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South Bend, Ind., Creates Specialized Digital Services Office

The new office will broaden and restructure city service options for residents, while also building a collaborative team to meet government agency IT needs throughout the city. Its work begins officially in the new year.

A closeup image of a person using a tablet with a digital cityscape in the background.
Residents in South Bend, Ind., will no longer have to choose between digital or in-person access to city services. As the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology gears up for the new year, it unveiled plans to pioneer a specialized Digital Services Office.

The new department will consist of a diverse group of individuals, encompassing both existing and newly established roles within the city. Their official duties will commence at the beginning of the upcoming year, and their collective expertise spans several tech disciplines including application developers, low-code developers, human-centered design specialists, UX testers and web marketing professionals.

“It was time for us to really assess capabilities, services and gaps we wanted to fill,” South Bend Chief Innovation Officer Denise Riedl explained, as she shed more light on how the new department came to fruition. “In assessing the structure of the department and the types of services we provide, as well as looking at city goals, we realized that one thing we needed to prioritize was the overall service experience for residents.”

The central mission of the team will be to spearhead the introduction of digital services, pioneer new approaches to automate business processes, and create innovative methods to further support customer service requests — starting with a physical “one-stop shop” for in-person tech services that will be located near the new City Hall.

The interdisciplinary group is also poised to provide crucial support to government service teams across the city, according to Riedl.

“Our Department of Innovation and Technology has already been sandboxing and testing several generative AI-driven translation tools,” Riedl shared. “We’re going to expand on that through this new team, creating enhanced internal services that add extra value to the existing work that’s being done, all in the service of making work more accessible, more user-friendly.”

Once the team officially begins its work next year, Riedl says first up on their list of priorities is to make sure they “integrate themselves into different city teams, get to know everyone from the parks maintenance person to the code enforcement inspectors to our firefighters in the city of South Bend so they can start to source their projects and their needs.”

Riedl also emphasized that the focus of the digital services team extends beyond expanding service options for residents. It also encompasses enhancements for the internal services for city employees.

“The aspects we’re most looking forward to are streamlining internal processes and improving how we assist our 311 team in the city, as well as enhancing the customer experiences of the city in general,” she said. “Anything that has to do with improving the way people interact with or request service at the city, that’s going to be a big focus for us next year.”
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.