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Digital Cities 2020: IT Foundation Key to COVID Response

The winners in this year’s Digital Cities survey have long been following well-laid plans for modernizing infrastructure, cybersecurity and citizen services, meaning they were prepared to stand up to the pandemic.



This year’s leaders in the Digital Cities survey from the Center for Digital Government* share some common characteristics. They were leading the way pre-pandemic, and were able to shift on the fly when COVID-19 struck.

All were already engaged in energetic modernization efforts. Some were upgrading enterprise systems or implementing digitals tools in support of citizen service. Others were revamping cybersecurity or finding new ways to leverage data in support of municipal needs.

Then they pivoted nimbly when the pandemic arrived. They supported remote work, and continued to deliver on the promise of citizen service, despite the radically changed circumstances. 

Danville, Va., 1ST PLACE, UP TO 75,000 POPULATION CATEGORY

Prior to the COVID outbreak, the city of Danville was already investing heavily in its security infrastructure, a move that put it in a strong position to respond to pandemic-driven needs.

“We invested quite a bit of time in new initiatives this past year around cybersecurity,” said CIO Inez Rodenburg. “We did a full risk assessment with an outside consultant who looked at our security posture, and we came out with some additional initiatives that we could implement. From there we conducted two tabletop exercises with our entire IT team and then we updated our cyberincident response plan.”

The city purchased a log and event management system in support of this effort, and IT worked in close collaboration with other stakeholders to drive systemic improvements. “We have involved our users and out city departments. They are very aware of our security plans and practices,” she said. “Having them on board makes it all a lot easier.”

IT leadership had also taken steps to reduce turnover, thus ensuring continuity of operations. A newly implemented career apprenticeship program “allows staff within our department to progress upward through their own initiative,” Rodenburg said.

“It includes on-the-job experience, credential requirements, ongoing evaluations and goal setting. It leads to increased pay and more responsibilities,” she said. “The hope is that we will keep more employees, improve morale and keep them learning.”

Such efforts, along with sound IT governance, helped to position the city well for the rapid shift to remote work.

“With the onset of COVID, we were in a really good position to immediately move our workers to working from home,” she said. “We had the policies in place, a work from home policy and a VPN policy. We already had the security in place. We had the hardware, with close to 100 laptops ready to go before COVID.”

Preparedness helped on the citizen services side as well. “We already had processes in place for taking payments remotely, and we expanded that across additional departments. Because we had something already in place, it took us only about a week to turn that one,” she said.

Early efforts in digital media helped position the IT team to support virtual city council meetings. “We do a lot with social media, so we already had a multimedia manager who live-streams council meetings to Facebook. Turning that into Zoom and streaming it live was pretty seamless for us,” she said.

To support such digital efforts going forward, Rodenburg leans heavily on stakeholder engagement. This is especially helpful in ensuring enterprise-wide compliance on emerging security protocols.

“We do a regular security report to the departments, a review of what is going on and what our future plans are,” she said. “We also involved them in the risk assessment, which helps them to feel vested and to feel engaged.”

Sugar Land, Texas, 1ST PLACE, 75,000-124,999 POPULATION CATEGORY

In Sugar Land, Texas, a transition to a modernized enterprise resource planning system was already in the works pre-COVID, and the city was able “Our biggest initiative this year was to replace our ERP system, our financial system for the whole city,” said Interim IT Director Brian Butscher.








Future Ready

The Future Ready Award is presented to a jurisdiction that is actively laying the foundation to address the disruptive and converging forces that are shaping an uncertain future. 

Lynchburg, Va. took a big step in that direction when it created a citywide plan for the years 2020-2024, spelling out 29 goals for the city. The IT strategic plan aligns with the citywide plan, to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction. 

Forward-looking efforts include a collaborative approach to upgrading the network infrastructure, as well as a move to the cloud in support of enhanced data recovery. A focus on cybersecurity helps the city to stay ahead of the curve, with an Information Security Team meeting biweekly to address emerging issues. 

An emphasis on data, along with strategic partnerships, helps position Lynchburg for the future. By connecting community leaders and nonprofits to government data, the city already has made strides in addressing civic needs. This data-centric approach helps to solidify Lynchburg’s place as a future-ready jurisdiction. 

“We were an AS400 platform for at least 25 years. When you went to do a purchase order or a contract, you were on green screen,” he said. “We transitioned over to the Munis platform. It allows us to not only manage our financials in a much more robust and aggressive way, but also to run reports, develop service levels, and provide the critical data managers need to make decisions.”

The city had significant in-person training planned for the new system, and had to shift quickly when COVID arrived, putting in place training sessions via Microsoft Teams, Zoom and prerecorded video. “In spite of that we met our targets” and went live on Oct. 1 as planned, said Imelda Balane, Sugar Land’s information technology manager for applications. “The project teams really worked like a clock to meet all the deadlines.”

Last year the city also revamped an internal citywide landing page for employees, a move that helped make information more readily available during the onset of remote work.

“This is where we release news, where we keep all the documents and forms, all the policies,” Butscher said. “We converted that to a new form of SharePoint that improved the overall speed of the homepage by at least 40 percent. We worked with almost all the departments to revamp the way it looked, to make it more user friendly.”

That investment has paid off. “We have seen significantly increased traffic. People are actually using it now,” he said.

Prior to COVID, the city had no remote work, nor even a policy in support of it. All that had to be built from the ground up and the IT team took the lead. “We very deliberately went through each department to determine their needs: Who has a laptop, who needs one, what kind do they need? We also looked at the cybersecurity side, making sure we had the software in place to actually secure them in a remote setting,” Butscher said.

It took a coordinated internal effort to drive the transition. “We had training for the employees who needed it, but it starts one level higher, with management setting up the governance to make this all work,” Butscher said. “Our city manager and assistant city managers had to define what success would look like. They told us we needed to provide the same level of service to citizens as we were pre-COVID, and where we couldn’t do that, we had to have clear messaging about how that service level would be changing.”

Success depended on having, foremost, the right mindset. “We had to be willing to say yes to supporting new things,” Balane said. “When you are supporting essential services, you are in fact an essential service, and everyone in IT had that in mind.”

Going forward, the team is looking to develop a coordinated communications plan to support the city’s license plate readers, its dynamic traffic management system and wireless communications — a whole host of IT deployments physically situated outside of city hall. “We can’t just have everybody building their own communications infrastructure to meet their needs. We as IT need to be building that to support the whole city,” Butscher said.

Bellevue, Wash., 1ST PLACE, 125,000-249,999 POPULATION CATEGORY

High-level leadership has helped Bellevue, Wash., to earn its place among the forward-looking digital cities. “We are seriously lucky to have a strong council vision for a smart, innovative city. That really helps support a lot of the digital work across IT and throughout the enterprise,” said CIO Sabra Schneider.

That unified vision has yielded practical results, including the introduction of a smart water integration dashboard. “It enables water meter data alignment across multiple IT systems, for geographic information systems, asset management and work order systems, as the city works to replace 40,000 water meters as part of our smart water project,” she said. “The dashboard catches data quality issues and supports the rollout of smart water to drive business and operational systems.”

The city also has undertaken its first robotic process automation (RPA) pilot project. “It was a partnership with the city agency Development Services, which supports development across the city,” Schneider said.

“They are already paperless, and this year they were moving from an on-prem system to cloud. They were looking trying to move more than 2,500 active plan review sessions — by hand,” she said. “We worked in partnership with them to automate that work using robotic process automation, using software to program a bot to do the time- and labor-intensive tasks. It allowed this process of moving plan review applications to happen after hours and with a low error rate, with the bot doing the work and leaving development services staff free to continue serving the public.”

The IT team subsequently leveraged RPA in support of help desk trouble tickets, which doubled virtually overnight at the start of the COVID crisis.

“We wanted to see if we could put the most frequent help desk questions into a chatbot as a way to gain additional capacity,” she said. “Our digital government team partnered with folks across the city who were answering those front-line questions to launch a COVID-related chatbot first in English and a month later in five additional languages.”

In the early months of the crisis, “it was answering a lot of the questions that were happening the community, questions around Internet connectivity for students, around small business needs, around testing and public health data,” she said. "The city’s rapid, tech-driven response to the pandemic was largely the result of strong ties to industry and with other municipalities. “

Partnerships were incredibly helpful,” Schneider said. “We teamed with Microsoft to help with the chatbot, particularly the multilingual part of that. We also talked with the city of Seattle and they were tremendously helpful in sharing their experiences. Those engagements helped us to pivot our plans and to deliver as quickly as we did.”

Virginia Beach, Va., 1ST PLACE, 250,000-499,999 POPULATION CATEGORY

Data and artificial intelligence have been among the driving forces of IT modernization in Virginia Beach.

“We have worked with Waze to include city traffic data for citizens and visitors. We are using our own data and using it for real-time traffic monitoring and updates,” said CIO Peter Wallace. 

That effort will help the city to cope with next year’s Something in the Water, a five-day spring break event for college students that in a typical year draws a couple of hundred thousand people. “Our GIS team really took the ball and ran with it in an effort to ease traffic,” he said. “This is an annual event, and navigating traffic issues is one of the things we have to do well.” 

The IT team also has leveraged data analytics to drive more informed decisions. “We use it in the budget process, we use it in determining projects, and we use it to be citizen-centric, to ensure that the data citizens receive is what they are looking for,” he said. “To that end, we’ve been using more mobile apps to provide one-stop shopping for city information.” 

The city also has put AI to use. “We’ve incorporated it for how we route waste pickup, so citizens know every week when the truck is coming,” Wallace said. “We can say what parks are open at what time, when the libraries are open, what the activities are near you.” 

When it came to COVID, the city had a sort of trial run the previous spring. In May 2019, a shooting incident left 12 dead in a municipal building. In the aftermath, 400 employees had to be relocated as the FBI closed the building for forensic analysis. 

“It taught us to be very agile,” Wallace said. “It taught us how to work with our vendors to get new machines up and running, to get networks up and running quickly. It was almost like a pre-run for COVID.”

When the pandemic arrived and some 6,000 city employees shifted to remote work, “we were prepared to address that kind of event,” he said. “After the previous event, we wanted to be more agile, to provide service no matter where, so we moved a lot of stuff up to the cloud. We upgraded our VPNs and our network access so that everyone who had to work remotely could do so securely.” 

In the midst of the COVID crisis, a new ERP system went live in July. “The old system was over 20 years old, very manually driven,” he said. “Now things are much easier. We have a new procurement module, a new budget module, and it’s all integrated and transparent.” 

The key to making such big transitions without losing a beat? “It’s about being mindful of the digital transformation,” Wallace said. “We adapted to the digital way with an eye toward being citizen centric, providing the best services regardless of the situation. If you have that mindset, with support from the council, you can make things work.”

San Jose, Calif., 1ST PLACE, 500,000 OR MORE POPULATION CATEGORY

Coming out of a decade of deficits, San Jose put itself on a long-term strategic IT plan in 2017, and the past year saw those plans fall into place. 

“We were going to get healthy, win some key races, and then change the game to take on the changes in support of housing and homeless, of transportation design, of equity. That’s the arc we have been on,” said CIO Rob Lloyd. 

That transformation included a big CRM overhaul, which in turn has helped support new citizen engagement initiatives. “We wanted to be omnichannel, so the public can contact us by phone, email, website, mobile app or chatbot,” he said. 

The new CRM helped to foster those connections. “If you as a resident submit a case now, it goes directly to the work system that assigns the work in that department, directly to the people who are doing the work,” Lloyd said. “Now we are implementing language support for that. Once we complete the scale rollout, we will be able to support up to five languages, and the results of that in community testing have already been very positive.” 

The city also has made strides in citizen engagement by reconfiguring systems to route non-emergency calls from 911 to the 311 system. That eased pressure on the emergency line while still ensuring citizens had a simple pathway to access needed services.

The city also has invested in its cybersecurity infrastructure and has made other changes that helped it to pivot when the pandemic struck. “We were already building the foundations for a mobile and remote workforce, and we went from a two-year plan to executing in three weeks,” Lloyd said. 

“We partnered with Zoom and Microsoft to move our city contact center to work from home. Our emergency operations center went virtual in the first week. Then we sent everyone to work from home using these tools,” he said. 

The key to making such a rapid shift? It takes “a tremendously talented team of civic technologists, data geeks, fearless tinkerers and deeply committed public servants,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Their collective work is a testament to the spirit of our innovative community, and I couldn't be more proud of how far we’ve come. We’ve got much more ahead, though, and we're not resting on any laurels.” 

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



1st Danville, Va.

Climbing one spot to the top of the list this year, Danville used the disruption of COVID-19 to modernize. The city replaced desktops with laptops, invested almost $300,000 in renovating conference rooms for virtual meetings, used InformaCast technology to set up emergency notifications for remote employees and started the process of transitioning its digital permitting and licensing services to the Cityworks platform. It also capitalized on CARES Act funds by using them to replace the city’s old 1GB Internet circuit with a 5GB one. 

Besides adapting to COVID-19, Danville has made several internal upgrades and improvements over the past year involving various departments, including power utilities. After the city started pulling energy from a local solar farm, the IT department attached remote terminal units to monitor and redistribute power as needed during shortages, and it recently finished a project linking over 50,000 electric meters to a communication grid so the local utility could flag power outages and receive critical data and alerts. Danville Public Works linked garbage truck cameras to the city’s network so supervisors could respond immediately when customers file complaints about service, Danville Police Department got an analytical dashboard to help with data-driven policing and, following a new state law in 2019 mandating new regulations of the voter registration system, IT created an application to track and manage policy compliance. Other internal projects included the implementation of a new Dell Air Gap data backup system, a new apprenticeship program to train and retain IT staff, and a new data aggregator that pulls and logs data from the city’s computer systems and proactively monitors for security breaches.

2nd Punta Gorda, Fla.

With roughly 20,000 residents, Punta Gorda doesn’t allow its modest size to prevent it from addressing a wide assortment of problems with technology. Within the last year, the city has taken two steps to add to its defenses against cybercriminals looking for easy prey. First, it implemented mandatory security training for all city staff once it learned that individuals represent its greatest vulnerabilities. Second, the city began using a behavioral analytics program to bolster its cybersecurity, allowing for real-time detection and eliminating the need for constant updates to workstations.   

Citizens in Punta Gorda also directly benefit from the city’s use of technology. Realizing that it can either remain a retirement community or become a more balanced work-and-play community, the city gathered citizen feedback in late summer 2019 through primarily digital means to inform its master plan. And in the first half of 2020, Punta Gorda moved its public records request process to the cloud. Now one person, as opposed to three, can manage public records requests each day.   

Keeping track of city upkeep can be challenging for even a smaller jurisdiction, so Punta Gorda has recently utilized apps to map out vacant lots that require mowing and uneven sections of sidewalk that need repair. The vacant lot app even allows residents to check mowing statuses and schedules, which has significantly reduced the amount of phone calls about lot management.  

3rd Schaumburg, Ill. 

Schaumburg rose from seventh place last year to third this year, showing an impressive investment in smart data solutions and data transparency. In early 2019, the village created a database administrator role (DBA) charged with developing a centralized data warehouse. That warehouse has allowed for a reduction in data redundancy and positions Schaumburg to better organize, and therefore utilize, its data in the future.   

Similarly, Schaumburg made important strides when it comes to data transparency last year — creating a public-facing map that aggregates and updates geographic information about snow removal and plow locations within the village borders. For a state with infamously frigid winter months, the new platform provides an accessible and useful tool for local residents.    

Schaumburg has also impressively prioritized cybersecurity during its transition to remote work this year — quickly moving VPN capacity from 25 to 600. Its adoption of a new Fortinet firewall has allowed it to reduce the number of malicious attempts on its network from 12 a day to four. At the same time, Schaumberg’s decision to update its incident response plan was a smart move, considering the number of threats that face the remote workforce.  

4th Williamsburg, Va. 

With its population of 15,000, Williamsburg, Va., is at the lower end of the smallest population category in the Digital Cities survey, but it has an impressive degree of digital maturity for its size. Officials report that they were the first locality in the state to initiate virtual council meetings earlier this year, which thanks to existing technologies was an easier transition than for some cities. Taking advantage of additional functionality available on their Ring Central platform, technical staff enabled many avenues for citizen participation, including the ability for remote presentations. Transparency also emerges as a strong priority, with advanced public dashboards allowing close monitoring of the city’s performance as it relates to established community goals.

Likewise, the importance of cybersecurity is proven by investments in employee training tools, complemented by ongoing phishing tests. The lean IT staff of four has implemented an additional protection: network credentials are disabled if an employee fails to complete training. In the area of emerging tech, Williamsburg is ahead of the curve as well, with a text-based chatbot in place for the past two years. Recently, the city added Web functionality to the chatbot, which greatly increased use.

They have also dabbled in smart cities technology in their downtown area, using license plate reader technology in their parking garage to allow drivers to create online accounts and pay via smartphone, streamlining the process of using the garage. IoT sensors are also on the way to monitor parking spot use and help more efficiently direct enforcement efforts. 

5th Tamarac, Fla.

A major focus for Tamarac, Fla., located just outside Fort Lauderdale, has been on working toward advancing its smart city initiatives via development of a new Smart City and Technology Strategic plan. A tax increase allowed for the development of an intelligent transportation network with smart bus routing and mobile alerts for riders; new fire stations have been outfitted with smart infrastructure, and parks have smart lights and irrigation systems, among other high-tech improvements. To support these moves, Tamarac is upgrading its ERP, and given that that system is heavily informed by GIS data, has invested in hiring a GIS analyst. Additionally, an expanded underground fiber network at a cost of $1.5 million extended city-owned high-speed Internet to city facilities, plus provided a layer of redundancy for existing above-ground and wireless mesh networks, key for the hurricane-prone Florida coast.  

In fall 2019, Tamarac completed citywide cybersecurity training with KnowBe4 to get all staff to better recognize phishing attempts, and officials report test results show zero employees taking the bait. Also last year, the city switched its hardware refresh for staff computers from a capital expenditure to an operating expense, which spread the cost out over the three-year life of the equipment and led to a reduced number of IT service requests and better results reported on annual IT surveys. In exchange for policing and 911 dispatch services, Tamarac’s IT department provides tech support for the Broward County Sheriff’s body cameras and telephones and are working to replace a 25-year-old radio system.

6th Venice, Fla.  

The city of Venice, Fla., solidified a sixth-place rating for its population category. Among its many initiatives surrounding technology, the city’s quick response to the novel coronavirus pandemic warrants mentioning. In a short amount of time, IT staff were able to deploy virtual meeting capabilities, mobility infrastructure and digital processes for residents.   

Where connectivity is concerned, Venice has been working to connect all city-owned facilities via a dark fiber network for future use. The project will ultimately allow for the expansion of services without the need for piecemeal construction as new fiber backbone is needed. IT coordinates with other city departments to ensure that future needs are taken into account in advance.   

Similarly, a spirit of collaboration is evident in other city projects. As of 2018, the city’s IT department must be a part of all projects to ensure each undertaking considers technology solutions appropriately. The mandate helps city departments identify and plan for technology needs and budget accordingly.  

Cybersecurity and resilience are also important parts of the Venice strategic technology plan. In addition to regular backups, staff training and cross-departmental coordination help to ensure the safety of city data stores and systems. 

7th North Port, Fla.  

After losing its IT manager last year and transitioning to a dual-manager structure in the tech department, the Southwestern Florida city of North Port managed to not only hit the ground running during the pandemic but also complete a lot of big unrelated work to boot. The city was — and still is — in the process of a major upgrade of network and cybersecurity equipment, including a new next-generation firewall, cloud-based threat analysis, cloud backups, VPN, Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection for Office 365, better routers, network management and vulnerability scanning. It all adds up to a faster network with much improved visibility and proactivity on possible threats, and ultimately a hardening against outside threats. 

Of note is North Port’s extensive use of modern, cloud-based apps to improve processes across the city. Zoom and a new online portal for public comment submission allowed North Port to move meetings online while still including the public. GovMax — created by the government of the very county North Port sits in — has helped centralize and streamline budgeting, while OpenGov has brought in new tools for transparency and community engagement. Everbridge, adopted in coordination with several local jurisdictions at no cost to the city, has quintupled the number of citizens North Port is able to send notifications to during emergencies, while SiteImprove has helped improve website accessibility. 

More is on the docket as the city eyes website chatbots, the IT department pushes staff training and the network upgrades continue. 

8th Shawnee, Kan.  

When it comes to responding to crises, the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee gets high marks. When the shelter-in-place orders were enacted throughout the state in March 2020, Shawnee was ready to equip all city staff with teleworking capabilities. The city’s pre-existing emphasis on mobile and virtual technologies allowed a swift response in an impressive 24 hours.   

Shawnee continues to prioritize government transparency, improving services for all and maintaining best cybersecurity practices. The city optimized the process for gathering streetlight data through GIS mobile — a notable improvement from the previous paper method. Shawnee also uses GIS dashboards and story maps to present departmental data. With future plans in place for drone usage and fiber expansion, the city shows its commitment to simplifying services for business partners and citizens alike. 

The city of Shawnee is prepared in the event of a cyberattack with its regular investments in cybersecurity and key applications. The department also has a security incident response plan that has been both tested and validated. Additionally, the city’s annual peer review and assessment through the National Cybersecurity Review (NCSR) keeps the staff accountable for maintaining best security practices.    

9th Marana, Ariz.  

Bumping up one place on the list this year, the town of Marana was investing in upgrades and modernization before, during and after COVID-19 hit. In late 2019, to prepare for higher traffic and cloud applications in the future, the town expanded its bandwidth from 50MB to 200MB, created a set of policies to better manage the use of personal and departmental network storage and replaced the data center VM host servers to increase on-premises storage. It also instituted a battery refresh program to be sure it has sufficient backup power for the data center in the event of a power failure, and it added a new ISP connection specifically designated for police dispatch. 

Marana also invested in employees. It installed GPS devices in government vehicles, sent its network administrators to become Cisco Certified Network Associates (CCNAs) and implemented a cybersecurity awareness training program. Once COVID-19 moved everyone to remote work, the town implemented a mass notification system for contact when email isn’t feasible. For its citizens, Marana set up several data dashboards with information on cases and hospital beds, and made upgrades to its permitting and licensing systems and its citizen-facing mobile application, MyMarana, to make them more accessible and functional. Marana also set up an interactive website for citizens to report traffic concerns at intersections and school zones, and it started the process of transitioning the town’s water meters to smart meters that can digitally report readings and provide notifications when leaks occur. 

10th North Ogden, Utah 

Transparency and improved community engagement have been central to the city’s mission. To that end, the city launched a more user-friendly website with easily navigated pages providing information related to public meetings, documents, payments and more. A Forms, Permits and Applications portal allows residents to interact with the city’s business operations. Residents can generally find most city information with three or fewer clicks.  

The website was designed by Municode, which also functions as a content management system for city staff to create and manage Web pages.


1st Sugar Land, Texas 

Sugar Land, Texas, home to some 118,000 people, jetted to the top of its category this year. With its fast-growing population and burgeoning economic landscape, the city that sits just southwest of Houston is known for its suburbs and culture and was once the setting of a Steven Spielberg action thriller. What the city really has going for it, though, is its investment in data-driven government, cybersecurity and emergent technologies.

The city’s approach to data is embodied by its Office of Performance and Accountability (OPA), created two years ago, which seeks to use data to understand how public agencies can more efficiently optimize performance and better deliver services. This March, OPA held its first Citywide Data Committee meeting — which will be held regularly to evaluate where all city agencies are with data and to discuss next steps for improvement.

At the same time, Sugar Land has also made great strides when it comes to cybersecurity. Its creation of a Digital Security Policy is a good step: designed to promote an increased culture of risk awareness within government, the policy allocates various security responsibilities to different people, agencies, and groups, bringing a more ordered system to how the organization defends itself overall. Meanwhile, the city’s mandatory security awareness training for all city staff ensures a resilient workforce. 

The city has also created an impressive hub for emergent technologies via its new Department of Innovation. The department, which is run by the city manager, has been tasked with implementing smart city strategies for Sugar Land — and will look to seed enterprise-wide ideas that utilize data for better governance. 

2nd Lynchburg, Va.

The COVID-19 crisis presented a dual challenge for second-place Lynchburg, Va.: equipping and training staff to work remotely while the IT department saw the retirement of 25 percent of its senior staff. On top of that, officials instituted a hiring freeze.   

Part of the city’s multiyear strategic goal, adopted by the City Council earlier this year, are initiatives to transition more interactions with the city to online platforms. Permitting for both contractors and the general public moved to an online platform in March, allowing for quick online registration and a personalized dashboard for submitting applications, inspection requests, online payments and more.  

Other technology efforts include coordination among IT, the Lynchburg Public Works Department and the Virginia Department of Transportation to complete a vehicular traffic planning project and fiber-optic communication expansion. In addition, a major network infrastructure upgrade was completed in June 2020 with improved data speeds and operational resiliency.   

Much recent progress was made using GIS tools, including flood control mapping and a new Esri-supported dashboard for the Lynchburg Fire Department, allowing the department to have a better view of patterns around calls for service and other metrics. The technology allows for more data-based decision-making around the placement of resources. A similar tool was developed for the Lynchburg Police Department to track crime data. The police department also adopted the Microsoft Teams platform, making the transfer of files via smartphone nearly effortless and saving countless personnel hours in trips back to headquarters.    

3rd Columbia, Mo. 

Third-place Columbia, Mo., is adapting to accommodate citizen needs in the area of mobile communications, already having provided digital access to business licenses and permits as well as building and site development, with several other citizen engagement enhancements underway. One project is the new 311 service, which will allow citizens to report common issues through a website or mobile app. That 311 system is part of a larger effort to centralize all citywide mobile applications into one solution. The final product will facilitate two-way digital communication with citizens with common requests for information. The city has surveyed its constituents for input on design and layout modifications to best suit their needs.   

Citizens are known to prefer text messaging and the city has provided court system reminders via text message as well as updates from the Office of Sustainability. The city has also deployed contact tracing software with text messaging capabilities and is implementing this functionality to increase the speed and accuracy of contact tracing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

4th Independence, Mo.  

Just 10 miles east of Kansas City, Mo., Independence, Mo., is focused on using technology to help it operate at peak efficiency. In the face of ever-present budget challenges, the city grouped like functions together to reduce redundancies with its GIS and application administration staff. Similarly, the city outsourced some of its help desk functions at a significant cost savings over what it would have spent hiring additional employees. The move makes the operation more scalable and allows in-house staff to focus on higher-value tasks. Playing a guiding role in changes like these is a recently formed IT Steering Committee made up of leaders from different city departments, who strategize to ensure technology decisions are guided by good governance practices.  

The city uses one shared system from Cityworks to store asset, permitting and licensing data, streamlining information that used to be housed in separate systems. Also integrated is the city’s 311 app, IndepNow, creating symmetry between tools used by citizens and staff, and positioning the city well to move toward data-driven performance goals given that information is all in one place. 

Independence is also focused on increasing its capabilities relative to cybersecurity, making investments in things like training for staff and machine learning-enhanced screening of suspicious emails that can help pinpoint and eliminate phishing threats. In addition, remote work options for staff were piloted before the pandemic, with policymakers recently signing off on improved tools for remote work, which is expected to continue post-COVID.     

4th Roanoke, Va.

Public safety has been a strong priority of late for Roanoke, Va., once again coming in fourth place in its population category. The Department of Technology (DoT) was integral in helping open the Blue Hills Communications Center, a public-private partnership with strong tech components to enable E911 services, including extensive cabling to serve call centers, computers and servers, with an emphasis on redundancy. Plus, backup generators allow the facility to operate for up to two weeks in the event of a power outage, and city officials anticipate the project will receive the unique LEED BD+C certification. This year has also seen Roanoke replace digital radios for all public safety departments and upgrade CAD software with features like push-to-talk functionality for better communication between first responders and dispatchers. In response to COVID-19, the city put in place a “dispatcher in a box” initiative, which gave the minimum amount of E911 equipment to teleworking dispatchers, including a computer with two-factor VPN, radio, phone and headset. 

When it comes to cybersecurity, in May 2020, Roanoke formalized its Incident Response plan based on the NIST framework and recommendations and implemented additional staff training. They have seen a reduction in phishing emails as a result. DoT has also increased its cyberinsurance policy to include consulting with outside experts. Further, they are in the process of organizing a tabletop exercise with the Department of Homeland Security to improve response processes, and in November 2019 became a member of MS-ISAC and now use many of its no-cost resources like monthly situational awareness calls. 

To better serve citizens, Roanoke created the new position of Community Engagement Manager, who works with website staff in each city department as well as social media managers to create consistency across the enterprise. The Information Technology Committee, comprised of members from various agencies, helps govern IT initiatives, gets leadership buy-in for long-term investments and is helping create a data portal for the city. 

5th Santa Monica, Calif.

The world-famous beach community of Santa Monica, Calif., is no beach bum when it comes to using technology to better serve residents. When COVID-19 emerged in the U.S., city officials and the IT department sprang into action to transition nearly 800 employees to telework setups. The drastic, nearly overnight shift was made easier through digitized records and document systems tied into the remote work experience. In the same vein, the city was able to provide public access to council proceedings virtually without any delay. 

Where cybersecurity is concerned, staff take the extra precautions needed to protect data stores and vital systems. The city was a partner in the 2017 launch of the LA Cyber Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the public and private sectors from cyberthreats. The program’s Threat Intelligence Sharing Platform was recently expanded with a $3 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to offer actionable intelligence around cyberthreats. In addition to this regional effort, all staff are trained for cybersecurity best practices and scam avoidance and they conduct regular table-top training exercises.   

Santa Monica has also made a significant effort where smarter technology is concerned. Intelligent parking and curbside management have played a part in streamlining city streets, and an online portal is available to help residents resolve citations, apply for parking permits and other services. 

6th Avondale, Ariz. 

In July 2019, the city of Avondale, Ariz., centralized IT, leading to a $4 million increase in the department’s budget in two months. The department quickly got to work, standardizing software contracts to reduce the time spent on them, consolidating contracts and integrating apps into its security platform to harden its defenses. It also set up multi-factor authentication for domain administrator accounts, moved the city from passwords to passphrases and achieved 24/7 monitoring by procuring a security operations center service. 

The city has taken on many projects, including setting up public Wi-Fi for students doing distance learning, deploying Internet hot spots in a park to gather data on density and activity and assisting the fire department in creating a new system to track personnel during twice-annual NASCAR events to speed incident response. IT has plenty on its plate moving forward, with citywide ERP and CRM implementations underway as well as a possible replacement of an asset management system. 

7th Carlsbad, Calif.  

Like most local government central IT shops across the country, the folks in Carlsbad, Calif., this year were faced with leading a transition to remote work amid the outbreak of COVID-19. They handled it well, ultimately shifting 80 percent of the staff to work-from-home situations. Somewhat related to that was how the city continued to bolster its citizen engagement capabilities digitally, doing so in part due to a fruitful working relationship between Carlsbad’s CIO and chief innovation officer. A collaborative relationship between IT and the city’s communications team was also quite beneficial. 

In other vital matters, the city added a cybersecurity manager and also recently completed a thorough cybersecurity assessment to guide the formation of its broader cybersecurity policy. A key part of this was the digital awareness and cybersecurity training of all city employees. On top of that, the city also has worked to establish collaborative relationships with other nearby cities as it relates to shared cyber-risks.  

Looking forward, there is a strong foundation in place for this work to grow and continue. In addition, Carlsbad also hired a new data science and business intelligence manager, a move that seems likely to yield significant progress next year when it comes to the city’s data governance program. 

8th Allen, Texas  

Serving roughly 105,000 residents, the growing city of Allen, Texas, comes in eighth place in its population category. Allen focuses on providing online services to engage citizens, boosting cybersecurity practices, and fostering secure communications amid the pandemic. 

City leadership shows how much they value citizen feedback and engagement through user-friendly platforms and highly accessible channels. The 311 mobile app, MyAllen Service Requests, allows residents to report real-time work requests. With just a few clicks, residents can send a report and receive status updates about their request. The city also uses online surveys for citizens to voice their communication preferences and public comment cards for feedback during COVID-19 virtual meetings. In addition, the city leveraged GIS to create a local restaurant map as a response to the pandemic. The map launched in April 2020 with the help of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce.

Allen continues to ready itself for future cyberthreats by making regular investments in cybersecurity. Required quarterly phishing tests and state-mandated trainings have brought about a drop in click rates from 24 percent to 6 percent this year. Looking forward, the city also hopes to integrate vulnerability management tools and form a cyberincident response plan. 

9th Roswell, Ga. 

Roswell, a city of about 90,000 just outside Atlanta, focused its recent tech efforts on two goals: expanding information transparency and improving crisis response. In service of the former, the city developed an interactive online budget book for residents. The site, which went live on May 11 of this year, was built on a Web publishing platform, allowing the city to create the interactive aspect. Rather than just publishing a document for citizens to read, the city chose to create a platform where visitors can engage with the data. They can filter it into charts and graphs and even share the results through their social media channels. The city also created an online platform for sharing free GIS data, which citizens and developers had to pay for in the past.  

In another effort to increase government transparency, the city of Roswell entered into a partnership with the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University. The goal of this partnership is to develop a data governance plan and data inventory and to improve the overall quality of the city’s data. Unfortunately, this partnership was only about a year old when the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on it; however, things have recently started up again and although it’s too early to report any tangible benefits, the initial work is promising.

In the interest of improving the city’s crisis response, Roswell recently upgraded its reporting database for crime statistics and data to NIBRS, the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The city has found that this new system uses layers of checks and balances when data is submitted in order to prevent errors, reducing Roswell’s error rate by four percent as a result. 

10th Richardson, Texas  

In developing a citizen-centric approach to providing services for its constituents, Richardson created a Web application called Property Report, which uses GIS to provide new, current and potential residents with city information on amenities, attractions, and services that are close to the specific address of the user. The app can be used to generate reports on places of interest like daycare centers, schools, hospitals, local transportation, emergency services, city info such as trash, recycling and brush pickup as well as homeowner association and parks info. All the information can be accessed visually in a map using ArcGIS Online, a cloud-based GIS application hosted by Esri and in wide use by governments across the country. The app has drastically reduced calls to the city, successfully connecting residents to the data they need via a single source, aligning with the city’s leadership strategy.   

The city also solicits feedback from its constituents via the “feedback form” available on every city Web page, where citizens can submit a message to the IT department, which handles most citizen requests.

1st Bellevue, Wash.  

Serving about 150,000 residents, this suburb in the Seattle metropolitan area has landed in the top 10 of its population category the last few years, including another first-place finish in 2018. Fittingly, Bellevue responded to the pandemic with a COVID-19 chatbot and informational maps. The chatbot, launched in June, has answered more than 3,000 questions and can speak in seven different languages. Bellevue is also making the chatbot open source so that other local areas can take advantage of the tool. Meanwhile, emergency maps have helped citizens find food distribution centers, free Wi-Fi locations and businesses that were either partially open or offering takeout meals.    

Bellevue is full of impressive tech initiatives. This year the city began installing 40,000 smart water meters to better identify leaks, give customers access to accurate water data and replace old meters. Last year, the utilities department created an award-winning water quality dashboard that combines data from various sources to enable real-time detection of problems and proactive repairs. And with an initiative that aims to eliminate car crashes, Bellevue adjusted signal changes at one location in fall 2019 based on data generated from a program that utilizes artificial intelligence algorithms and video analytics. Traffic conflicts in the area have since decreased by 60 percent. 

Automation is an emphasis for Bellevue, as evidenced by the city’s reimagined fire safety inspection service, which went live at the beginning of 2020. In the past, a single inspection involved 102 steps, seven programs, four devices and roughly six sheets of paper. Now, an inspection requires only 24 steps, two programs, one type of device and zero paper. In another success story, the city was able to automate a time-consuming cloud migration process with robotic process automation, saving thousands of dollars and gaining valuable experience for future transitions. 

2nd Cape Coral, Fla. 

The city of Cape Coral, Fla., took second place for the third year in a row, demonstrating a continued commitment to smart technology use. The city recently created a Smart City Strategy, which the IT department used late last year to discuss connected vehicle infrastructure with the county Metropolitan Planning Organization and transportation department. As a result, the city and county expanded their pre-existing fiber sharing agreement to include spare strands for connected vehicle use in the future. Also, in the interest of expanding fiber, the city partnered with fiber-optic design vendors to build a citywide fiber-optic map to optimize installation and connection locations. 

Cybersecurity is always top of mind for Cape Coral — the IT department is on year four of its five-year security plan, with 134 of the plan’s 171 goals or “sub-controls” completed. Staff can monitor the city’s progress on these sub-controls as well as all other IT security projects thanks to a number of dashboards. In the interest of physical security, the IT and fleet departments procured GPS devices for all city vehicles that can be displayed on a single map so that officials can locate the vehicles closest to an incident and mobilize those first. This will also help city officials locate their vehicles after a disaster such as a hurricane or flood. 

Cape Coral also looked to technology to improve its procurement process, implementing an automated software solution in June 2020. Unlike the previous manual, paper-based process, the new software system saves time and ensures that nothing gets lost or misplaced along the way. And another municipal system is in the process of being modernized — following a successful pilot, Cape Coral is implementing water meters that can be read wirelessly every 10 minutes. This will save the city time and money by eliminating the need to send drivers to check meters manually. 

3rd Baton Rouge, La. 

The city addressed one of its top priorities, creating a safer community, with the deployment of a new computer-aided dispatch system. The new system replaced the 30-year-old COBOL system with a SQL database that meets law enforcement and citizen needs for the development of filters, lookups and applications.  

The new system was a key factor in the city launching its real-time crime center in May of this year. Staff at the crime center use numerous data sources to identify and mitigate risks in the most violent areas and to provide critical information to officers responding to 911 calls. The center is the culmination of years of planning and hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations due to years of escalating violent crime. The IT staff has developed dashboards for analyzing incidents and crime patterns, giving commanders the data they need to move resources in real-time. The city also deployed kiosks at police stations to allow citizens to discreetly talk to a crime center officer for a non-emergency matter.   

The city also faced the COVID-19 challenge head on and within a week had adapted a virtual work environment that allowed for more than 1,300 virtual meetings between some 10,000 participants. Among them were crucial government meetings that were essential to the continuity of city operations. 

3rd Pasadena, Calif.

Tying for third place this year is Pasadena, Calif., which credits its rapid response to the pandemic with propelling the state of the city’s technology infrastructure forward at least five years. In addition to enabling large-scale remote work and collaboration, many tools were added to enable effective virtual public meetings with full public participation. 

Officials have focused attention and resources on improving their cybersecurity posture in the past couple years, starting with the creation of an IT Security Office in 2018. Since then, a robust training program has been developed, with specialized courses for staff with specific data responsibilities: training covering HIPAA for those in public health, for example, and SCADA for utility staff. Pasadena was also chosen to participate in the state’s Cybersecurity Intelligence Center, which gives them modern information and event management capabilities and makes them a contributor to shared cybersecurity intelligence efforts.   

Indicating a desire to move toward more cloud solutions in the future, Pasadena made a significant step in that direction by participating in a shared contract with three other cities for a cloud-based backup solution. The shared services effort represents a streamlined solution that also offers cost savings over the more manual methods it previously used. The city’s website was also modernized this year to a responsive design, using an open source tool that allows for broad departmental participation and a consistent citywide look and feel.    

4th Norfolk, Va.

Taking fourth place in this year’s survey, Norfolk, Va., is making the most of the proverbial doing more with less. Officials anticipate a $40 million citywide budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year as the result of the coronavirus pandemic, with the IT budget expected to be reduced by 5 percent. However, this year Norfolk began using predictive analytics, including machine learning, to make better decisions about how to allocate funding, including predicting how COVID-19 would impact finances. Norfolk has also recently formed an Innovation Group within IT to more efficiently present emerging technology ideas to the CIO, and the city is now using AI for flooding and traffic prediction, as well as anticipating zoo and recreation center attendance.    

To prepare for disasters besides COVID-19, Norfolk is in the process of moving its primary data center to an off-site colocation facility 5 miles away, a $6 million project that will bolster remote work and continuity of operations. Because the city is on the coast in an area at high risk for hurricanes, and the current data center is prone to flooding, Norfolk is also establishing a redundant data center near Richmond, in partnership with neighboring cities like Virginia Beach.   

IT works closely with the communications office to facilitate citizen interaction with the city. Fall 2019 saw the launch of the MyNorfolk app and website, which allows citizens to make requests of the city and also diverts some traffic away from municipal call centers. Let’s Talk Norfolk, an online polling platform from OpenGov used to survey residents, is used by myriad departments. Norfolk also has a strong data governance strategy, including its CivicLab division, which monitors the open data program that currently offers 38 data sets for both citizen use and to enable city leaders to make data-driven decisions. July 2020 saw the roll out of a project with the open data team to gather and anonymize the city’s micromobility data to maximize its use while protecting citizen privacy. 

5th Alexandria, Va. 

Alexandria, Va., is a prime example of a city investing in technology for the public good. New tools and tactics have helped solidify the city’s place as a forward-thinking municipality. These investments have helped smooth business processes but were also key in weathering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while providing essential services to residents.

In late 2019, Alexandria launched APEX, a replacement for the old land use system, which ushered in a streamlined way for residents and builders to access permits, inspections and approvals electronically. In addition to streamlining the permitting and payments steps associated with projects, the system automatically schedules inspections based on the issuance of a permit and other project criteria. In February, a new customer management system known as Alex311 was launched, cutting down the process for citizens to submit requests for service, comments and other input. Since its launch earlier this year, the system has handled more than 20,000 interactions. This system was an integral part of how the city was able to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic and allowed call center agents to take calls from anywhere with an Internet connection, maintaining the flow of vital information to residents. 

When it comes to cybersecurity, the city just south of the nation’s capital is careful to adhere to best practices outlined within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework. All city staff are trained to avoid risky cyberbehaviors and to comply with cybersecurity best practices and procedures. Recent efforts in the security space as well as investment in identity and access management infrastructure positioned the city well to respond to the COVID-19 crisis when the number of remote workers tripled almost overnight.    

The city has also gone to great lengths to provide ease of access to open data through a portal that includes business, education, housing and public safety data sets, to name a few. To maintain public confidence in the police department, police directives are made available to the public via the department website. 

6th Corona, Calif.  

Despite being led by four different city managers since February 2019 and having four of its five city council seats also change hands during that time, the city of Corona, which serves more than 170,000 residents, maintained its ranking from 2019 when becoming a data-driven municipality was a key focus. To keep pace with executive and council turnover, officials — who had updated the city’s IT strategic plan every 12-18 months — have moved to make adjustments more quickly. City IT commissioned a third-party assessment of needs and interviewed the city manager to ensure alignment with the CIO — ultimately using the information collected to inform the IT department’s strategic plan.   

This year, Corona replaced a 30-year-old computer-aided dispatch/records management system (CAD/RMS) and implemented a cloud-first strategy. The city had partnered with Citrix and Microsoft to develop a cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform — and when COVID-19 hit, moved out of final piloting to take the system live and to scale while transitioning to remote work. Its VDI runs on “non-persistent desktops,” which wipe any viruses or malware nightly. The project also enabled deployment of Federal Information Processing Standards-level encrypted remote desktops for public safety. Corona stood up nearly 20 COVID-related dashboards tracking everything from PPE inventory to infection rates. Officials also augmented their new open budget portal with automation to update data weekly — doing a similar update to their open checkbook portal that makes public all accounts payable transactions. In another innovative move, the city used drones and video footage to give IT vendors a virtual walkthrough of a communications infrastructure project, generating several responses. 

6th Fort Collins, Colo.

This year Fort Collins, Colo., had multiple enterprise IT leadership roles become vacant, including CIO, CISO, and the head of application development. This is all against a backdrop of a 20 percent attrition rate overall. Following a search, a new CIO joined the city in February. Within three weeks, however, the physical offices closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Fort Collins IT then had to pivot from a CIO onboarding to leading a digital pandemic response. This necessitated forming a related taskforce, continuing usual operations, and implementing capabilities to support a full-time remote workforce with access to critical services. Within that, a significant portion of the IT team was infected by the virus, including 90 percent of the help desk services team. 

The pandemic has obviously not been easy for any local government, but timing and severity presented extra challenges in Fort Collins. The IT shop’s response included a wide slate of virtual self-service tech solutions that have now enabled staffers to work remotely as well as in a socially distanced office. In addition, the city worked to engage residents digitally, doing so via remote city events as well as introducing digital capabilities that allow remote access to critical city services.   

Aside from the crisis, the city reports that its new enterprise IT leadership has worked toward culture change by supporting agile development practices, teaching innovation as a process, and hosting internal innovation jams, all to serve an overarching goal of expanding innovation culture across departments to yield new digital solutions for the city. On the drier side, the city invested in a full upgrade of core networking switches and hubs that have bolstered network speed, reliability and remote access. Looking ahead, the city just concluded an RFP for better wireless access points as well.

7th Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Only 37 miles east of Los Angeles, the city of Rancho Cucamonga serves over 177,000 residents. Despite the combination of challenges presented to the city this year, Rancho Cucamonga’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) worked toward providing government transparency for the public.

To that end, the city’s DoIT staff implemented the Socrata open data checkbook and launched a new transparency website. Users can access city documents, an interactive open budget platform, the city’s online performance dashboard, and more. With regard to citizen engagement and safety, the city launched an online survey for hazard concerns and an open call for citizens to engage in PlanRC — a multiyear planning effort to provide policy direction, prepare for technological advancements and increase resilience in the face of crises. 

Rancho Cucamonga also entered the year with a second data center, signaling that the city was ready to embrace a path toward the cloud and remote working. The data center helps support letting employees work remotely without forfeiting security. The city also moved its backups from tape to cloud, greatly improving the process for restoring from backup. 

8th Roseville, Calif.  

The city of Roseville started the year by reviewing its IT policies and processes, and over the subsequent months it made several steps to hone them with a combination of internal improvements, citizen-facing services and adaptations to COVID-19. Some of these were a matter of practice, such as working with a consultant on a program that gives other city departments a say in how IT funds are distributed, which Roseville has done for the past two years. City staff also meet regularly with regional partners to discuss how to make use of geographic information systems (GIS) data and analysis, and the city’s parks and police departments have been using ArcGIS Collector to mark homeless encampments on a map and notify city staff that they need to be addressed. More specifically this year, the city enhanced security firewalls for its network, redistributed the workloads of virtual machines and servers to make them more efficient, and expanded its use of Citrix tools so employees could access business applications, virtual desktops and city data from anywhere. The IT department also built a new VMware platform to host cloud-based applications, created a new security officer position, hired an additional security analyst and used PingID to implement single sign-on and multifactor authentication for employees. 

For citizens, Roseville started several modernization projects. These included using Accela software to set up online permitting portals, implementing smart water meters, using an open data portal to give residents updated information about local elections, and creating a website and automated calling system for people to reserve dial-a-ride or paratransit services. In response to COVID-19, the city used Esri technology to meet COVID-19 screening and tracing needs for employees and visitors of city departments, and it created an online dashboard to track which businesses were getting customers so the city would know where support programs were needed. 

9th Hampton, Va.

Hampton, Va., has been making good progress with its core infrastructure, including an ongoing project to connect all city facilities with a fiber ring that will reduce its reliance on third-party services while providing more bandwidth for voice, video and data. Recently it invested in machine virtualization, achieving 94 percent virtualization of its data center, as well as upgraded routers, switches, firewalls and email security. Plans for a new emergency operations center are underway as well. 

The city has leaned in on good communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, using many channels to reach and engage with citizens. IT supported continued access for citizens to city council meetings, town hall meetings and candidate forums for local elections by setting up livestream capabilities. Meanwhile, the department has worked with other agencies such as economic development and health and human services to set up new websites where citizens can find services, resources and information they might have normally accessed in person.

The city also completed a smart technology project along a local walking trail near underused public spaces. To address safety concerns in the area, Hampton set up 15 solar-powered light poles equipped with Wi-Fi, sensors that brighten and dim lights when people approach, call buttons connected to the police department and a 360-degree-view camera. 

10th Tallahassee, Fla.  

A city of about 200,000 near the Gulf Coast, Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee is no stranger to natural disasters like hurricanes. That’s why the city invested in improving its disaster response through tech, creating a platform of distributed file systems in each of its core facilities. That way, if a hurricane or other natural disaster knocks out the connection to the data center, each core facility can continue to operate independently until the connection is restored.   

But hurricanes weren’t the only crisis that Tallahassee had to worry about in the last year. Like jurisdictions across the country and the world, the city was suddenly faced with the need to facilitate a remote workforce when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March. Fortunately, its tech team rose to the challenge and, working closely with the Procurement department, quickly set up the necessary technology. Laptops and Wi-Fi hot spots were purchased and distributed to the 1,000 employees, about a third of the total city workforce, who were sent home. WebEx collaboration devices were also acquired so that employees could meet and collaborate virtually.  

In 2019, the IT department was called upon, along with all other city departments, to participate in the creation of Tallahassee’s five-year strategic plan. This overarching, citywide plan is the first of its kind in Tallahassee, and in 2020 the city set up a performance dashboard for citizens to monitor its progress on meeting the plan’s goals. The city also decided to be more transparent about its finances, setting up a public-facing financial transparency website. Here, citizens can look up data including current fiscal year expense, financial reports, archived budgets and more.




1st Virginia Beach, Va.

Consistently among the leaders in its population category, Virginia Beach is well prepared for cyberattacks that might occur during a pandemic when online services are the norm. During the last fiscal year, the municipality added a security awareness course that is required for all city staff; acquired cyberinsurance; enhanced its ability to track security events and vulnerabilities; implemented a solution that can perform a faster comprehensive scan of all IT components; and conducted a simulated ransomware attack to test out various contingency plans.   

Becoming future-proof is a perpetual theme for Virginia Beach. City IT recently laid down a cloud-first policy. Within the last few months, Virginia Beach replaced its enterprise resource planning software with a cloud-based solution. Additionally, a portal for city purchasing was launched, and a citizen-focused platform was established for account creation, service requests and complaints. The intention is to continue to move away from old ways of doing things and to reduce the city’s reliance on the traditional data center model.    

One of the biggest problems during COVID-19 has been connectivity. In 2020, Virginia Beach saw the completion of a five-year project: a fiber ring that will serve as a 10GB backbone for the city. This advanced network will benefit everything from public safety to education to economic development. In another big broadband win, Virginia Beach is developing a public-private partnership with Verizon, with the goal of expanding 4G and 5G capability via existing and new utility poles. The details of the negotiation with the telecom giant show that the city is committed to maintaining control over its infrastructure while being flexible enough to foster innovation. 

2nd Long Beach, Calif. 

Amid COVID-19, Long Beach’s Technology and Innovation Department (TID) pivoted from optimizing the Civic Center and financials system portions of its new, state-of-the-art Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project to pandemic planning for continuity of operations, employee telework, emergency operations planning and response, as well as resiliency and recovery planning. TID used data to inform COVID-19 response and recovery, developing data summary and analysis documents for its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) policy group, using Microsoft PowerBI to aggregate data from the state and county, the city workforce, and Apple mobility, as well as Zencity social media sentiment information. A 10-person inter-departmental EOC data strike team is developing dashboards on situational awareness to shape internal decision-making on public health and safety, and economic development, and creating a public dashboard with COVID-19 information and metrics.   

This year, officials updated the city’s four-year-old Open Data Policy to orient data programs toward automation; and TID developed the Citywide Data and Data Governance committees. Officials and stakeholders are reviewing draft smart city principles in the works since October, and TID is developing a Strategic Plan document as part of the Long Beach Smart City Initiative. ConnectedLB, a digital inclusion platform launched this year, links residents with digital literacy training, reduced-price Internet and low-cost technology tools. Long Beach will launch its updated Go Long Beach app this fall. Founded on the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management platform, it lets residents communicate on issues including potholes, graffiti and illegal dumping.    

TID improved the city’s failsafe plan for mainframe HR/payroll data by transitioning to a virtual tape drives system — the system has also been crucial for COVID-19 disaster preparation. The city’s cyber risk officer, who reports to the CIO, leads cybersecurity initiatives, including a proof of concept with Proofpoint on email protection and launching a three-phase Cybersecurity Risk Assessment with Tevora Business Solutions. 

3rd Greensboro, N.C.  

Greensboro, N.C., made a big jump in this year’s survey, moving up to third place from 10th in 2019. Much of their success can be attributed to a strong commitment to using IT to support city priorities like boosting economic growth. Fiber-ready infrastructure and high-speed Internet are integral to Greensboro’s IT strategic plan, and the city has partnered with US Ignite and independent fiber company Segra to expand broadband, an initiative led by a steering committee comprising leaders from local business, academia, nonprofits and government.   

In January 2020, Greensboro hired its first-ever chief data officer, charged with oversight of citywide data governance and efficient data use. The city is expanding its open data program, including migrating to an ArcGIS Online platform that will save $67,000 and unify data sets, streamlining dashboards and making it easier for residents to access and understand city data. An open budget program includes a budget simulator that allows residents to easily manipulate the municipal budget and better understand city decision-making, as well as submit budget simulations to leadership. Also in citizen-driven work, in September 2019 Greensboro launched the first phase of 12 interactive kiosks in its downtown area, offering free Wi-Fi and wayfinding capabilities.  

To shore up cybersecurity, the city added CrowdStrike malware protection to all its systems this past July, which uses AI to detect and block threats, including ransomware. This has led to a 35 percent increase in the number of malware incidents blocked and a 70 percent reduction in time to respond to cyberincidents. A December 2019 ransomware response exercise helped IT and other agencies define roles and responsibilities in the event of a citywide attack, resulting in swift response times with minimal impact to the network. Together with local colleges and universities, as well as the local FBI field office, Greensboro has developed a dark web monitoring process to identify information there that hackers could use to access city systems. 

4th Henderson, Nev.

In an impressive climb from its eighth-place ranking in last year’s survey, Henderson, Nev., now holds a fourth-place spot in its population category, in no doubt due to the city’s focus on corralling technology for the benefit of the growing metro area. Investments in mobility and cloud infrastructure have been a boon to city staff during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These investments allowed for better continuity within the local government as more than 800 staffers moved online to deliver vital services.   

In October 2019, the Henderson IT department completed the Electronic Plan Review implementation, which allows a one-stop-shop experience for permitting, building and related activities online. Similarly, COVID-19 forced efforts to complete an ERP update ahead of schedule, concluding in June 2020. The new system was a priority in the city’s strategic plan as it is expected to save some 30 tons of paper while reducing pollution caused by trips to city hall by 881,931 pounds of carbon dioxide. 

Guided by a 10-year, rolling IT road map, staff are looking to future innovation opportunities. A prime example of this sort of work is the Water Street Innovation District, which will be used as a real-world testbed for smart cities technology. Some of the projects being looked at include smart lighting, smart water meters, smart parking and smart crowd counting. Staff are in the process of evaluating technology like automated meter readers to streamline utility operations.

5th Chandler, Ariz. 

The city of Chandler’s work in the past year, especially during COVID-19, is a clear illustration of a digital strategy that uses modern technology to make things more convenient, efficient and accessible for the people a government serves. During the pandemic, the city moved many activities that used to take place at recreation centers online, including “boredom buster” activities, science experiments, crafts and professional-led workouts — at times accompanied by kits that participants can grab from the center and take home. Meanwhile, IT moved zoning and land use permit applications online, set up a phone bank for COVID-19 and policy questions, shifted from budget books to online performance dashboards, and digitized the process of submitting and reporting traffic control plans. 

One particularly impactful example of the city’s work came in April, when a 911 dispatcher received a call from an Apple Watch, which reported that its wearer had taken a hard fall and wasn’t moving, then provided coordinates to its location. Emergency response crews responded to the call, found a person who had fainted and took them to the hospital where they recovered. The call was possible because of RapidSOS, which links connected devices such as Apple Watches and vehicle computers to 911 dispatch centers.

Chandler has been making strides in its core infrastructure as well. It recently hired an information security chief, encrypted all its Web gateways and increased its Internet throughput in anticipation of higher-bandwidth uses. An ongoing project involves widescale modernization of computing and storage infrastructure, with an emphasis on automation and orchestration. 

6th Riverside, Calif. 

Riverside, Calif., is a city of more than 328,000 residents located in Los Angeles County, and the story for the city in the past year has largely involved staying the path while making enhancements where possible. This is especially relevant when it comes to EngageRiverside, the one-stop portal where citizens can do everything from search open records to access 311 services to share their ideas with the city. In the past year, the IT shop there has made data enhancement progress with EngageRiverside, which also doubles as the city’s open data portal. This is great for a city that, like so many others, seeks to promote data-driven decision-making within City Hall. 

One thing that has remained a challenge for Riverside in recent years is the budget. Riverside has long been dealing with this due to pension obligations, and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped. As a result, there has been a hiring freeze as well as an elimination of vacant positions. Even so, the Innovation and Technology Department has worked to offset the citywide budget challenges related to pensions by guiding and educating other departments as to how they can run efficiently and effectively at cost, doing so at times by providing the systems and tools they need to accomplish this. 

7th Wichita, Kan.  

Located in south-central Kansas, the city of Wichita takes seventh place in its population category. Populated by an estimated 390,000 residents, the city prioritizes citizen engagement, cybersecurity, and data management. Wichita’s efforts to provide transparency and engagement opportunities for its citizens should be noted. The city’s ICT Data Portal is the community’s platform that allows the public to download open data. The portal aims to help build “a smarter Wichita,” also allowing citizens to discover and build apps as a way to engage with local issues. The city’s user-friendly AccessWichita is another noteworthy accomplishment that allows the public to view important information quickly, including urgent COVID-19 updates. 

Over the last year, the city grappled with an uptick in copper theft from city-owned facilities and public parks. In response, Wichita partnered with local IT company Viaanix to deploy Internet of Things sensors to prevent copper theft and potentially save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The city also continues to grow in the area of cybersecurity. The IT Department’s five-year strategic plan and efforts to train all staff on the importance of digital security show the city’s commitment to safeguarding systems from future cyberthreats.    

8th Kansas City, Mo. 

While Kansas City cut each department’s budget by 4.5 percent in mid-August due to COVID-19, the city found it was a productive time for uncovering operational efficiencies. The city’s prior investment in Tyler Technologies' EnerGov system came in handy with the transition to digital services, and the city used technology that was already in place to accommodate telework for employees. As part of the telework policy, DataKC surveyed the city’s employees for two months and used the data to tweak and improve operations. Beyond directly responding to demands of COVID-19, Kansas City completed three fiber rings connecting more than 20 public facilities, which saved money and laid the groundwork for more upgrades in the future. The city also started a pilot program with Verizon Solutions to use smart city tech to make their parking and streetlight systems more efficient; it upgraded its core network and virtual servers, consolidating them in number from 50 to eight; it’s using Energy CAP software to find energy savings, for example with an overnight temperature control system that only turns on when it senses the need; and the city migrated all phone systems over to SIP infrastructure so it can decommission the old phone circuits and save money. 

In terms of investments, the city worked with the Department of Homeland Security on a new monitoring system to stop hacks of the city’s network, and with Genetec to upgrade video surveillance systems so police and fire can see real-time feeds from thousands of cameras around the city on their own personal devices. 

Some of Kansas City’s technology initiatives have been policy-related steps whose impact will grow over time. For example, the city created an Emerging Tech Board in late 2019 specifically focused on policy decisions around new technologies. When the country was experiencing widespread racial justice protests in June 2020, the city implemented a Digital Strategic Equity Plan that directed the city manager to set up private-public partnerships to ensure access to technology for people who need it, and the city council passed a resolution that all citizens should be able to subscribe to reasonably priced or free Wi-Fi. The city also created a data management guide, a set of instructions that all 19 departments used to do a full inventory of city data. A publicly accessible Web app, Open Data KC, makes over 1,500 data sets accessible in the form of visualizations and a chatbot. To incorporate public feedback into policy and financial decisions, the city’s Office of Management and Budget worked with ParleyAI on a citywide survey, collecting data from demographics at the ZIP code level. 

9th Gilbert, Ariz.

As part of Gilbert’s aim to be a “City of the Future,” IT has developed a roadmap that aligns its strategies with a focus on areas like data management, cybersecurity and customer experience. 

Citizen engagement happens across several social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, along with Alex, an open-data avatar, that includes COVID-19 data. Alex has increased civic engagement by conducting public surveys and sharing with residents how their feedback was used to arrive at solutions. The Gilbert 311 system has improved response times for resident complaints and concerns, with some 90 percent of service requests completed in less than 48 hours. Residents can also report service requests directly from Facebook.   

Cybersecurity has received added attention through the adoption of the Written Information Security Plan (WISP), which sets standards and processes for cloud storage, IoT, and data classification and handling. In partnership with county officials, Gilbert created a Cyber Continuity of Operations Plan, which addresses critical infrastructure and public safety. IT leadership worked with human resources to recruit and hire a chief information security officer in June 2020.  

In the name of transparency, the city completed a Small Cell Map Project, which maps rights-of-way for 5G deployment infrastructure, providing vendors with accurate ownership information. Data management has been improved with the formation of the Data Management Committee, made up of stakeholders from numerous departments like police, fire, public works and others. And infrastructure developments include the launch of enterprise storage and backup, which represented expansion into Microsoft Azure and the creation of additional redundancy and data backup. 

10th Tulsa, Okla. 

The the bustling urban center of Tulsa, population 401,000, has invested in a combination of data-driven governance and forward-thinking IT solutions.     

Like a lot of other cities, Tulsa saw COVID-19 as a wake-up call and an opportunity when it came to cybersecurity. This year, the city reorganized its IT department to prioritize security in a way that it hadn’t before. That reorganization included the creation of a new security “section” — a department headed by the city’s newly hired IT security manager. The section has invested in new security apparatuses like email security solution PhishER and Cisco Email Security — while also assisting the city in its secure transition to remote work with the onset of the pandemic. The city’s IT department also collaborated with its police department for improved security in 2019, helping it to invest in new security systems like multi-factor authentication, so that it could pass an FBI IT security audit.      

At the same time, Tulsa has also invested in modern data solutions over the past year or so. Most impressive is its ongoing work with its Urban Data Pioneers program — which vaunts data analysis to better respond to critical issues within urban communities. The program recently used predictive models to understand the risk of house fires in specific neighborhoods within the city. The data has the potential to help the city’s fire department target specific areas for social service outreach and preventative efforts. At the same time, the city also recently made important strides by hiring data analytics vendor 9bCorp, which utilizes Tableau to help city agencies better understand their finances and make fiscally informed decisions.




1st San Jose, Calif.

San Jose moved from second to first place this year, marking a continued investment in technology throughout the enterprise. The city was faced with a number of crises in the past two years and found itself turning to technology to respond. When the coronavirus pandemic shut most everything down in March, San Jose took the lead on a data-driven approach to food distribution throughout the city and surrounding Santa Clara County. The city leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS technology to set up a Power BI dashboard to gather, report and model data to help it manage the weekly distribution of meals. The city also responded to COVID-19 by partnering with the state of California to provide virus testing to its most vulnerable populations.

In the three years since San Jose approved it’s 2017-2020 IT Strategic Plan, the IT budget has grown by 50 percent, and customer satisfaction with the city IT Department went from 74 percent to 91 percent. A cornerstone of this plan was the transition to a hyperconverged infrastructure, which was successfully completed in June 2020. City IT consolidated 250 virtual and physical servers onto a single, highly resilient, software-defined platform. The result will save the city 375,000 kilowatt hours in energy consumption and $200,000 in maintenance costs annually. Also, the San Jose Smart City Vision, implemented in 2016, drove the city to pursue data-driven initiatives including the creation of a data transparency site where citizens can view police use-of-force data.   

The team behind San Jose’s technology efforts was recognized as one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of 2020. Among this team’s many accomplishments was a modernization of the city’s website with a significant focus on the user experience. Three years in the making, the final product launched in November 2019 and a chatbot was added in June of this year. During development, the website was continuously tested against eight usability standards to ensure that it would provide the best experience for residents. 

2nd Los Angeles 

The city of Los Angeles, which serves nearly 4 million residents in 469 square miles, climbed from fourth to second place in this year’s survey. Officials moved quickly as COVID-19 took hold. The Information Technology Agency (ITA) helped more than 12,000 employees work remote within 72 hours through the Connect2LACity teleworking platform; in under two weeks, that number topped 18,000. City IT created a COVID-19 testing app to support 12,000 daily tests; and L.A. deployed a website, app and call center to support emergency rent assistance and a Senior Meals intake and routing app to meet pandemic demand. A policy ITA set last year on “Securing City Department Websites, Applications and Servers from Cyber Threats” spurred departments to improve their average risk scores within 30 days of the launch of a cyber risk portal. This spring, the city stood up a citywide data science platform that uses cloud-based services, emphasizes open-source tools and streamlines dev ops. In June, L.A. created the Know Your Community platform for residents, which includes a suite of apps to showcase neighborhood data and insights. City police deployed a new remote camera surveillance system with intelligent software that identifies human movement, which has reduced crime near MacArthur Park. To facilitate IT procurement, the city’s LABAVN portal now seamlessly integrates access to the electronic forms system and auto-fill capabilities, and associates forms to bid opportunities based on requirements.   

All departments have adopted the city’s IT Disaster Recovery Policy, which features app criticality assessments, yearly testing and data recovery timelines. The city also leverages off-site data backup/storage, a remote DR hot site and cloud services. Through internships, and volunteer and academic positions, ITA provides work experience to students and young workers. ITA and Personnel are working with departments to create an IT plan encompassing more than 1,300 apps, and planning an enterprise-wide, forward-facing IT strategy. 

3rd San Diego, Calif.  

Consistently a strong performer in the Digital Cities survey, San Diego’s response to COVID-19 showcases both remarkable agility and creative use of emerging technology. In March, the city’s cybersecurity team enabled more than 2,000 staff to work remotely by deploying virtual desktops in the cloud. Numerous services ranging from permitting to call centers were fully operational. Impressively, the city utilized 3D printers in April and May to craft face shields for hospital workers and first responders when there was a shortage of protective equipment. San Diego also donated 1,000 such shields to the city of Tijuana in Mexico.    

The large municipality has made significant strides when it comes to GIS technology. In January, San Diego IT centralized all city GIS services, which has reduced costs, fast-tracked projects, decreased the amount of time needed to grant permits for small cell deployments by 60 percent and brought to the forefront the multitude of ways that the city employs GIS. In the past year, San Diego has also taken advantage of a new GIS job classification, hiring six highly qualified experts in a single round of recruitment.    

San Diego listens to its citizens, who requested an expansion of the city’s 311 system. The 311 app, updated in February, now allows residents to report illegal encampments, buy replacement waste containers and file issues with electric scooters. In another victory for citizens, the city was able to pave 1,600 miles of streets by 2020, which was 600 more miles than expected. This accomplishment was possible due to a data governance project that centralized the planning for improvement projects. The project effectively consolidated 30 legacy systems.  

4th Phoenix 

Phoenix has once again seen rapid growth in the past year, meaning that the city government — and the central IT shop along with it — has continually developed to meet growing resident needs. This has outwardly taken the form of increased digitalization with an eye toward making services that were once in-person only able to be done online. Take, for example, the police public record request process, which Phoenix has now essentially replaced with one self-service online portal. In addition, citizen engagement has also become easier, with residents now able to electronically comment on city agendas as well as participate in council meetings remotely.   

Internally, this has also been a year of significant progress for Phoenix, albeit one that is less flashy. Specifically, the city undertook the monumental task of modernizing its phone system, getting all of the roughly 3,600 city employees as well as its 500 contact center agents, onto the same shared phone system. In addition, this new system features Interactive Voice Response services, and Phoenix did all this under budget, saving the city an estimated $1 million annually. Early in 2020 the city made its first agile IT procurement, replacing its previous request for proposals process, by short-listing vendors and assuring they were in compliance with Phoenix’s security standards and terms and conditions, then giving those vendors six weeks to develop their solutions. This shorter, more flexible process was particularly useful in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the city to roll out an online, paperless 311 system in very short order. 

5th Mesa, Ariz. 

As in most cities across the country, the COVID-19 crisis caused a quick shift to a massive remote-work scenario in Mesa, Ariz., with some 90 percent of the city’s workforce working away from city offices just three days after scaling up the operation. The city launched its Mobile Workforce Enhancement project, and now nearly the entire city workforce has secure computers, applications and other tools to work from home, aided in part by a robust security information and event management platform. The Enhancement project identified the equipment employees were using — home-based or city-owned — and began the process of replacing existing desktops with laptops and docking stations, with a plan to complete all systems in eight weeks. To further respond to the COVID crisis, the city launched Mesa CARES in April, an initiative to connect residents and businesses impacted by the pandemic. This included creating a Community Resource Call Center, a Small Business Reemergence Grant Program and a Small Business Technical Assistance Program. 

Innovation is now playing a more central role in Mesa’s IT ecosystem, as the Information Technology Department was reorganized into the Department of Innovation and Technology. The new deputy CIO position was created and charged with innovation, working with city agencies to coordinate new digital solutions. Citizen engagement and delivery of services are some of Mesa’s top goals that have been articulated through the Smart City Master Plan, as have more tangible assets like informational kiosks or the Mesa Now mobile app, which serves as a single point of entry for city information and services. 

To ensure data has a prominent seat at the IT table, Mesa established the Center for Data and Performance, which puts data-informed decision-making at all levels of government. Meanwhile, the Data Governance Board, Technical Advisory Group and Data Review Committee all use principles of data government and data management to assist the chief data officer. In June, Mesa launched its new cloud-based data center as an additional secure data storage location.   

6th Charlotte, N.C.

The 15th most populous city in America, Charlotte, N.C., is home to some 885,000 people. This year, the city scored big, rising from 10th place last year to sixth place. A big part of Charlotte’s success can be attributed to its efforts to become a more transparent, data-driven government, as well as its continued investment in security and resilience. 

This year, Charlotte continued to expand its Data Co-Lab — tasked with pushing forward data governance and information sharing initiatives — by creating a data analytics manager position. Charlotte also recently launched a GIS mapping tool that allows city leaders to better understand the affordable housing landscape within the city. The tool provides a wealth of data points about housing units, allowing for more informed decision-making when it comes to housing and development.     

At the same time, Charlotte has made great strides when it comes to cybersecurity. In 2019, the city geographically dispersed its domain name servers as a means of warding off DDoS attacks. The city also added an extra layer to its supply chain security last year by deploying a privileged remote access solution, BeyondTrust, to all of the city’s vendor users. In January, the city similarly improved its cloud security by procuring a cloud access security broker, Bitglass, which protects its Microsoft Office data.    

7th El Paso, Texas 

El Paso, Texas, came into this year’s survey with a strong foundation in IT, having not only hit its goals as outlined in its “20 in 2020” strategic plan — it exceeded them by 78 percent. Among IT’s accomplishments were network upgrades at 14 facilities, 59 Wi-Fi sites added, money-saving contracting moves, and investments in cybersecurity and other training for employees.   

COVID-19 got in the way of a full rollout of an application El Paso recently developed, but it bears mentioning nonetheless. The city recently constructed four neighborhood water parks, a project tied directly to the city’s goals to improve quality of life for its residents. In conjunction, IT staff leveraged an existing contract agreement from the state’s Department of Information Resources to engage a vendor to build a custom mobile and Web app highlighting the new facilities. The feature-rich tool was developed faster and more cheaply by using the state contract, and the app stands ready to serve citizens once the pandemic has subsided and they can enjoy these new facilities.   

In line with the population’s focus on public safety, technical staff have partnered with the police and fire departments to help supplement their capabilities with technology, lending expertise and project management support on device and system upgrades. Notable projects in the works include an automated fingerprint information system upgrade, surveillance system expansion and live crime dashboards. The dashboards supplement a lot of other analytics work the city has been maturing during the past several months, a direction they plan to continue. A wide variety of GIS-based maps of community resources and information are also actively maintained.

8th Chicago

Chicago IT underwent a major transformation last year in part by  merging the departments of Innovation and Technology and Fleet and Facility Management into the new Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS), of which the Bureau of IT is a part. The idea was to better integrate technology and innovation work with the city’s other infrastructure and assets. The chief information and chief data officers now work outside of the Bureau of IT and directly for the Mayor’s Office, which gives those positions a more overarching view of technology work across all city agencies. The merger took effect this year, and the result was a savings of approximately $1 million, with more expected to follow. The move preserves all critical data science, information systems and data security functions, including the city’s open data portal for 311 and other transparency tools.   

Modernization of the 311 portal continues as it is the primary way that residents interact with the city. The city has rolled out new tools with the 311 system, including Salesforce One, for dispatching, scheduling and reports; and Field Service Lighting, a mobile field application work crews use to get and complete assignments. 

9th Las Vegas

Las Vegas has long prided itself as a hotbed of gov tech innovation, but much of the Nevada city’s progress of late has been in the nuts and bolts work of creating a connected and high-quality place for citizens. The city’s top priority is narrowing the digital divide, and to that end IT is focused on getting secure and reliable Internet to underserved households so residents of all ages can work and learn from anywhere with the connections they need. In an effort led by the chief innovation officer, Las Vegas is working on establishing a central point for residents to interact with city services from a single portal. A smart parks initiative helped the Parks and Recreation Department monitor parks remotely, which not only improved safety for visitors and maintained cleanliness of facilities but helped gather data on park traffic and use. 

In a continuation of its longstanding data work, the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics, which is led by the Open Data Steering Committee, worked with the city manager’s office in the last year to create daily indicators and dashboards related to business objectives and issues like COVID-19 that allow leadership to get quick and easy perspective on what’s happening around the organization. In terms of cybersecurity, at the end of 2019, city IT put in place improved email protection tools and endpoint protection services from multiple vendors to minimize ransomware threats. Those efforts paid off in early 2020 when a hacker used an IT employee’s credentials to access the city network. Because of that diverse endpoint protection as well as a response plan Las Vegas already had in place, IT was able to resolve the cyberincident in just four hours and reported no data loss. 

10th Memphis, Tenn. 

Memphis, like many U.S. cities, found that tech was one of its greatest allies earlier this year when crisis struck. The city was quick to implement a telecommuting policy in response to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Five hundred laptops were procured for staff to take home, and the city quickly set up virtual meeting platforms like Microsoft Teams. The IT Division also created a matrix IT environment so that those who needed to work from the office could continue to do so safely. 

Memphis developed its first-ever IT Strategic Plan in August 2020. The plan encompasses a number of goals including, but not limited to, operations transformation, implementation modernization, data center optimization, security posture augmentation and improving the employee experience. The plan has the city completing 56 IT improvements by 2024 that will benefit both employees and citizens. Memphis also has established an open data website, the Memphis Data Hub, created by the Data Governance Committee and the new Office of Performance Management. The site encompasses a wide range of data including 311 and performance metrics, as well as a Data Catalog and a guide to help citizens navigate the site.

Infrastructure saw some improvements in Memphis recently. The city upgraded the network infrastructure at all of its community centers and every branch of the library, and is currently in the process of upgrading the network infrastructure in the data center. In November 2019, the city finished implementation of free Wi-Fi for public use at all library branches. Additionally, Memphis has entered into an ongoing partnership with Google to detect potholes and blight around the city using artificial intelligence
Adam Stone is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine.