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Digital Cities 2022: Up to 75,000 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 categories.

1st Schaumburg, Ill.

Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb that’s also an economic powerhouse for the region, shows how a municipality can keep a tight handle on IT while also dealing with a labor shortage. With the private-sector beckoning candidates – and at least one vital village tech official away on military duty – Schaumburg turned to part-time resources from an existing vendor to help keep the local technology machine on a course toward more improvement. That included making cloud-migration via Microsoft Azure a top priority, which in turn allows core applications to keep running during emergencies that might otherwise disable on-premise systems.

In addition, Schaumburg’s IT staff and vendor KnowBe4 set up monthly end-user cybersecurity training, complete with a large library of mock phishing and hacking attempts, and instant, targeted feedback and education to ensure that employees learn how to better protect their systems. Tech professionals also created a cybersecurity report card that includes 30 fundamentals along with metrics that help the village’s senior leaders better understand needs and areas of concern. Schaumburg also now reports villagewide KPIs using Microsoft Power BI, which reduced work for staff, enabled residents to review years’ worth of local fiscal data and replaced a static Word document that was relatively labor-intensive to maintain.

2nd Tamarac, Fla.

Tamarac is taking a strategic approach to technology, with a city plan that includes broad goals that align with technology initiatives. This unified approach is guided in part by the CIO’s positioning within the city’s senior leadership team. As such, the CIO plays a role in all major projects from various internal departments, and therefore, so does technology. The city has also taken a comprehensive, collaborative approach to cybersecurity and resilience, adhering to best practices. One way this is accomplished is through partnering with the neighboring Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which enables enhanced 911 dispatch services.

Another collaboration is the city’s participation in the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. And while cybersecurity typically refers specifically to cyber attacks, the city’s risk preparation also refers to hurricanes, which are common in the area. In preparing for threats of that nature, the city takes the same approach as for cyber threats, implementing demonstrated best practices. And because the city has identified having an exposed fiber network as a risk, the process of moving fiber underground has begun. The city has also taken a creative approach to combating budget reductions, with the creation of the Client Services Division within IT, the leasing of space on city-owned cell facilities and a forthcoming smart transportation network. Through the city’s coordinated approach to technology, even with financial limitations, the city has been able to better serve residents.

3rd Williamsburg, Va.

Williamsburg tech and innovation work this past year has had a strong focus on aligning IT goals, incorporating new policy changes and improving citizen engagement. For instance, the IT department recently incorporated the city’s goals, initiatives and outcomes into its strategic plan to better align tech objectives with other work being performed by the city. This process involved mapping the department’s projects in a way that connected them to city council goals. They also conducted a formal Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis to better understand the department’s contributions within the broader enterprise.

As for incorporating new policy changes, the city implemented its first-ever information security program manual (ISPM) and incident response plan. The ISPM is a 162-page document detailing the ins and outs of the city’s security program. Meanwhile, the city’s incident response plan details what actions should be taken in the event of a cyber attack. Both documents follow the National Institute of Standards and Technology standards and aim to formalize the city’s security response. Lastly, the city partnered with Zencity to develop GovFlow in order to help improve citizen engagement. The platform consolidates web forms, social media, chatbots and other tools that allow residents and visitors to ask questions or report issues into a single dashboard. Currently, all city departments have access to the platform and can address different requests or issues accordingly.

4th Shawnee, Kan.

Shawnee has made several key changes to administrative IT operations. Specifically, Shawnee created two new positions: a dev ops manager, who supervises operations, apps and web development; and a technical project and training specialist, who manages technical training. Cybersecurity was the focus of several initiatives too, most notably a contract with Arctic Wolf for a security operations center-as-a-service (SOCaaS) program, which uses AI and machine learning to detect and analyze threats. The city also put its CISO through the Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence Liaison Officer (ILO) Program, and it launched an educational campaign for staff. The applications team contributed a pair of apps as well, including The More You Know Cyber Security, which gives cyber risk scores to staff based on their phishing campaign results, and Functional Assignments, to help delegate responsibilities in IT.

Shawnee IT also initiated projects throughout several other internal departments, prioritizing data-driven services and transparency. For snowplow drivers, IT devised a way for ArcGIS field maps and iPads to help track the areas for which they’re responsible and where they’ve already plowed. For the fire department, IT built a public-facing dashboard of statistics regarding calls for service, with more precise information visible internally. For public records requests, IT launched a GovQA management tool with an online portal and payment options. Continuing to build out the city’s GIS data, IT automated data downloads for dashboards and started building a “Shawnee Fast Facts” website to display government performance indicators in one place. The city also started livestreaming meetings, implemented a software tool from ClearGov that automates the creation of budget books and makes the budgeting process more transparent, and partnered with a local marketing firm to build an information kiosk with an iPad, something the city can use as a branding and public-outreach project.

5th Danville, Va.

Danville excelled this year with a set of IT modernization efforts that prioritize a range of work, including modernization, updated legacy technologies, business intelligence, analytics, data governance, data transparency, strategic IT workforce planning, expanding Internet access, cloud computing and improvements to its IT security posture, among other areas of focus.

To be more specific, the city has prioritized public safety in recent years, with officials emphasizing that IT has had a strong partnership with first responders and police, a relationship that has given rise to efforts to streamline emergency communications and reduce violent crime. In July, the city’s IT team allocated a full-time technical support specialist to work directly with local police as well as to attend police department meetings as a liaison. The city’s IT staff also worked to replace existing software for more detailed reports and analytics, as well as recent plans to construct a new state-of-the-art police station to further strengthen collaboration between IT, law enforcement and emergency services.

Another main priority for the city has been using IT to bolster local tourism, with IT leaders having spent the last six months working with tourism officials to jump-start efforts and create an innovative platform for tourism transformation, among other efforts. In addition, city officials continue working on plans to make better use of advanced data analytics through IT modernization and to advance the use of tech tools in the name of continued collaboration across departments.

6th Rock Hill, S.C.

A newcomer to the Digital Cities Survey, Rock Hill, S.C., has been focusing on upgrading its constituent-facing web experience. The city’s IT and public relations teams have been working to update the city’s web portal and web presence to revitalize the experience with a more robust search engine and knowledge base as well as crafting a more intuitive and interactive experience. Part of this is a redesign of the municipal utility portal. Constituents can now see their consumption and rates. They can also submit comments and complaints, issue service requests and pay their bills online. Throughout the entire redesign, the public relations team has been working with providers and other departments to present a consistent brand, ensuring that constituents have a positive experience with city services.

Rock Hill has also deployed a variety of customer surveys, random quality of service surveys as well as a dedicated engagement program called “Inside Rock Hill,” which invites citizens to see and experience all aspects of the municipal experience. The city has also been focusing on revamping its document life cycle management. The city traditionally has relied on state regulations to manage document retention, though this has presented a challenge in increasing storage capacity needs as well as irregular cleanup and control. After switching to Microsoft SharePoint, the IT team designed a new policy to ensure that documents are well organized and compliant with regulatory constraints.

7th Punta Gorda, Fla.

One of the central focuses for Punta Gorda for some time has been the way that it handles data. This year, the city stuck to a set of data standards it has had in place for some time. This included an annual process wherein each city department reviewed who has access to its data, what they can specifically access, where they can access it, when it is refreshed and how it is made available to others. This process is also part of an ongoing strategy in Punta Gorda to break down silos for its information enterprise-wide. The city also reviews the freshness of the data, how longitudinal data is managed and what needs to be deleted. A final view of the accessibility of the data is conducted. The existing process is effective, but the city has also noted that its data would benefit from being received faster and shared in larger quantities where appropriate. With that in mind, Punta Gorda is hoping to soon improve its processes and the way it handles data.

The data review was not alone this year, though. In addition, Punta Gorda once again conducted an annual internal review of existing infrastructure and applications, working to determine what it needs to improve. In terms of specific work, an interesting and, so far, successful web-based application has been a new one that enhanced Punta Gorda’s Neighborhood Watch program. The app functions as a facilitator of communications between citizens and the police, nicely aligning with the city’s leadership priorities of being committed to improving communications between departments and active citizen volunteers.

8th Tinley Park, Ill.

Tinley Park moved up one spot this year, doing so in part because of a concentrated effort to drive culture change, especially as it relates to the central IT shop’s relationship to other city departments. Led by IT Director Anthony Ardolino, who has been at the helm for less than two years, Tinley Park recognized that a negative culture had previously existed, and it sought a deliberate overhaul to get better at showcasing what the IT department can do for other departments. One goal that arose from IT’s improved relationship with the rest of the enterprise was getting as many of the services in this Chicago suburb online as possible. This manifested in many new projects throughout the year, ranging from Tinley Park Messenger – a phone-based local news delivery service for seniors – to creating new user-friendly search capabilities on the city’s website.

In addition, Tinley Park also brought in a third-party vendor to analyze the village's online services as a whole. This outside vendor helped to provide an unbiased view of the village, and its subsequent recommendations have led to things that range from replacing outdated software to finding other new ways to increase efficiency. Some of these solutions include an e-ticketing process that can be used to pay for all violations, firewall replacements, upgrading internal wireless access points and a video server consolidation, among other things.

9th Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Situated on Arizona’s border with California, Lake Havasu City is relatively remote but makes the most of its tech resources to move the city forward, and IT has made a concerted effort to ensure its work aligns with city leadership and priorities. To support the larger goal of modernizing the city’s aging infrastructure, the IT department has helped make an existing asset management system more effective. The department has also undertaken a two-year project to update and secure the city’s servers, including building a new disaster recovery site and upgrading existing virtual infrastructure. Lake Havasu City contracts with a limited number of private-sector partners for its cybersecurity services to help control costs, and IT maintains a relationship with MS-ISAC to keep up with security trends and strategies. The city is working toward a zero-trust environment by implementing multifactor authentication, firewalls and endpoint protection services. IT estimates they will achieve 100 percent zero trust by the end of 2022.

Over the next year, the IT department will be working to stand up a new land, permitting and licensing management system that will integrate with GIS and asset management to ultimately allow for better data-driven decision-making. IT is also integral to the early construction of a new courthouse, for which it is designing and setting up all the technology. To improve citizen services, online payment processing is available via both desktop and mobile devices, and plans are in place to make all permitting and licensing services web friendly. Internet access has been a major concern for Lake Havasu City residents, and for the past year leadership has been working to bring 100 percent fiber networks to the city and gigabit connections to every household.

10th Gainesville, Ga.

Gainesville focused on using tech to improve its constituent-facing services with the launch of the WeGo ride-share program in partnership with Via. Consisting of a fleet of 17 vans, the WeGo service allows residents and visitors to book rides at their convenience with a smartphone app. The van will pick them up at their location and take them wherever they want to go within the city. Gainesville also revamped its website in the last year, featuring a streamlined look and feel with direct links to the most-visited web pages and social media accounts. The city has noticed increased engagement with the new design, with more users taking advantage of the easier-to-find information and resources.

Cybersecurity also got a boost, with the city implementing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework 800-53. Through the process, the city discovered what it was doing well and where it needed to improve to shore up its cybersecurity posture. This was a significant undertaking for a mid-sized city, and the benefits will be realized for years to come. Gainesville also implemented zero-trust access control for privileged accounts, allowing the city to monitor user sessions and stop suspicious activity. The city also established an IT security administrator position last year to develop and implement all information security governance, policy development, risk management and overall network security operations.

Finally, the city of Gainesville made a number of improvements to its data centers. A new hyperconverged infrastructure has allowed the city to double down on backup and recovery, establishing immutable backups that are hosted both onsite and in the cloud for improved resiliency. And a larger Internet pipe allowed the city to upgrade the network capacity and add a load balancer to eliminate a major single point of failure.