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Digital Counties 2024: 250,000 to 499,999 Population Category

The first-place finishers in this year's Digital Counties Survey from the Center for Digital Government are those that have focused on modernizing major systems while also championing innovation.

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

1st Chesterfield County, Va.

Chesterfield County, Va., secured top honors in its population category this year thanks to its comprehensive approach to technology, encompassing cybersecurity, digital services, workforce development and broadband expansion. Chesterfield’s cybersecurity strategy is a standout, extending cybersecurity training to vendors to foster a culture of shared responsibility. The use of AI-powered tools for real-time threat detection further demonstrates the county’s commitment to protecting its digital assets.

Chesterfield’s collaborative approach to web content management, involving over 200 staff members, has streamlined the website and prioritized the user experience while producing tangible results. A focus on generative AI for future enhancements underscores the county’s dedication to innovation. Data governance is also a priority, with a dedicated team focused on data quality and the implementation of data policies and a dictionary. The county’s proactive approach to AI governance, establishing clear guidelines for ethical use and data privacy, positions it as a leader in responsible AI adoption.

Chesterfield County has successfully addressed staff shortages through targeted recruitment and investments in career development. By embracing hybrid work and schedule flexibility, the county has boosted project capacity and improved employee retention.

2nd Cumberland County, N.C.

Cumberland County, N.C., made a significant jump in this year’s survey, moving up five spots to finish second. Cumberland County has received quite a bit of federal funding, including more than $65 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. Within that was $3.7 million to build an emergency rental assistance program. That meant the county’s tech shop had to quickly build internal applications and dashboards connected to the application and tracking of all that money. Getting this done was among Cumberland’s chief accomplishments in 2023.

The county has also started some important ongoing outward-facing projects. Cumberland is working on a digital equity broadband plan to get its residents connected, partnering with the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. In addition, libraries in Cumberland are now running programs that allow patrons to check out devices, including laptops and Wi-Fi hot spots. This mix of closing broadband gaps and making devices available to everyone is a pillar of effective digital inclusion work for the public sector.

Cumberland also tallied a major internal accomplishment by adding an innovation strategist position. This person worked with 24 county departments to help formulate one-, three- and five-year technology road maps, a process that led to identifying 200 innovation initiatives. To date, 46 percent of those initiatives have already been completed, while another 37 percent are currently in progress. Finally, one of the county’s most impressive achievements was its work to scan and create repositories with metadata for a whopping 23,182 pages of documents, a massive step toward fully transitioning from physical to digital record keeping.

3rd Prince William County, Va.

Amid falling tax revenue and growing demands on its Department of Information Technology (DoIT), Prince William County, Va., nevertheless expanded and improved citizen services last year while initiating major improvements to several internal processes. As part of a countywide initiative to increase technology literacy as well as the access and affordability of broadband, DoIT released a competitive RFP that ultimately went to Verizon to bring broadband to 475 new locations; hired a bilingual digital navigator who delivers tech training to residents in English or Spanish; and started offering 55 free in-person tech classes at libraries, senior centers and a virtual center. For public engagement and transparency, DoIT is also working with the Office of Communications to create a new unified platform for broadcasting and recording multiple board meetings at once, managing agendas and recording minutes. A couple new staff positions in DoIT, including a performance manager and a strategic executive adviser, are helping accomplish projects like these.

Many of Prince William County’s recent modernization projects will be less visible to the public than to its own staff, but they’ll result in cost savings over time. For instance, DoIT replaced its customer service desk with a comprehensive IT service management tool, ServiceNow, which resulted in a 44 percent decrease in ticket resolution time. A new asset management system resulted in a 25 percent decrease in asset-related costs and refresh cycles, and AI-enabled predictive analytics reduced system downtime by 35 percent. DoIT also replaced a legacy enterprise voice over Internet protocol system with a new unified communications platform that will reduce infrastructure costs; worked with Motorola to migrate emergency response and public safety services to the cloud; cataloged over 400 applications so that county departments could more easily acquire business applications that are already available; and built a tool to automate and score the budget request process, ultimately prioritizing 16 projects out of 94 requests from 20 departments.

In response to attacks on supply chains in the U.S., DoIT began implementing a cyber risk management program for its own supply chain. This included policies to codify evaluations and risk management of suppliers, questionnaires and security standards for IT procurements, implementing a risk-monitoring tool and monitoring the county’s 50 most critical suppliers, and creating a three-tiered model to decide how much cyber insurance to require of each supplier.

4th Leon County, Fla.

Under the leadership of CIO Michelle Taylor and its Office of Information Technology (OIT), Leon County achieved significant objectives in 2023 that support the overall guiding initiatives of economy, quality of life and governance.

These included upgrading the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system at the 911 Consolidated Dispatch Center, jointly managed with the city of Tallahassee, as well as equipping EMS supervisor vehicles with ultrasound technology and replacing CAD laptops in ambulances.

OIT also redesigned the county website and prepared to make online permitting available. After the website’s relaunch in early 2024, initial polls indicated that over 69 percent of visitors found the new site met or exceeded their expectations.

OIT’s GIS department also plays a vital role in improving public access to government data through the Data Dictionary and GeoData Hub. These platforms provide authoritative GIS content to the public, featuring downloadable data and interactive applications. GIS staff contributed significantly to historical initiatives such as the 2024 bicentennial celebration. As part of Tallahassee’s 200th birthday celebration, OIT enhanced the History in Your Hands website and installed public history kiosks.

5th Placer County, Calif.

Placer County’s overarching mission is to deliver equitable service solutions, keeping citizens and fiscal responsibility front and center. With this in mind, the IT department has taken steps to transform from a service provider to a strategic business partner that engages with each of the other county departments to understand challenges and identify opportunities for technology solutions. The county’s strategy began with data governance guidelines that called for the appointment of a data sponsor, established a data governance training program and developed processes to protect sensitive information.

Providing technical resources to support data processes is equally important for Placer County. Adoption of software-defined networking has enhanced internal network monitoring, and leadership is focused on supporting broadband expansion to underserved areas in the county.

Resident feedback is a crucial resource in Placer’s overall service development, and the communications team uses the social listening platform Zencity to analyze resident sentiments. The county also partners with FlashVote to conduct quick digital resident surveys to surface concerns and suggestions to inform future service platform decisions. The Frase chatbot engine on the county’s website assists residents by answering a wide range of inquiries, now enhanced with ChatGPT to offer even more detailed responses.

Looking ahead, Placer County is dedicated to advancing its citizen-centric service approach by implementing a customer relationship management tool, offering online appointment booking across all departments and transitioning more service applications to the cloud.

5th Sonoma County, Calif.

Sonoma County, Calif.’s Information Systems Department (ISD), led by Director Dan Fruchey, took a fifth-place spot in its population category this year for adherence to its core mission: providing technology solutions that help local government effectively serve the community.

Among the department’s more notable recent accomplishments was its partnership with the county of Sonoma Safety Net Collaborative on the Transition Age Youth at Risk (TAY) project, which included a cloud-based care plan and Google Maps integration to serve youth (18-plus) facing homelessness, mental health crises and involvement in the justice system. The pilot, which included a dedicated mobile-responsive web app, wrapped up in March and resulted in increased housing, education enrollment and employment numbers and decreased warrants and arrests, loss of housing, and loss of food for program participants. Similarly, the ACCESS Sonoma initiative has been a key focus for ISD as it works to streamline the county’s Safety Net system. Newly released capabilities allow staff to complete an electronic version of the Release of Information document for client consent authorizations in the field. Digital cards in the care management system consolidate client data and offer a detailed overview of their barriers and successes on a dashboard interface.

Another noteworthy initiative was the construction of private cloud groundwork that would be the first phase for an Integrated Justice System. The existing system is more than 40 years old and could not support the modern analytics and security tools. ISD has also been doubling down on cybersecurity capabilities with enhanced detection and response tools through a Security Information and Event Management platform and a security operations center. The county is also exploring automated patching tools to supplement its cyber workforce. Sonoma has also been aggressive in its work to connect un- and underserved parts of the region to high-speed Internet service. Through a partnership with the Golden State Connect Authority, work is underway to connect designated priority zones based on median household income, population density, construction viability and other pertinent factors.

6th Dutchess County, N.Y.

The Dutchess County IT shop has been busy in the last year, unleashing a flurry of network, cyber and disaster recovery upgrades while taking advantage of its GIS platform to deploy several new public-facing applications. One of these, a zoning map, replaces static PDFs with an interactive, parcel-detailed portal that includes local information for all 30 of the county’s municipalities. Another application gives businesses the ability to apply for health permits electronically with simplified forms, and the Drinking Water Reporting and Information Portal gives public water supply operators a new way to exchange information with the county.

Behind the scenes, IT staff have implemented 24/7 endpoint monitoring as well as a new intrusion prevention system and hired a law firm to act as a breach coach in the event of a cyber incident. They have also doubled throughput at a key network spoke in the Department of Public Works building, connected a new justice center and expanded disaster recovery capacity to allow for critical system recovery within hours instead of three to four days.

The county has also had time to explore emerging technologies, including virtual reality training for the sheriff’s office and the creation of a countywide policy on ethical AI use.

6th Lane County, Ore.

Lane County, Ore., tied for sixth place in this year’s survey, rising from ninth in 2023. Since 2017, executive leadership has worked to set high-level objectives and recommendations on tech and to ensure projects are completed with involvement from, and ownership by, all stakeholders.

Changes have included the reorganization of the county’s Department of Technology Services; updates to the project intake process, implementing PowerBI dashboards to boost visibility as part of an enterprise-level implementation; and standing up a countywide project-scoring matrix that incorporates equity and other strategic perspectives. In partnership with other local agencies, the county brought broadband to four of its unserved areas, attracting state-level recognition. During the past year, officials have also enhanced cybersecurity by updating privileged access account management, deploying multifactor authentication, virtualizing servers and upgrading remote access capabilities.

Informed by a relationship with the University of Oregon, leaders have formed a steering committee to establish initial policy and probe options around early AI adoption. University students created a study on where guardrails on AI adoption should be placed, enabling the county to be more prepared and move quickly on adoption.

Funded by a $100,000 grant, Lane County did a comprehensive cyber risk assessment, commissioning a vulnerability scan and creating a cyber incident response plan against at least four types of threats. One-time grant funding also energized the agency’s PC replacement program, reducing time and labor needed for completion.

7th Sarasota County, Fla.

Sarasota County, Fla.’s information technology team describes its vision as providing exceptional technology services that are innovative, collaborative and customer-focused. One of the county’s latest efforts includes using technology to enhance communication, increase accountability and foster community involvement. One way it did this is by adopting Zencity Engage, a platform that helps collect and analyze data to better understand residents’ needs. Currently, the county uses the platform within its library department to gather feedback on community needs and expectations for a new library opening in Longboat Key. The solid waste department is also using Zencity to communicate upcoming changes with its garbage service provider in 2025.

The county aims to have all municipalities’ public notices in one place,, so residents don’t have to visit multiple websites to get the information they need. So far this has been implemented with public notices from tax collectors and the local school board. Another notable tech project aims to bridge the gap between the digital world and reality by providing a Google Street-like experience for all county facilities and parks. Sarasota is looking to implement a platform called Matterport to create a digital walkthrough experience so individuals can virtually visit a location before physically being there, addressing ADA concerns and increasing accessibility countywide. The county also plans to expand its work in the following areas over the next 12 to 18 months: AI, machine learning, business process automation, emerging technologies, IT governance, sustainability and cybersecurity.

8th Durham County, N.C.

AI has been top of mind for many in government IT, and Durham County, N.C., is no exception. In addition to exploring future use cases, the county has implemented generative AI to improve internal IT service delivery. An AI-powered chatbot is now available for county employees to find answers to general IT questions and automate certain tasks such as resetting passwords and transcribing and summarizing meeting notes.

On the constituent-facing side of things, Durham County has begun an initiative to redesign the county website. As part of the process, the county conducted a public survey last December to gather resident feedback. Respondents were then invited to participate in focus groups to further develop an understanding of their needs and preferences for the new site.

Meanwhile, Durham recently upgraded its internal network infrastructure to better support county departments and remote workers. Enhanced security, software-defined network solutions and upgraded bandwidth have given county employees improved overall network performance. Additionally, a partnership with two area Internet service providers to expand broadband coverage allows for more remote work opportunities for county employees.

9th Solano County, Calif.

Solano County, Calif., turned the tide on a wave of recruitment challenges this year by prioritizing innovative workforce development strategies and focusing on employee engagement. One standout initiative related to these efforts is the county’s Investing in You program, designed to build a culturally responsive workplace. The program features formal development plans and targeted professional training to prepare residents for future job opportunities. To build a future-ready workforce, the county strives to identify skill gaps by constantly expanding its talent management strategies, partnering with educational institutions to offer internships, and providing ongoing internal training.

Data management also emerges as a major priority, with IT leaders in the county focusing on expanding policies, procedures and metrics aligned with business objectives. And at the heart of Solano County’s service delivery efforts are its Esri GIS enterprise portal and Accela citizen access portal. The GIS portal is a map-centric platform residents can use to easily uncover GIS resources while allowing them to engage directly with spatial data, contribute insights and collaborate on county initiatives.

The Accela citizen access portal centralizes applications for permits, licenses and service requests, making it easier for users to engage with government services. With access to various facets of county operations, these portals accentuate the key to Solano County’s success: a unified and collaborative approach for residents, local agencies and businesses.

10th Hamilton County, Ind.

Hamilton County, Ind., focused on several projects in 2023 that improved key functions for its staff and constituents. The implementation of new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software was a huge milestone for the county. Despite facing staffing shortages, the county’s Information Systems Services Department (ISSD) worked tirelessly on this software implementation. The ERP software, which enabled improvements to human capital management; cloud-hosted timekeeping; and scheduling, payroll and other key financial functions for the county went live mid-December 2023 and early January 2024.

In October 2023, ISSD’s Hamilton County GIS Office launched a new GIS GeoHub, the county’s main public resource for geospatial data, online maps and applications. The GeoHub includes new features like the Hamilton County Map Viewer, which offers information on property, taxing districts, zoning jurisdictions and local voting precincts. The county also worked with city parks departments to create a countywide Park Finder project using geospatial technology. This provides a central place for connecting data from the county’s GIS offices and the state’s IndianaMap website.

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