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Chattanooga Sets Sights on Creating a Digital City Hall

The city of Chattanooga, Tenn., has announced the start of a holistic digital transformation initiative to create a “digital city hall,” with the ultimate goal of improving the digital service experience for constituents.

An aerial view of Chattanooga, Tenn.
An aerial view of Chattanooga, Tenn.
The city of Chattanooga, Tenn., has announced the start of an initiative to create a “digital city hall,” taking a holistic approach to improve the citizen digital service experience.

The city has been a pioneer in digital inclusion work, known in part for its early efforts in delivering municipal broadband. This spirit continues in the latest efforts to provide a better digital experience, starting with a new website.

To support this digital transformation work, the city has selected CI&T.

According to Chattanooga CIO Tyson Morris, his background in the private sector helped inspire the question of how the city might improve its digital marketing, starting with a website update and weaving in various digital service experiences.

“One of [Mayor Tim Kelly’s] pillars is for us to be a responsive and effective government, and I can’t think of a way to express that more than with our digital experiences and our digital presence,” said Morris.

The digital transformation is more than a new website, Morris explained. Instead, it’s intended to ignite a culture change in city operations, putting an increased focus on data and continually evolving as technology does. “That’s a paradigm shift for us,” he said.

By focusing on mobile-first design and modular approach to modernization, the new website aims to improve usability for people of all ages and abilities, CI&T Chief Strategy Officer Young Pham explained.

Data is a major component of this project. User data will allow the city to ensure that constituents are having their needs met when they access the platform.

“As we build, there’s a constant ability to capture data,” Pham said, through avenues including the platform itself and user feedback.

Pham argued that a major piece of this project is using technology in a way that is scalable for future needs as the city grows — with Morris noting that Chattanooga is one of the fastest growing cities in the state.

The first and foundational piece of this digital transformation effort is creating a Digital Chattanooga City Hall by creating a modern website that encompasses different digital experiences for constituents. The second major piece of this effort is going to be implementing automation where possible on the back end. The city is working with CI&T to explore how to best automate work with large quantities of data and other record-keeping processes.

Additionally, the city is exploring other possible features to incorporate into the platform in the future that might help set the city of Chattanooga apart from other cities.

For example, Morris explained that because of Chattanooga’s geographic location in the Tennessee Valley, there are many outdoor recreation experiences from hiking to kayaking on the Tennessee River. The city is exploring how to best relay information related to these outdoor recreation activities to constituents, such as data on bird migration or hiking trails.

Other future functions and features could include tools such as chatbots to answer constituent questions more efficiently.

Morris said that this platform will be a great foundation to think outside of the box and build upon or update features as needed.

The city plans to have the website developed and tested over the next year, making improvements as needed based on a wide range of user feedback.

“We’re not just going to spend the taxpayers’ money and throw something out, but we’re going to provide them a voice to the design sessions as well.”

Morris argued that one of the big efforts in this transformation is to make a platform that opens the lines of communication with constituents, allowing them to relay and acquire information, not only to report problems in the city, but also to access a wide range of information — from local concerts to the schedule for recycling day.

Throughout this process, the city is also looking to update the city seal, logos and color schemes in parallel with the new website launch as a way of rebranding the city government.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.