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Digital Counties 2024: 1 Million or More Population Category

Click here to see our full coverage of the 2024 Digital Counties Survey.

1st Alameda County, Calif.

Alameda County, Calif., is no stranger to the Digital Counties Survey leaderboard. This year, the county’s Information Technology Department (ITD) took a first-place spot for its commitment to consistent innovation and good government IT under the leadership of longtime CIO and Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers award winner Tim Dupuis. ITD’s mission is simple and succinct: “the delivery of services through secure, effective and innovative technology solutions," and to that end the department is focused on bolstering and securing the necessary infrastructure to provide internal and external services.

Several large departments and initiatives have transitioned under ITD’s purview, including the technical functions of the Health Care Services Agency’s (HCSA) Social Health Information Exchange program, technology services for the Department of Child Support Services, and radio functions for the Alameda County Fire Department. In October 2023, ITD introduced SyntraNet, which hosts the county's Community Health Record and Jail Scheduling systems in addition to processing California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal claims. The consolidated platform allows HCSA to better coordinate clinical, behavioral and community-based organization care teams.

ITD has also been moving forward with responsible adoption of artificial intelligence for some time now, jumping into possible applications earlier than most. ITD has six AI-enabled chatbots in place for the departments of health care, probation, ITD service desk, public works, human resources and social services. In addition, a pilot initiative was launched to test the efficiency of an application that connects unhoused individuals with living accommodations using AI tools, resulting in a 25 percent user satisfaction increase.

Cybersecurity is a key concern for the ITD, and efforts have been made to secure critical infrastructure and systems, like those associated with the voting process and myriad possible digital threats to its integrity. Where staffing is concerned, ITD’s vacancy rate is half of the industry average at 7 percent. This is largely attributed to the consistent development of staff and a positive working environment.

2nd Fairfax County, Va.

Fairfax County is improving resident experiences with more multilingual offerings, including forthcoming Korean language social media channels and new Spanish capabilities for its AI-powered website chatbot. Further easing user experiences, the county is also streamlining tax collection. A new system allows residents to pay personal property taxes online more quickly, and future plans call for online business tax payments and self-service payment kiosks.

AI solutions and AI assistants have also helped make internal workflows more efficient, and the county is exploring more uses of the technology. For example, it hopes to use AI to analyze data related to areas like traffic flow and waste management, and currently uses it to analyze conversation recorded by police body-worn cameras.

The county emphasizes data-driven decision-making, including by providing staff with training and guidance on ethical and regulatory concerns to attend to when handling data. Playbooks and technical standards help explain the best practices for auditing, classifying and securing data. Fairfax doesn’t just rely on data from its proprietary systems, but also takes into account its ability to get data from third parties when procuring from external vendors. Turning to cybersecurity, the county has partnered with vendors for a managed detection and response service, as well as continuous attack surface testing. Should something go wrong, the county regularly tests continuity of operations and disaster recovery plans, including with tabletop exercises.

Fairfax County faces the risk that as many as 25 percent of its IT staff will be able to retire within two years and so is experimenting to see if it can boost recruitment and retention through signing bonuses, new outreach efforts, more flexible work structures and advertising the stability, work-life balance and service mission of government jobs.

3rd San Diego County, Calif.

With so much data being generated from different departments and locations across San Diego County, the County Technology Office (CTO) is centralizing its data analytics with a “data lake,” which will enhance San Diego’s ability to combine data-informed decision-making with multiple operations like migrant services and homelessness. Data is put into a consistent format, taking the concept of data analysis from compartmentalized, department-level systems to a system that can be more easily used and integrated across departments. The county is using AI to help redesign its website for better engagement with residents and improved digital services. The new site, which will begin to be rolled out this summer, will be more readable, with easier-to-understand language.

To better serve residents impacted by winter flooding events, San Diego County issued specially configured laptops for temporarily housed flood victims, allowing them to easily access support from local, state and federal resources. Take-Home Tech Connect Kits, which provide a Chromebook and MiFi hot spot, increased from 7,000 to 9,000 in the last year, providing access to newspapers, magazines and other resources. The Tell Us Now mobile app is another tool for engaging with residents, enabling the submittal of any number of service requests, allowing residents to report incidents when they see them — geomarkers identify the location without the need for an address. Rover AI is an example of developing a proof-of-concept into a real-world application: Cameras mounted to county vehicles collect road condition data as they drive across the county, identifying hazards in need of attention.

Broadband infrastructure has been upgraded across more than 50 county libraries, parks and other facilities, retiring outdated copper communications technology with fiber-optic cables, thus increasing bandwidth and download speeds for residents and employees.

4th Wake County, N.C.

Under the leadership of CIO Jonathan Feldman since September 2022, Wake County, N.C., has established a promising strategy to assess and implement new technologies, garnering it the fourth-place ranking in its population category this year. A significant component of the county’s tech strategy involves educating county employees. This effort is illustrated through Decrypted, a cybersecurity training program for employees launched in July 2023 by the Information Services Security Team. The results were tangible: The county’s biannual customer experience survey found a four-point increase in the department’s approachability score since Decrypted launched. Another noteworthy employee training program is the four-part Data as a Second Language course, launched in June 2023, which aims to help employees understand the data they work with. Over 100 employees have already enrolled in or completed the course.

However, the work to engage county employees with tech starts at the time of onboarding. In 2023, the county IT team worked with HR to launch a streamlined onboarding program. The new program offers hiring managers a digital hub with a checklist of onboarding tasks, with forms completed electronically. A dashboard monitors onboarding progress and surveys capture feedback — 100 percent of those surveyed recommend the county as an employer.

Equipping employees with skills and tools enables the county to more efficiently implement new technology applications. This includes the July 2023 launch of an app for school nurses, giving them the ability to securely record student health information; this replaces previous manual data-collection methods, which have security risks. It also includes the June 2023 launch of a STEM-focused drone program aiming to educate justice-involved youth, developed in partnership with NC State and Elizabeth City State universities.

5th Cook County, Ill.

Cook County, Ill., shows how technology can provide more transparency to constituents on complicated and controversial issues. On taxation, for instance, the county’s new Tax Map Viewer, launched in January, gives residents free access to current and older tax maps. Users need only property index numbers or an address — no navigation of physical maps required, nor the fees involved — to research property valuation or neighborhood taxation trends.

No one can truly understand how an agency works without having an idea of how the money flows, and that holds true for another transparency push supported by technology. Cook County received more than $1 billion from federal coffers as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, and officials set up a website and interactive survey to set priorities for how to spend that money. More than 30,000 participants offered some 270 suggestions, an example of how digital services can boost community engagement.

Keeping that momentum alive requires good hardware, and early this year Cook County completed its data center consolidation project, which cut the number of data centers to five from 13. Physical rack space decreased to three from 20, even as the county is supporting 39 percent more virtual machines than was the case before. All that work helps the county keep up with exponential increases in data and digital records and makes it easier for officials to run fun public health education programs, such as using an interactive, Halloween-themed map that showed the locations of bats that tested positive for rabies. The goal? Educate county residents about rabies prevention.

6th Orange County, Fla.

One of the biggest successes in Orange County, Fla., which includes Orlando, is its work to combat the opioid crisis, and a big part of the effort has involved technology. The county has used data to prioritize its strategies to combat opioid overdoses. The Orange County Drug Free Office also created four digital campaigns while putting many resources on the county’s website. In addition, the county is using GIS technology to target areas most affected by the crisis, which culminated in an eight-month media campaign that registered 30 million impressions and earned praise from the DEA. There is also a human-centered design element, with the country conducting test pilots for messaging and then studying feedback to determine the best feedback methods. All told, Orange County saw a roughly 25 percent reduction in opioid overdoses year over year.

The IT shop in Orange County also made strides toward better embracing emerging technology, including artificial intelligence. While the county has used AI for years in its cybersecurity program, recently it piloted an internal AI system that can help users access years of county meeting agendas, annual budgets, regulations and more. That test was a success, and it has now given rise to several more pilots in a similar vein. In addition, the county’s 311 system is partnering with Google to implement AI as the first response mechanism to citizens seeking information.

Looking ahead, a major focus point for Orange County IT is staff retention. To address this challenge, the county has done things like issue an across-the-board pay increase, streamline its hiring processes and allow employees to submit remote work requests to managers.

6th San Bernardino County, Calif.

San Bernardino County, Calif.’s strategic technology plan highlights opportunities to consolidate and optimize existing technology infrastructure, leveraging automation and artificial intelligence to create new assets while safeguarding current ones against evolving security risks. This is achieved through multiple teams, each responsible for specific components, working collaboratively. The county’s emerging technology team — consisting of development, infrastructure and business technical staff — evaluates emerging technologies through proof of concepts to determine their benefits. They employ their Emerging Technology Analysis Canvas for these evaluations, which assesses new technologies hitting the market, including generative AI.

San Bernardino County’s Information Security Program has evolved through the expansion of its Phishing Simulation Program (PSP) and Threat Intelligence Program. The PSP uses AI-generated emails for monthly tabletop exercises to identify process improvement areas by mirroring real-world scenarios to enhance preparedness against ransomware attacks. Another standout technology is the county’s enterprise GIS, which combines secure cloud-based solutions to manage and leverage geospatial data during critical times such as natural disasters.

In the months ahead, the county plans to dive further into cloud computing for cost savings and scalability. Investing in CRM systems and analytics tools to personalize user experiences and identify needs is also top of mind for county tech leaders.

7th Gwinnett County, Ga.

Gwinnett County, Ga., a major player in the Atlanta metropolitan area, has earned recognition as a top county for its commitment to enhancing digital services, data governance and cybersecurity. In 2023, the county focused on resilience, workforce development and data-driven improvements to resident services. Part of a broader shift to cloud-based infrastructure, the county adopted a new cloud storage solution, a move that ensures quick data recovery in case of disasters or cyber attacks, safeguarding operational continuity.

Addressing the widespread challenge of skilled staff shortages, Gwinnett County has implemented a strong succession planning strategy. Through rigorous assessments and targeted development plans, high-potential employees are prepared to seamlessly step into leadership roles, ensuring continued operational effectiveness.

One standout accomplishment is the county’s OneStop 4 Help portal, designed to address local hunger, health and housing issues. This online service streamlines access to essential resources and facilitates efficient referrals. In a bid to improve user experience, the county conducted a comprehensive review of its web content. By analyzing common user searches and high-traffic pages, they restructured public-facing information for greater ease of use. Additionally, Gwinnett County launched an open data portal in 2023, empowering residents to explore maps, data and applications relevant to their community.

8th Hennepin County, Minn.

Disparity reduction is a key priority for Hennepin County, Minn., and these efforts involve IT in several interesting ways. The Raise the Baseline program targets income inequality with direct assistance to residents that qualify. Participants access the funds through a low-code app developed by county staff, which manages data, e-signatures and reporting.

The county’s Broadband and Digital Inclusion Department aims to reduce the digital divide with award-winning services, offered in partnership with multiple community organizations. Helping almost 5,000 residents last year, digital navigators equip residents in need with devices and the skills to use them, as well as support for accessing low-cost Internet. Hands-on support is available in several languages.

Building on its commitment to operating as a data-driven entity, Hennepin County adopted its first enterprise data strategy in 2023. And while a data literacy program is currently being developed, there is evidence of a data-driven culture taking root. The public health department, for example, united data on homelessness, criminal justice and social services to address the threat of an HIV outbreak.

The Department of Digital Experience was formally created in December 2023, which explains why usability studies have become hallmarks of projects. The department’s KPI framework prioritizes accessibility, usability and equitability, as well as a website or application’s preparedness to receive customer feedback. The rating system they use plots status on a continuum, which underscores the fact that even highly satisfactory sites can always be improved.

As for the core work of IT, the department has implemented a portfolio management tool, which allows for a unified view of its workload in one location. With this in place, IT created a new way to coordinate, evaluate and prioritize its work across the department.

8th Palm Beach County, Fla.

A few of Palm Beach County, Fla.’s IT priorities include expanding information transparency, increasing collaboration for more effective customer experiences, improving constituent and business engagement, closing the digital divide, and reducing business operating and long-term costs. One way the county is working toward these goals is by implementing a Connect PBC mobile app. In general, the app’s directive is simple: provide a direct line of communication between residents and county representatives. The app also allows residents to submit non-emergency service requests or tips based on their geographic location.

Palm Beach County is also working on a pilot program that uses proprietary and open-source large language models to help residents interpret policies and land development codes, as well as frequently asked questions and other help desk services. Other notable tech efforts include streamlining operations, improving efficiency and enhancing decision-making processes for county agencies with the help of automation and generative AI. In this case, the county is specifically applying the tech to payment processing, claims intake and verification, eligibility assessments, expense reimbursements for county employees, and other finance-related processes. The county is also focusing on integrating conversational and transactional chatbots and voicebots within its traditional interactive voice response systems over the next 12 to 18 months. The goal is to use this technology to bolster communication channels and public engagement by providing residents with new ways to interact with county services.

9th Miami Dade County, Fla.

Miami-Dade County’s Information Technology Department (ITD) collaborates closely with other county agencies to foster customer-centric practices. Residents benefit from increased self-service options via digital platforms championed by ITD and the Communications and Customer Experience Department (CCED), ensuring streamlined services. This helps enhance resident interactions, delivering accessible and transparent government services. ITD supports systems like and the Open Data Hub, enabling public access to data and improving user experiences.

ITD also takes a customer-centric approach to its annual business plan while ensuring secure and reliable technology solutions. The Business Relationship Management Team partners with municipalities and county agencies to deliver solutions aligned with community needs and goals. ITD also drives an Innovation Program to address critical initiatives. By collaborating with stakeholders, IT teams identify emerging technologies to enhance processes countywide.

Looking ahead, ITD and CCED play key roles in implementing Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s No Wrong Door vision. Initiatives include a Countywide Customer Relationship Management tool and Customer Data Platform to unify data and enhance service delivery with modern technology and artificial intelligence.

10th Franklin County, Ohio

IT leadership in Franklin County, Ohio, last year focused on improving the government experience for residents. To accomplish this, county enterprise IT created a team called the GX Foundry in 2022, which last year helped move the county to a new content management system and worked with 44 agencies to overhaul the county’s website so services would be easier for residents to find. The team also created a “state of the county” website with which the commissioners can share information about what the county is doing. For bookkeeping and financial management, they used the low-code tool Quickbase to build an application for identifying unclaimed county funds, which allowed the county to retire technical debts and build interfaces for apps used by both the public and internal staff.

Perennially focused on cybersecurity, Franklin County IT’s efforts in 2023 included the launch of a zero-trust approach requiring layers of verifications. This entailed 7,742 hours of security awareness training for staff, and the county estimates the effort prevented 265,000 phishing and malware attacks. The county also hired data analysts for various agencies and increased its cybersecurity staff to include cybersecurity engineers, a data loss prevention engineer and two engineers to focus on communications, specifically to support the countywide Wi-Fi replacement project.

Click here to see our full coverage of the 2024 Digital Counties Survey.