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Digital Cities 2023: 125,000 to 249,999 Population Category

The 56 winning cities in this year’s awards from the Center for Digital Government focused their efforts on technology projects that impacts residents communitywide.

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

1st Scottsdale, Ariz.

Scottsdale looked to technology this year to improve services for constituents and businesses. A new web content management platform modernizes the customer service experience for anyone who accesses city services and information digitally. And updates to the city’s 311 system, ScottsdaleEZ, make it easier for residents to request services and report problems on a desktop computer or mobile device. Also, in response to resident feedback, the city launched an online tool where constituents can easily access information about short-term rental properties, which have proliferated in recent years in response to tourism. The Short-Term Rental Map Tool, available on the city’s open data portal, is an interactive map that allows users to view license status and code enforcement violations for individual addresses, as well as quickly report violations.

Internally, Scottsdale developed a new IT strategy to align the city’s IT work with its overall goals and objectives. Among other things, building this strategy involved assessing the city’s current practices in cybersecurity, privacy, IT’s contribution to business strategy and more, and building road maps to improve IT’s role in these efforts. The city also made great strides concerning data, developing a data management strategy and Data Service Standard, establishing a data scientist role, facilitating data master classes and expanding the data management program.

Additionally, the city established a digital privacy administrative regulation to safeguard residents’ trust in the city’s use of emerging technologies and protect digital privacy rights. In addition to outlining several privacy principles — notice, retention, minimization, accountability, accuracy, sharing and equity — the policy gives residents the power to choose when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated. And finally, Scottsdale continued to improve its cybersecurity posture by implementing guiding security and risk management principles including implementing proactive risk management, improving resiliency and recoverability, deploying robust crisis and incident management, and more.

2nd Bellevue, Wash.

Bellevue finished second in its category this year by demonstrating accomplishments in the areas of equity, public safety, cybersecurity and emerging technology. The city continued to add free Wi-Fi to parks and community centers in low-income neighborhoods and expanded access in affordable housing units. In addition, a new chatbot that can converse in eight different languages was added to the city website, with plans to upgrade its AI capabilities next year to accommodate additional languages. Public kiosks were installed in City Hall for constituents who may not own web browsing devices. Further, a police transparency dashboard was launched to share data on crime, use of police force, and workforce demographics. The police department also began equipping officers with body cameras.

Bellevue moved toward a zero-trust cybersecurity architecture by upgrading software and password management services. Federal grants were applied to complete risk assessments; link the city, school 911 center, water and sewer networks; and update the city’s cyber incident response plan. The city began storing noncloud-based data in one location, allowing departments to generate new business insights and identify nonobvious trends. A transportation dashboard was launched to pinpoint data on traffic patterns and accidents as well as the number of cyclists in the city.

The city launched two AI pilot projects trained in Bellevue-only data for the purpose of simplifying the building permit process. The chatbot used on saved Bellevue personnel more than 600 hours that otherwise would have been spent manually inputting building permit invoices into the point-of-sale system.

3rd Modesto, Calif.

The city of Modesto earned its spot in this year’s rankings for recent digital transformation efforts aimed at increasing government transparency and strengthening data security and privacy, among other key goals. The city has hosted public meetings in a hybrid format, with livestreaming recorded for on-demand playback. Using AI translation technology, public meetings are now available in more than 26 languages, surpassing any other city in the U.S. The city has also bolstered its IT security posture, which was demonstrated during its response to a ransomware attack in February that targeted the Police Department’s records management system. Thanks to a recent tabletop cybersecurity exercise, all systems remained operable and critical data was restored within three weeks; no payment was made to the attacker.

In addition, Modesto IT officials have placed an increased focus on data governance as part of its smart city strategy, most notably a data gathering application for its Community Health and Assistance Team (CHAT) that aims to engage and build relationships with the homeless population to provide support and connect them with social services, shelters and housing programs.

4th Columbia, Mo.

Columbia, Mo., has a new IT strategic plan guiding its work, which emphasizes transparency, efficiency and accountability. In a recent emergency, the IT team demonstrated their vital role as a key partner in ensuring business continuity for the entire workforce: A pipe in the top floor of City Hall burst, displacing many employees. IT was able to get functional new workstations set up to minimize downtime for these key personnel. Similarly, IT has been involved in plans to augment the cybersecurity defenses of industrial control systems, adding resources like a cybersecurity operations center with specific performance metrics to monitor progress and evaluate success.

Columbia is also advancing its data-driven government priorities with a recently approved data architect position, reflecting the city’s commitment to more responsive, transparent government. Bolstered by a comprehensive data inventory and an organizational data governance strategy, IT is increasing the use of automated performance measurement tools, fueled by high-quality data.

The city is getting into the chatbot game as well, turning to IBM’s Watson to more efficiently respond to high-volume inquiries. Starting with transit questions, their virtual assistant will soon be able to respond to questions about trash collection. IT also played a major role in making utility field crews, who previously relied on a live Internet connection to transmit data from the field, more productive. Using Esri’s Field Maps tool, IT added offline capabilities so that workers can input data from the field, later syncing to the main database once they are connected.

5th Corona, Calif.

Driven by a commitment to agile collaboration and transformational leadership, Corona, Calif., is paving the way for data-driven citizen solutions by empowering stakeholders and employees with technology services and fostering a culture of exploration and innovation.

Building on the central idea that success begins internally, Corona’s IT department works to ensure employees have the IT resources they need to serve others. To meet employees where they are — whether that’s through remote, hybrid or primarily in-office working arrangements — the city’s cloud-based VDI infrastructure, and secure SaaS and PaaS solutions, are working to create a secure way to provide services. The city also integrated Envisio as a central platform for strategic alignment and reporting to heighten collaborative efforts and prevent a siloed work environment. The digital platform encompasses 138 strategic action plans across all city departments, ensuring that every employee understands how all city agencies work together toward one central goal: to collectively deliver the priority services the city needs.

With city safety and livability also at the forefront of their efforts, Corona’s IT officials use data tracing systems, dashboards and other collaboration technologies to keep city leaders and the community abreast of the impact of homelessness in the area, allowing decision-makers to improve the various outreach and resource programming available. By using technology to connect those needing resources to those who can assist, Corona’s homeless count has seen a reduction of 60 percent so far this year.

The city actively seeks input from residents to identify areas of improvement in service delivery. A system from Qualtrics employs a dual approach, combining quantitative techniques like customer attitude indicators, surveys/questionnaires and predictive analytics with qualitative feedback gathered from staff, residents and stakeholders. This helps identify future objectives and pinpoint where improvement efforts might be necessary to continuously drive meaningful results.

6th Olathe, Kan.

The city of Olathe, part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, shows a commitment to collaboration throughout its IT work. The city’s IT team has embraced a project governance process since 2019 that gives a citywide priority ranking to every project, as well as enabled a culture of collaboration with city departments on innovation and problem-solving. Recently the city rolled out multifactor authentication across the enterprise, implemented a new data governance framework to promote data sharing and standards, and deployed a customer service tool that it’s expanding from open records requests and business registrations to other use cases. The collaborative spirit extends beyond City Hall; Olathe shares a fiber network with Johnson County and has participated in national data collaboratives including a police benchmarking initiative that allows it to compare statistics with similar cities across the country.

City IT has also completed or is in the midst of several large projects. It refreshed the website, going mobile-first in 2022; launched a new digital services portal; supported remote work through investments in collaboration and meeting tools; and is working on a major deployment of a new system for human capital management and payroll, attendance and time tracking. The city also recently implemented a dedicated technology replacement fund, giving structured budget support for replacing technology as it reaches the end of its life.

7th Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Recent innovations by Rancho Cucamonga exemplified what can be done with interdepartmental collaboration. To better manage long-term infrastructure costs, the Department of Information Technology worked with the city’s finance director on a 10-year forecast of technology replacement costs, allowing the department to find new funding, new ways to replace old technology and partnerships. For a better grasp of the city’s budgeting process, DoIT leadership went through budget and procurement training, from which they got tools to monitor their department’s projects and budgets throughout the year. For public safety, the department set up a real-time information center (RTIC) that receives daily data from automatic license plate readers, cameras and other devices to help law enforcement respond to incidents quickly. For the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Protection District, the city helped replace network infrastructure such as servers, hardware and software, as well as virtual infrastructure in data centers at fire stations and City Hall. DoIT also digitized the city’s triannual lifestyle magazine, the Grapevine, and worked with city executives to host an in-person training event and assess how different staff members handle and react to conflict.

With Public Works, DoIT completed two projects: a dashboard to prioritize which streets need pothole repair, based on data on recent repairs, traffic counts and the street-resurfacing schedule; and “Rooted in RC,” a project to build up urban forest cover, for which IT staff gathered data on the city’s tree inventory and aggregated it in an online tool to support urban planning.

As always, Rancho Cucamonga also prioritized cybersecurity, most notably in implementing a smart-card authentication system for privileged data and network access. This made authentication more efficient for privileged users while also making them easier to track and audit. Still in the process of implementing a data governance policy, the city created a classification system for all its data organized by enterprise application, made redundant on-premises and cloud backups for disaster recovery, gave users a digital wallet to manage passwords, launched an enterprise-wide identity management system and created cyber awareness videos for the public. In June, DoIT finished implementing software-defined networking in its data centers to micro-segment the network for improved security, and it’s been working with CISA’s Cyber Hygiene services for vulnerability scans of applications and servers.

7th Roseville, Calif.

The IT Department in Roseville, Calif., has made great strides in its efforts to become a business partner to the 14 other city agencies and has worked to align its goals with theirs to create a stronger, more resilient enterprise. IT worked with key stakeholders citywide to create a five-year technology road map and does quarterly reviews with all department managers to ensure their tech needs are being met and any gaps in service can be addressed. The city moved to involve the finance department in technology governance to help make more financially smart tech investments. It also put in place a “Status Review” process that monitors ongoing IT projects and investments on a regular basis, which has helped stick to budgets and minimize risk, keeping projects on track. A new 10-year technology capital plan will further help forecast spending in the long term.

In summer 2023, Roseville rolled out a new customer relationship management system called mRSVL with the overarching goal of automating resident service requests. The platform can track those requests and is integrated with asset management, permitting and code enforcement, and an AI-powered chatbot named Rosie is set to go live as a key component of the system. A relaunch of the Open Roseville data portal allows residents and businesses transparency into city services, and a new Open Budget Module gives insight into the city’s finances.

This year the city upgraded its Internet bandwidth from 500mbps to 1gbps and is investigating whether any other updates need to be made to accommodate city staff’s hybrid work schedule. Other major projects include an overhaul of the police department’s real-time crime center, which was previously a single desktop computer and now features an eight-screen video wall to monitor crime events. Plans are in place to integrate that system with emergency dispatch.

8th Alexandria, Va.

The city of Alexandria captured an eighth-place spot in this year’s survey. The city’s IT department has been working diligently to balance the operational needs of the local government with the potential innovations. A technology investment board plays a significant role in this mission, helping to align new requests with established priorities. Department requests are evaluated against impacts to current infrastructure, cybersecurity risks, and other technical dependencies.

In an effort to streamline citizen interactions with city departments, a new queue management system has been deployed. This serves visitors through a multilingual kiosk touchpoint that then connects them to the in-person services they need. Text messages are sent before, during and after the appointment to ensure satisfactory service. The changes have allowed staff to better manage workflows and connect residents with the necessary expertise. The police department is undergoing a body camera rollout.

Cybersecurity is an especially top-of-mind concern for the municipality given its proximity to the heart of American government. The IT team takes a proactive approach to safeguarding critical systems; this includes awareness training, adoption of the NIST Center for Internet Security standards, and zero-trust network architecture. The full deployment of extended detection and response tools is also underway.

9th Fort Collins, Colo.

Fort Collins, Colo., implemented new clear guidelines for availability of city services and operating hours, with an emphasis on accessibility to all. These guidelines stressed the importance of enabling simplified online solutions. Another priority is collecting feedback from customers, especially those from underrepresented groups. To facilitate these priorities and others, the IT leadership team drove digital transformation initiatives and worked to streamline city service delivery. Investing in user-friendly and accessible digital platforms enabled users, including those with disabilities, to easily access online services, in keeping with the aforementioned priorities. The city is committed to simplicity to help break down barriers and enable all residents to engage with and benefit from municipal resources.

This all aligns with IT’s mission of empowering the city services with innovative, resilient technology and a boost to operational efficiency. The big picture is business-driven, with residents, businesses and employees flourishing with the aid of accessible and secure information and technological progress.

9th Norfolk, Va.

The IT shop in Norfolk, Va., accomplished a lot in the past year, despite having to deal with some challenges. One of those challenges, however, also provided a bit of opportunity: staff attrition. Over eight months, four of six IT department leadership positions became vacant due to retirement. This totaled a loss of 100 years of institutional knowledge, which is a challenge for any organization. But it was a chance for leadership to reorganize with an eye toward the future, updating job classifications and planning to conduct a new compensation study.

A major way that IT was able to contribute to the city in the past year was through helping with communications and citizen engagement. One priority for the city now is addressing rising sea levels, given that Norfolk is a coastal city. This is an especially pressing issue for Norfolk’s many historic places. Currently, the city’s Neighborhood and Planning departments are working closely to both engage and educate residents around this. IT is helping by providing the necessary tech, with an eye toward constituent engagement. This communication effort extends to other work, including the online resident survey tool, Let’s Talk Norfolk, the citizen service portal, MyNorfolk, and more.

Another project aimed at better serving residents was the chatbot that the IT team installed on the city website in May. It’s been an early success, providing 24-hour service. So far, it has interacted with 3,817 users who have asked 5,932 questions. The most common topics for these inquiries were property taxes, parking and schedules.

Finally, the IT team also provided citywide cybersecurity training via videos, quizzes and random phishing tests. The city is also working to hire its first-ever chief information security officer.

10th Baton Rouge, La.

Nearly $2 million in one-time funding from the American Rescue Plan Act have helped to enhance cybersecurity technology, software, and infrastructure in Baton Rouge. While Information Services continues to face funding and staffing challenges to meet cybersecurity risks, the IT Steering Committee has established a comprehensive cybersecurity network, focused on strengthening software and improved training.

Baton Rouge has partnered with its public library to make 500 Wi-Fi hotspots available for checkout. The program is intended to help residents obtain jobs, education, health information and other resources.

IT also collaborated with the Baton Rouge Police Department to create a Real-Time Crime Center, which uses location-based data to generate real-time safety analytics. Officials can analyze crime trends and evaluate the efficacy of crime-reduction policies. As of May 2023, the Baton Rouge homicide rate had dropped 35 percent from the previous year.

City officials leverage user metrics from the city-parish website, social media and 311 response data to better understand which government resources have the highest interest and impact. As an example, 311 data has been leveraged to identify blight remediation projects. Spatial analysis and other tools allow officials to address areas in the community where blight is most likely to occur. Other data is layered on top to identify neighborhoods with the greatest need.

Baton Rouge has introduced new technologies to improve the dispatch of emergency services, as well as Wi-Fi enabled radios and NextGen 911 software. The city is leveraging emerging tech toward stormwater management by using infrared sensors mounted on drones to monitor illicit discharges into waterways. The Office of Data, Analytics and Performance is a new agency formed with the mission to manage public data, identify open data projects, and support the development of data collection, analytics and maintenance across the city-parish departments.

10th Hampton, Va.

The phrase “safe and clean” guides municipal work in Hampton, Va., which means that the work IT does is vital to such tasks as youth engagement and violence prevention, neighborhood watches, and beautification. For instance, software and data help police identify trouble spots in the city and the Public Works Department to figure out which areas need the most attention.

That’s just one example of how this city demonstrates that the reach of tech is vital to 21st-century public operations. Citizen engagement is another prime area for Hampton. Communications and public meetings have shifted from in-person to virtual or online — a move that has endured after the pandemic — and the city’s tax and licensing processes are now mostly online. That has all helped to increase total citizen engagement by 72 percent between fiscal years 2021 and 2023. During that time, the city’s social media audience has increased 14 percent, too. Hampton also has installed about two dozen Wi-Fi access points across the city with wireless kiosks allowing access to city services. Since implementation, Wi-Fi use has jumped 35 percent.

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