Salt Lake City Mayor Announces New Innovation Department

With the goal of creating a "digital society" in mind, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced the creation of the city's first innovation department, along with a new digital equity infrastructure.

The Salt Lake City government building.
The Salt Lake City government building.
As part of an effort to incorporate new technology throughout Salt Lake City government, Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced the creation of its first innovation department during her state of the city address last week. 

The department’s goal, which is a part of a larger technology adoption plan called “Tech Lake City,” aims to implement an integrated software system to enhance internal government functions, along with creating a “digital equity infrastructure.” 

“This team will lead in creating a culture of innovation in city government, helping Salt Lake City to modernize business processes, standardize our approach to project management, improve public transparency, streamline inefficiencies and promote the use of data to drive decisions,” Mendenhall said during a livestream of the address.

One of the inefficiencies the department will tackle is merging its finance and HR management systems, which currently operates on 27 different software systems, into one easy-to-use platform. 

“Our finance software management system is from 1993,” Nole Walkingshaw, the city’s chief innovation officer, said. “Our other systems range in age from the mid-2000s to the 20-teens along with modern software.” 

As a result, the city is currently looking for a vendor to work with the innovation department to achieve this goal. 

Another area the department will focus on is integrating the city’s “Digital Equity For All” policy. Passed in September 2020, the policy aims to provide residents with the opportunity to access and use information and communication technologies reliably. 

The resolution, which was inspired by the importance of technology during the pandemic, aims to incorporate three concepts: relevant content, services, hardware and digital literacy into the city’s policymaking. 

To achieve this, the department will:

  • increase usage and understanding of digital and communications technology
  • address potential barriers to digital inclusion
  • address the need for digital literacy training
  • address the need for access via reliable and affordable devices
  • address the need for language and disability accommodations
  • develop relevancy and advocacy campaigns within specific communities and populations
Other efforts will include engaging and including the community by focusing on ongoing stakeholder engagement; increasing local government involvement and leadership; and developing an interactive community website to access information from the community and city government.

As for building digital equity, the department is looking to collaborate with partners, city leaders, community members and other organizations to ensure access and foster opportunities for all citizens to engage in a fully “digital society.”

Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University, and more than five years of experience in the print and digital news industry.
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