portal currently being awarded. San Jose’s AI-driven content search is also a forward-thinking piece of work.

7th City of Phoenix, Ariz.

During his time as mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton pushed the city toward a more diversified economy with a focus on jobs in the innovation and skills-based economy, with long-term goals centered around reducing homelessness, transforming transportation and creating more business development. Information Technology Services, along with other city departments, has launched key technology projects to work toward these goals. In 2017, Phoenix launched PHX C.A.R.E.S. (Community Action Response Engagement Services), a Web portal that provides information related to homelessness, including statistics, services and opportunities to help.  

The Phoenix Transportation Department has invested $37 million in a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and automatic vehicle location system to make transit services more efficient and increase capacity while reducing congestion, fossil fuel use and air pollution. A pilot program has equipped 18 buses with the new system, with a wider rollout to occur at the end of 2018.  

ITS worked with the city’s Economic Development Department to identify “Phoenix Opportunity Zones,” which provide business incentives in the form of tax breaks when investing in low-income areas. To engage youth in technology career fields, the city launched a tech education initiative known as CodePHX, a free program focused on coding, robotics and 3-D modeling. ITS worked to set up computer stations at 12 locations, as well as offer technical support. To improve interactions with residents, ITS has deployed an open data portal that includes campaign finance information, and it has set up the Phoenix at Your Service (PAYS) portal, which allows residents to report neighborhood blight or street conditions, as well as request city services. 

8th City of Albuquerque, N.M.

Mayor Tim Keller has a vision for an innovative community in Albuquerque, among other qualities, and recognizes the importance of technology in achieving that end. The police department is installing digital kiosks and hardened desktops in its stations that will allow citizens to submit reports online, improving their access to law enforcement services. The city also recently recorded new internal training videos for employees on cybersecurity and phishing awareness. The former has been viewed just over 1,000 times, while the latter has hit 1,648 views since they were uploaded in March.

Prior to the 2017 election, Albuquerque implemented an online portal for near-real-time voting information on things like polling location hours and wait times. Where2Vote proved popular and was used again in 2018, getting one hit for every two votes on Election Day. Also in 2017, the city launched its One ABQ app, which inputs residents’ 311 service requests directly into the customer relationship management (CRM) application. It can also link users to other mobile applications and send them notifications directly from the city. To improve citizen engagement, the city updated and enhanced access to its open data portal through a partnership with OpenGov. The city sees this move as an important part of its larger transparency efforts. Beginning this year, the city plans to work with a local vendor to enhance its open data offerings and make data visualizations a staple of life in Albuquerque.

8th City of Las Vegas, Nev.

Las Vegas has set its sights on becoming a “smart” city with an innovation district, online portals, apps and other tech-based initiatives touching most of the city’s operations. In April, the city laid out six priorities for its strategic plan and indicated IT would have a hand in them all: 1) Iconic Las Vegas, for preserving and promoting memorable places, which will require communication infrastructure, kiosks and wayfinding technologies; 2) workforce development, which will involve the promotion of tech-based programs in higher education as well as ConnectHome, an attempt to provide those in need with a tablet and cell connection to look for jobs; 3) Smart Vegas (see below); 4) serving at-risk populations, aided by a GOVegas mobile app which has a “homeless” feature to connect those in need with services; 5) revitalization of at-risk neighborhoods, requiring infrastructure for public safety, mobility and connectivity; and 6) public safety, which will be aided by IoT-based cameras for surveillance and noise detection. 

The third pillar among these, Smart Vegas, is a broad attempt to implement new tech in areas of public safety, economic growth, mobility, education, social benefit and health care. The city established an innovation district for new ideas and infrastructure, supported by public-private partnerships that encompass a driverless shuttle, IoT sensors and networking, more Wi-Fi networks, alternative fuel charging stations, smart metering for streetlights, new video and audio systems for crime detection and prevention, air quality monitoring and a mobile app for parking. Las Vegas also became the 25th member of the Smart Gigabit Communities program in March 2018, requiring it to develop two gigabit applications or services per year that use advanced technology to solve issues.

Tackling cybersecurity, in the past year the city replaced its anti-virus tool with an endpoint protection product that uses machine learning rather than signatures, installed an email gateway that uses machine learning to identify unsafe attachments, and doubled the number of devices being monitored by its security provider. For transparency and accessibility, Las Vegas built its new website on a new cloud platform and is working on an online portal through which it could proactively release all publishable city data.

9th City of Chicago, Ill.

Chicago holds more than 600 data sets in its open data portal, which includes information on transportation (e.g., bike racks, towed vehicles and red-light camera violations); service requests (e.g., potholes reported, potholes patched, vacant buildings, tree trimming); and education (e.g., public school report cards, monthly Wi-Fi usage at public libraries, and locations for Connect Chicago, a network of Internet access and digital skills training). The portal receives more than 80,000 monthly visits.

Chicago has spent the last year developing the OpenGrid for Smart Cities interactive map display of city data in real time. There is a mobile app version, and it offers 311 service request information, data on issued building and film permits, and restaurant inspection information.

The city’s Open311 system is being redesigned to be more interactive than ever. It will let residents text in service requests, attach photos and track their requests. In addition to the traditional phone interactive voice response system, users can soon opt for text messaging; social media; community portal with knowledge base; Web-based portal; or a redesigned mobile app. The system also allows city aldermen to check on citizen requests for work in their districts, keeping them more in touch with residents’ concerns.

In 2018, the city plans to replace more than 450 Chicago Public Library public access computers and open six new library branches. Additionally, residents can check out laptops and Wi-Fi hot spots from libraries, helping them learn digital skills with accessible resources. This year, Chicago launched CityKey, an optional, valid, government-issued ID card that encourages resident engagement with city resources. Initially CityKey served as a government-issued ID, Ventra (public transit payment) card and library card. The card was originally created to reduce barriers to those who have difficulty accessing government-issued identification, but now includes discounts and other benefits for all of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents.

10th City of Dallas, Texas

Four primary objectives drive the technology needs of Dallas — citizen-centric, smart platform, data-centric, and security and privacy — and are the essential building blocks that align with the city’s priorities: public safety, human and social needs, mobility solutions, infrastructure and sustainability, government performance, financial management, quality of life and economic vitality.

To support its objectives, the city uses an open data portal and a big data platform to provide access to data anytime, anywhere and to foster trust as well as enable evidence-based decision-making. The Dallas Data Ecosystem was implemented in 2017 and connects information from more than 250 applications and systems into a common, unified platform. It allows the city to make intelligent decisions and share data for analysis.

Dallas is implementing a Fire Risk Predictive Model that is data-centric (and also uses the big data platform), to provide a risk assessment index and fire inspection prioritization interactive map that shows building locations that might contribute to fire risk. In its commitment to “service first” excellence, Dallas focused, over the last year, on simplifying the end user’s experience with city services. It implemented a responsive version of its website to give citizens access from any device where they can view details about the city’s performance and interact with a dashboard — Dallas 365 — that shows residents the ways the city is committed to service first. The dashboard also tracks progress on 35 performance measures of its strategic priorities.

Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 10 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.