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Digital Cities 2022: 125,000 to 249,999 Population Category

Honorees in this year’s Digital Cities Survey from the Center for Digital Government elevated their municipalities’ resilience, while bolstering services and prioritizing engagement with their residents.

Click here for full coverage of winners in all population cagtegories.

1st Bellevue, Wash.

Up from third place last year, Bellevue broadly defines their “hybrid” approach to IT. Not only is more than half of the workforce equipped for productivity from home, but the city has re-examined how they operate to ensure that in-person and online services effectively reach their constituents. One example is their recently implemented hybrid public meeting setup, which satisfies open meetings requirements for gatherings in which some people are physically present and some are participating virtually. Using technology from Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Comcast, Granicus, Castus and YouTube, Bellevue can accommodate both all-virtual and all in-person meetings as well.

Some of the city’s most high-profile meetings are those of its City Council, which meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. And in evidence of forward momentum in its data visualization efforts, the council gained a “Priorities” dashboard in June, which plots progress toward organizational goals. Also supporting Bellevue’s data and transparency priorities are the Police Data Dashboard and a recent organizational upgrade that made Power BI tools available to most city employees.

An update to the IT strategic plan is nearing completion, but core technology work with a citizen focus continues. A public document center offers quick access to frequently requested information, letting engaged citizens bypass public records requests for things like agenda packets, meeting minutes and ordinances. New functionality was recently added to the Virtual Permit Center, which lets most people navigate the process online while building in staff support for those who need it using Microsoft Bookings. The city conducts numerous surveys to gather resident and employee feedback, and recent findings validate efforts like these: 90 percent of residents say city services exceed or greatly exceed their expectations and 88 percent of staff report satisfaction with the technology they have to do their jobs.

2nd Alexandria, Va.

Information Technology Services (ITS) in perennially high-scoring Alexandria, Va., partnered with the city attorney’s and city manager’s offices to expand broadband options across the city, with new construction set to begin this year. The effort is expected to connect more than 90,000 addresses. Similarly, a municipal fiber project, known as I-Net, now connects nearly 90 municipal facilities using dedicated dark fiber that is largely leased from an Internet service provider.

Changes to state law in 2022 allowed public meetings to be accessed via web conferencing platforms, and ITS has reconfigured and modernized its meeting spaces to accommodate virtual meeting participation. More than 3,000 meetings have now been held, with thousands of unique participants, representing a significant increase in engagement. And in another move toward improved public engagement, Alexandria modernized its website in February 2022, aiming for a customer-focused, relevant, accurate and consistent online presence. More than 50 content editors from across departments collaborated to produce nearly 2,000 new pages of content, while reducing the number of overall pages by 20 percent.

Cybersecurity upgrades have helped harden the city’s remote work structure, establishing endpoint management controls to ensure that only authorized persons and devices have access. They also added new malware detection capabilities to prevent its spread across the government network. Furthermore, resiliency plans were put in place to protect city data.

Alexandria’s Vision Zero statistics have been organized into a public-facing dashboard with crash data related to location and other metrics chronicling progress toward its goals. The dashboard is used by transportation planners in their efforts to develop a safer transportation system serving all users.

2nd Corona, Calif.

Back for another high-scoring year, Corona has been emphasizing resident engagement. The city hired a chief digital officer last year to work on digital engagement and is using chatbots, social media and public-facing data visualizations and dashboards to keep residents informed. A new cloud-based survey and analytics tool also helped the city conduct digital surveys and analyze responses. Corona used this to solicit feedback about its 2021-2026 strategic plan, returning responses from 4,000 of its 160,000 residents — a significant leap over the 600 responses it had normally netted through contracted surveying efforts.

Traditionally, only 10 percent of Corona residents have had fiber Internet, but the city now expects to extend a fiber network to all homes and businesses, under a partnership with a private ISP, SiFi. The city also expects to use SiFi to give faster Internet to its facilities and public infrastructure. This accelerated speed could pave the way for later technology adoptions, such as AI systems that automatically adjust signals at connected traffic lights.

The city also is focused on a defense in depth approach to cybersecurity and is working toward zero trust. A heavy shift into the cloud has helped with resiliency, as does adoption of geo-redundant cloud infrastructure in case the regional cloud goes down. Contracts with two private incident response teams further boost defenses, and employees use virtual desktops that can be remotely patched and wiped when users log off.

Virtual desktops and SaaS also enable remote work flexibility. After shifting to work-from-home during the pandemic, Corona is testing new models to identify its long-term approach. That’s included trying full remote and hybrid as well as employing staff located in other states and countries.

The city is also working to create a more standard, formalized data management process and continues to turn to data to guide decision-making. After a fire death, Corona turned to data gathering and analysis to identify areas at high risk of fires so it can prioritize them for inspections and other preventative efforts.

3rd Baton Rouge, La.

As part of its response to the outbreak of COVID-19, Baton Rouge, La., launched renewed efforts to integrate technology with its core missions in different ways, including data-driven dashboards, heat maps, and other related projects. That integration work has continued over the past year, leading to new decisions there around virtual meeting participation, remote work policies, and other unified communication efforts. Embracing virtual participation in this way has saved valuable work hours and travel costs, while at the same time bolstering accessibility.

Another area of tech progress for Baton Rouge has been public safety. The city has worked to expand the use of GIS at its Real Time Crime Center over the past year, giving law enforcement increased access to location-based data as well as enhanced analytics. This has the benefit of helping officers respond quicker, helping them prepare in ways that make scenes safer and giving them new info to understand crime patterns. This work was bolstered by the integration of data from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office as well, helping to crystalize a clearer holistic analytical picture of the area.

Finally, embracing a commitment to data-driven digital service delivery has bolstered the local government in Baton Rouge in other ways as well. For example, the city last year made significant progress on its Stormwater Master Plan, which is a comprehensive survey of the area’s drainage systems. An ongoing massive data collection effort led to the development of new flood risk models, as well as to the identification of maintenance needs. The project is the first of its kind for the region, and local leaders are optimistic it will help them continue to make data-driven decisions about flood mitigation needs.

4th Roseville, Calif.

Technology and infrastructure upgrades have been a recent focus of Roseville’s city tech workforce – as have sharper rules and processes for the new, post-pandemic work environment. Those professionals have built more modern geographic information and enterprise asset management systems while adding automation and new backup and recovery tools for utility billing – all of which promise to impact the lives of residents and officials.

As that work was under way, the city responded to the labor challenges felt by so many public agencies by crafting new job descriptions that conform to the latest industry best practices, along with boosting pay. Roseville also continued moving to the cloud, an effort designed to reduce maintenance and create more internal and external efficiencies. Meanwhile, the city’s IT department worked with the Human Resources Department to launch a formal remote and flexible work category, following up on an earlier draft policy. Staff can now automatically submit their Telework Policy forms for review and approval by management, and access the clear terms, conditions and safety measures that come with out-of-office work.

The city employs about 100 staff members devoted to technology, and to lessen confusion about roles and responsibilities, Roseville has developed RASCI (Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted, Informed) matrices, designed to lay out how teams work with each other and various systems.

5th Fort Collins, Colo.

The city of Fort Collins, Colo., is prioritizing a strong digital strategy, and in doing so, aligning the IT strategic plan with the city’s 2022 Strategic Plan. One major change shaping the city’s approach to IT is a new team; over the past year, most of the city’s senior IT leaders have been replaced, with the exception of CIO Kevin Wilkins. However, the hiring of the new team has led to modernized policies and standards to serve the city better, and innovation continues.

2022 marks the official launch of the first phase of the city’s digital transformation road map. The city is making progress on its digital transformation journey with modernization of licensing, permitting and inspections business processes. Digital transformation advances are made possible through the newly established citywide digital transformation reserve fund. And to better tackle digital transformation with constituent needs in mind, Wilkins has led the creation of a customer experience task force, which is one way that the city encourages customer engagement. Another way is through Get FoCo, a mobile app for citizen engagement developed in partnership with Code for America. The city also encourages engagement through its online platform called Access Fort Collins, the city website and social media channels.

While the city is well known for its pioneering creation of a municipal broadband network, as the city expands, so too does the need for increased broadband capacity. Through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the city is working to supplement connectivity options by creating seven additional community accessible centers with public Wi-Fi access.

5th Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

This Inland Empire city of more than 175,000 held its ranking from last year, having built on Fiscal Year 2021-2022 projects that included expanding an automated license plate reader program and replacing an enterprise resource planning system across financial and human resources.

More recently, the city’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT) has assisted in network design and GIS data inventory to the under-construction Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Broadband fiber network. DoIT updated the city’s Technology Roadmap document and Strategic Services Plan, which connect to the Information Technology Master Plan. To enhance oversight of city and fire district wireless devices, officials migrated to Microsoft Intune for mobile device management.

The city’s GIS team deployed a mobile app, RC2GO, that enables residents to report issues like potholes and lets staff monitor trends and status on the back end via a dashboard. The team increased public access to open data via tools and resources on the city's IT and self-service GIS Open Data Portal. Officials expanded public information access via the city’s RC Docs website portal, including salary information and their sustainability action plan. Leaders at DoIT, Building and Safety and Public Works implemented the texting system Quiq, realizing time savings and improved communication. DoIT deployed drones this year to assist Building and Safety in inspections, Public Works in tree inspections, and to update imagery for proposed developments and a new park.

DoIT created a new Cybersecurity Division and is formalizing a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan. An enhanced backup plan is in the works with three private-sector partners. The department has added cybersecurity incidents to the city’s overall disaster preparedness work, including prepping for responses to ransomware attacks. Here, DoIT relies on standards from organizations including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

6th Tallahassee, Fla.

The city of Tallahassee’s strategy to improve has been to make departmental collaboration IT’s top priority. In pursuit of this, in 2021 the city established a customer success management team (CSM) within the office of the CIO to address the technological needs of city service departments. For law enforcement, the Department of Technology and Innovation set up a crime analysis center by which five agencies of various jurisdictions can share live crime data and video analytics.

Similarly, the city’s Information Security Division has enlisted a group of cities and counties with interest in developing a cybersecurity information-sharing cooperative, with the long-term goal of promoting proactive defense by sharing information in real time during cyber incidents. The CISO team has also developed a cybersecurity policy based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework and started building out the city’s cyber toolkit, installing automated monitoring systems and software to manage vulnerabilities and security incidents. When two third-party vendors suffered cyber attacks in 2021, neither event disrupted city operations. Acknowledging it has more work to do, the city had a third party conduct an assessment of its backup and recovery capabilities, producing a list of investments and actionable ideas to pursue.

To build up the members and skills of its team, city IT has established an online training platform to upskill and provide certifications for key positions, started an awards program to recognize employee accomplishments, and started working with a local recruitment program, the chamber of commerce and local universities to find top talent.

Other internal initiatives in the past year were aimed squarely at modernization of operations. In addition to replacing or upgrading its enterprise systems for fuel and asset management, the city is installing a faster and more efficient meter data management system and utility customer information system, UMAX, and is slated to migrate its on-premises CIS to the Azure cloud in November 2022. For citizens, in March 2022 the city launched a biometric feature called VoiceID that verifies a customer’s identity if they call the city for service related to their accounts. It counted more than 2,000 customers enrolled in the first two weeks after the soft launch.

7th Norfolk, Va.

Norfolk earned its rank this year for strategic IT planning focusing on the expansion of information transparency in government, increasing constituent safety, closing the digital divide, increasing access to city services and strengthening communication with residents, among other aims.

According to officials, the city is investing $6 million as part of a Southside Network Authority-led project to close the digital divide locally by developing a 110-mile regional fiber ring connecting Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk. More than 20 miles of the ring will be in Norfolk. Norfolk IT leaders also collaborated with the local school district to create 82 public Wi-Fi locations called ConnectNorfolk, in addition to dedicating more of its budget to Wi-Fi-related projects and maintenance. In service of its transparency goals, the city has an open data portal with more than 50 data sets, stories and charts for residents seeking data-based information. Data extraction has been automated to keep the city’s public records and figures up to date.

In the sphere of cybersecurity, city officials have updated Norfolk’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to further specify its IT guidelines and make them more comprehensive. Officials also began using a new platform to track the date and time of each employee's AUP acknowledgment, in addition to requiring cybersecurity training for all employees with a city email account.

Finally, touching on workforce planning and training, the city now offers 35 virtual training courses on standard applications including Office 365, DocuSign, Kofax Power PDF, etc., as well as specific tasks using common tools. The city also requires staff to take 40 hours of training each year and shifted courses online to increase flexibility and boost participation and attendance.

8th Hampton, Va.

The city had set as a top strategic priority an informed and engaged citizenry and engages with residents on social media using at least 31 different social media accounts. On Facebook alone, the city averages nearly 90,000 engagements per month. Staff stay on top of threads and citizen questions and make sure those inquiries receive a response.

In addition, the 311 Citizen Contact Center has increased its contacts and features an app and a chat function on the website. The 311 center provides access to systems used by city departments so citizens can check on things such as building inspections and enter a ticket for a missed trash pickup. Several departments also conduct after-event evaluations using SurveyMonkey, and the city is now in the process of conducting its Citizen Satisfaction Survey, adding email and text options to the online survey this year.

Cybersecurity is another top priority, and the city has deployed a number of strategies to keep its systems secure, including security monitoring, patch management, vulnerability management, system updates, a security awareness program and data endpoint monitoring.

9th Irving, Texas

Irving, Texas, landed at the No. 9 spot in its population category this year. The Dallas County town, led by Chief Technology Officer Chad Powell, has stressed the need to address cybersecurity. The city regularly sends phishing scam tests to staff emails, with anyone who clicks on the bait receiving additional training. In April this year, the city set up multifactor authentication to add a level of security to its systems. Additionally, the city was awarded grant money from the North Central Texas Council of Governments for a security assessment. Through the third-party deep dive, the city has begun to update its policies and procedures to align with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework.

Irving has also worked toward providing Wi-Fi access to constituents, in part by adding Wi-Fi at an outdoor entertainment venue. To aid with additional remote work, the city is working on upgrading its infrastructure. The plan is in the consultation phase but will likely involve additional adoption of cloud services. It also added a mobile hot spot lending program, which lends hot spot devices to residents from its South Irving Library. The hot spot is intended for people to search for employment, use telehealth services, attend school or work remotely.

10th Modesto, Calif.

Modesto earned a top 10 spot in this year’s annual survey in part for enhancing digital services. To make its public meetings more inclusive and accessible to non-English speakers, Modesto launched a new language translation tool called Wordly. The software program provides real-time captioned translations for City Council meetings over Zoom with an offering of 20 different languages. Now, residents can attend these meetings in person or virtually and be offered real-time caption interpretations in the language of their choosing. This initiative is one that fosters accessibility in the city’s service delivery. The city also has plans to upgrade its 311 service tool experience called GoModesto!.

This year, Modesto also prioritized fortifying its cybersecurity posture. The city’s IT department enabled multifactor authentication for its staff for Microsoft 365 access. This project was finished in May and will improve the security of accessing cloud services. The city also plans to implement targeted security awareness training for its staff.

In terms of infrastructure, the city partnered with a local broadband carrier and enhanced enterprise communication services to over 34 city facilities. After the eight-week project was finished, essential communication services saw an overall improvement with communication speeds increasing by 137 percent.