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Digital Counties 2024: Winners Push Transparency, Engagement

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.

This year's Digital Counties Survey awards from the Center for Digital Government* honor local digital government achievements in the range from enhancing cybersecurity to expanding the use of AI and analytics.

The first-place counties in each of five population categories stood out for their investments in overhauling the critical systems that underpin government as well as their forward-thinking embrace of emerging technologies. The IT teams in these jurisdictions are committed to offering services to all residents, meeting them where they are, as well as improving systems for their internal staff, creating teams that value collaboration and innovation.


In Calvert County, Md., CIO Stephen Pereira highlights his department's implementation of a robust project intake process as a major achievement of the past year.

“This initiative has streamlined how we manage and prioritize projects, ensuring that every project aligns with the strategic goals set by the commissioners," Pereira wrote in an email to Government Technology. "By refining our intake process, we can now better assess the value and impact of each project before committing resources.”

Pereira said that the new intake process has improved not only his own department's efficiency, but helped how they support other county agencies.

“In the rush to implement systems and provide exceptional customer service, it's easy to overlook internal deficiencies. Our new intake process addresses this by ensuring we undertake projects that truly align with our strategic objectives and deliver maximum value to the county,” he added.

Pereira also cites the integration of service level agreements (SLAs) within its ServiceNow platform as a key achievement.

“This integration is likely to have a lasting impact as it standardizes our service delivery and sets clear expectations for performance. By enforcing SLAs, we can hold ourselves and other departments accountable, ensuring that IT resources are used efficiently and effectively,” he said. “This has helped us to do more with less, optimizing our operations and improving service delivery across the board. The clear, measurable standards provided by SLAs enable us to maintain high levels of customer service while managing our resources more strategically.”

Pereira added that both initiatives have “strengthened our internal processes, allowing us to support the county's broader goals more effectively. By focusing on internal efficiency and strategic alignment, we have positioned ourselves to better serve the community and drive future innovations.”

Pereira also said counties looking to enhance their digital profiles should “embrace change management.”

“Effective change management is crucial for the successful implementation of digital initiatives. Engage stakeholders frequently through regular meetings to ensure everyone is involved in the process and their concerns are validated,” he advised. “In Calvert County, we have implemented a structured approach where IT leadership holds quarterly meetings with department heads to align projects with county priorities and address any issues. This inclusive approach helps to build consensus, foster collaboration and ensure that all voices are heard. By making change management a priority, counties can navigate the complexities of digital transformation more smoothly and ensure sustainable success.”

Understanding and governing your data is also key.

“Getting to grips with data is fundamental for any digital transformation,” Pereira said. “Establish data owners and data stewards to ensure accountability and clarity in data management. It's important for users to understand their data, its significance and how to use it effectively.”

“In Calvert County, we have developed a comprehensive data classification policy to govern data use and protection, ensuring data quality and reliability. This supports data-informed decision-making, enhances transparency and builds trust in county operations,” he said. “By establishing robust data governance practices, counties can position themselves for more rapid AI adoption and other advanced technologies.”

Pereira also advises counties to lean into AI to improve service delivery and drive innovation.

“AI is moving incredibly fast, and it may never move this slowly again. Unlike traditional IT-driven changes, AI systems provide immediate value that end users can see. It’s happening now, and efforts to stop it will be futile. Instead, leverage this opportunity to insert data stewards and tech ambassadors within departments,” he said. “This is an opportunity to truly democratize the IT stack through targeted training and clear guardrails that facilitate and empower innovation at all levels of the organization. By focusing on empowerment and facilitating adoption, IT can maintain or transform into its rightful place as enablers, accelerating efficiency and business transformation.”

Click here to view all winners in this population category.


CIO Norron Lee cites Arlington County's efforts to enhance digital accessibility through continued ADA compliance a critical achievement from the last year.

“Ensuring ADA compliance in digital accessibility is crucial for providing equal access to services for all constituents, including those with disabilities,” Lee wrote in an email to Government Technology. "This initiative demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and ensures that all community members can effectively interact with county services without barriers. By prioritizing accessibility, the county not only strives to meet legal requirements but also fosters a more inclusive community, enhancing overall constituent satisfaction and engagement."

The county’s implementation of its first customer relationship management (CRM) system also improved its constituent interactions.

“The centralized CRM application fundamentally transforms constituent interactions by organizing and streamlining outreach efforts. This system provides a unified platform for managing communications, tracking interactions and analyzing data, which enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of county services,” he said. “Constituents benefit from more personalized and responsive service, leading to higher engagement and satisfaction. Additionally, the enriched decision-making value of the data flowing from these interactions allows the county to make more informed and strategic decisions to better meet constituent needs."

Lee stressed that before a local government moves forward to advance its digital profile, it must understand what residents need.

“While it can be easy to be attracted by the promise of new technologies, our experience in Arlington County suggests that it requires a thorough understanding of our constituents’ needs before we can have a meaningful impact,” he explained. “We strive to continuously review what services we offer, how and why they’re offered to better understand our gaps and opportunities to introduce, iterate, overhaul or retire technology that enables our outcomes. Our enterprise technology group seeks to understand and partner with our line-of-business departments to facilitate and accelerate the process above to uncover potential and prioritize value-adds for our community.

“In the end, we are here to use our expertise and experience to serve and maximize the impact and outcomes enabled through the thoughtful application of technology,” Lee continued. “Given this approach, our best advice is: Know your community’s needs that are amplified by your county’s line-of-business departments, and leverage strong partner relationships to move forward together, connected by a shared purpose.”

Click here to view all winners in this population category.


Scott Furman, CIO of Chesterfield County, points to the reimagining and modernization of the website as one of the county’s top digital achievements. The redesign was envisioned as a way to “keep pace with accessibility standards and user expectations,” he wrote to GovTech.

“Chesterfield County’s digital engagement strategy is marked by its commitment to innovation, collaboration and data-driven decision-making,” he explained. “At the heart of our approach is a philosophy that emphasizes strategic use of analytics and community-driven practices to enhance the digital experience for all constituents. By analyzing user behavior and engagement trends, we’ve significantly optimized our website’s content and structure.”

Furman said that the county’s focus on mobile user experience “led to a streamlined sitemap, reducing it from over 4,000 pages to under 500, without eliminating pertinent content and by prioritizing responsive design to accommodate the growing number of mobile visitors.”

Digitizing the county’s end-to-end land development process was also a powerful improvement.

“Chesterfield County made significant strides in streamlining its land development process, which is crucial for citizens and developers. By conducting a comprehensive end-to-end assessment and implementing targeted improvements, the county achieved positive results,” he states. “These include measurable reductions in average staff days for subdivision case processing and in plat recordation time. This achievement showcases the county’s commitment to continuous improvement through improving efficiency, transparency, and service delivery via cross-department process improvement and digital transformation.”

As for advice to other counties wishing to advance their digital profile, Furman said, “Start by assuring that digital initiatives are closely aligned with the county’s overall strategic objectives to maximize impact and value. Simply, be sure IT is focusing on what’s most important and impactful for the county,” he says. Other advice Furman offers:
  • Focus on data-driven decision-making by leveraging data analytics and business intelligence tools to inform policy decisions and improve service delivery.
  • Regularly audit digital platforms and services, seeking user feedback to make iterative improvements. Chesterfield’s efforts in developing and delivering an enhanced and more accessible website have provided improved user experiences.
  • Foster cross-departmental collaboration by establishing communities of practice to encourage ongoing collaboration between IT and county departments to drive innovation and ultimately advance and improve digital services. Embrace a “fit for purpose” enterprise architecture approach to identify and migrate systems to the most appropriate hosting environment based on business need, including consideration of the cloud for improved scalability, currency, security and risk controls, and value.
  • Where and whenever possible, invest in advanced cybersecurity solutions and implement comprehensive risk management strategies to try to stay a step or two ahead of bad actors. This not only protects the county’s computing estate and digital assets, but also builds trust with county stakeholders and constituents.

“Finally, continuously invest in workforce development by prioritizing knowledge sharing, ongoing training and upskilling of IT staff to keep pace with evolving business needs and advancements in technologies,” he added. “Chesterfield’s emphasis on career development and flexible work arrangements has helped in attracting and retaining talent.”

Click here to view all winners in this population category.


Moving manual processes to digital platforms was among Jefferson County, Colo.’s most recent achievements, said the county’s CIO, Andy Corbett.

This included a partnership between the county’s IT team and the motor vehicle division to develop an automated attendant/chatbot, he said, the first of its kind in the county.

Each year, Jefferson County’s motor vehicle team handled more than 100,000 calls and was “overwhelmed at certain times of the year,” Corbett wrote in an email.

“By working to streamline business processes at the same time we rolled out the chatbot, Motor Vehicles was able to reduce calls by 50 percent and resolve 60 percent of chats without any human escalation needed,” he said. “Additionally, we were able to provide 24/7 service through the chatbot for a set of activities. Citizen satisfaction went up because citizens’ issues were resolved quickly, and staff satisfaction increased because they could work mostly on tasks that need human interaction.”

Corbett said other departments in the county, like the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, are now working to develop chatbots as well.

Corbett also cites the county’s efforts to update and digitize its agenda and meeting organization process as a key achievement.

“This is critically important because it improves access to government services for our citizens,” he explained. “We’ve now streamlined the process of creating and posting agenda packets as well as posting online meeting information through our website where anyone can access it. Additionally, we’re able to provide easy access to past meeting recordings and agendas.”

As for advice for other counties wishing to advance their digital profile, Corbett recommends a bit of introspection before tackling the job.

“You’ve got to take a look at what’s stopping you now and start brainstorming how you can change that,” he recommended. “For example, our executive team recognized that with all the obligations we had running our enterprise platforms, we didn’t have the ability to move quickly enough on the new solutions our departments needed. We envisioned adding another team within IT that could take business problems and run with them to find solutions. Over time we were able to pull a few headcount out of traditional technical roles and dedicate them to finding innovative solutions. Thus, our innovation team was a result of recognizing that our traditional structure couldn’t deliver solutions for the needs of our organization fast enough.”

Jefferson County officials also got “creative on staffing.”

“We couldn’t add any full-time headcount, so we found a way to use part-time and temporary help to drive digital forward,” Corbett said. “Today we bring in cycles of interns and fellowship positions to focus on specific needs while also developing a pipeline of talent for the county to tap into for full-time openings. Our interns and fellows, often current college students or recent graduates, gain great experience on specific projects while giving our organization a shot of energy and creativity.”

Corbett also counsels county officials “to involve the operational staff from your departments in the transformation because they see the needs better than anyone else.”

“For example, in one of our process improvement workshops, our Motor Vehicle staff chose a manual reconciliation process to rework,” he explained. “Frontline staff and management worked together to redesign a cash reconciliation process that was manual, inefficient and time-consuming. By having the frontline staff in the room and working together with management, the team developed a way to automate and digitize the process, which saved 1,000 employee hours, 10,000 pieces of paper, and completed the task with greater accuracy.”

Click here to view all winners in this population category.


Tim Dupuis, chief information officer for Alameda County, said that the vision for the county’s technology endeavors is to advance a “secure, digital government, accessible anytime, anywhere.”

“To that end, I believe perseverance and a high-performance team are essential to our digital success,” Dupuis wrote in an email. “My advice to any county looking to enhance their digital footprint is to start by creating a high-performance team. Focus on building a team that is not only highly skilled, motivated and engaged, but one that delivers excellent customer service with the best technical expertise.”

Dupuis said Alameda County works to build a modern workplace that attracts top talent and fosters teamwork.

“Every year, our People Plan is updated to identify focus areas for employee retention, development and growth, with an emphasis on promoting from within and succession planning to ensure that we can weather change,” he said. “Celebrating successes, creating team events, volunteering to help the community, and providing new challenges for growth are key to maintaining a happy, motivated workforce. Without our amazing technology team and the great partnership with our business partners, Alameda County would not be able to deliver the digital services that our employees and constituents have come to expect.”

Dupuis is proud of the work the county has done to modernize its systems, including investments that led to:
  • 40 percent of on-premise workload migrated to Azure for resiliency and redundancy.
  • 40-year-old COBOL automated warrant system replaced with a modern, in-house solution.
  • 30-year-old CLETS Switch replaced with a SAAS solution.
  • Work toward replacing a 20-year-old budget system with a software-as-a-service solution.
  • An RFP to outsource support for the mainframe.
  • Implementing a new cloud-based contact center to replace the old, on-premise version.
  • Work toward converting a 40-year-old property system from COBOL to .NET.

“Modernizing our legacy systems has been a journey of perseverance for over 20 years, and we are not done,” Dupuis added. “Some systems, like our Criminal Justice System, are due to be replaced again, highlighting that modernization will always be part of our strategic plan.”

Strengthening cybersecurity was another key accomplishment, Dupuis said, adding that the county established a skilled cybersecurity team, including a new security program manager, and doubled its staff.

“The cybersecurity landscape is extremely challenging and constantly evolving. Every day, we must protect the county from relentless espionage and ransomware attacks while continuously updating and strengthening our defenses,” he said. “These attacks are constant as we advance our cybersecurity initiatives, build and train our security team, and strengthen our strategic partnerships for improved protection.”

Over the last year, Alameda County embraced new technologies and policies to help the cybersecurity team identify, assess and respond to cybersecurity notifications and incidents, including:
  • Held attack simulations and tabletop exercises with internal departments and external local, regional, state and federal partners to help prepare for large-scale cyber attacks.
  • Held a roundtable in partnership with the National Association of Counties and county agency and department heads to simulate and discuss how to manage operations during a major cyber attack.
  • Regular cybersecurity awareness training for all county employees, which covers how to stay cyber safe, identify phishing attacks, the risks of QR codes and the importance of using multifactor authentication. Activities during the county’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month include industry-expert speaking events, cybersecurity-related games, fun TikTok-style videos, and email tips and tricks on staying cyber safe both at work and at home.

Dupuis is also proud of Alameda’s advances in AI. The county has deployed six AI-enabled chatbots for health care, probation, service desk, public works, human resources and the social services agency. Two more are in progress, Dupuis reports. The county has drafted a generative AI policy that embraces the technology and cautions about the risks. They also held an AI “idea” hackathon called AI’ing the County, which enlisted employees to brainstorm AI solutions. Over 100 employees participated, and 25 ideas were presented.

Click here to view all winners in this population category.

Read about all winners in this year’s Digital Counties Survey:
Up to 150,000 Population Category
150,000 to 249,999 Population Category
250,000 to 499,999 Population Category
500,000 to 999,999 Population Category
1 Million or More Population Category

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology’s parent company.
Pamela Martineau is a freelance writer based in Portland, Maine. She moved to Portland in 2019 after a 30-year stint living and working in California. A UC Berkeley graduate, Pamela worked at numerous daily newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. As a freelance writer, she has written about health care, education, technology, climate change, and water issues. She has two adult sons and a mischievous cocker spaniel.