2015 Digital Cities: Winners Experiment with Forward-Thinking Tech Projects

List of winners at Govtech:

1st place // City of Philadelphia, Pa.

A savvy mix of data-driven citizen engagement, tech modernization and outside-the-box thinking powered Philadelphia to its first-place ranking. A new city websitelaunched last year is designed to provide new levels of user convenience. For instance, three navigation options are squeezed into the top of the site — a search bar, a list of common actions like “report a problem” or “pay a bill,” and a menu of city functions arranged topically — giving citizens multiple ways to find what they need. The site was created using agile principles, launching as a work in progress in December and shaped by user feedback. The city also is broadening its use of open data as a citizen-engagement tool. A new generation of civic apps relies on open data sets to give residents easy access to property tax calculations, property ownership information anddetailed maps of various city resources. These improvements in customer-facing services have been facilitated by upgrades to back-end systems that are improving reliability and reducing staff support requirements. The city estimates that half of its IT systems now are procured as a service. Finally, an interesting pilot involving the city IT department and a local middle school is aimed at drawing more kids into STEM-related careers. Students met weekly in the city Innovation Lab for a series of hands-on experiences led by members of the Philadelphia Office of Information Technology.

2nd place // City of Los Angeles, Calif.

Second-ranked Los Angeles is developing a new model for funding innovative ideas, leveraging private-sector platforms to improve services, streamlining internal processes and closing the broadband gap. The city established a $1 million innovation fund late last year to seed pilot projects generated by city employees’ suggestions. More than a dozen projects have been launched so far. Through open APIs, the city trades traffic information with Google’s Waze traffic app. The app consumes city traffic data to warn drivers about closed roads, hazards and dangerous intersections, while the city transportation department uses information submitted by Waze users to identify potholes, illegal road construction and traffic patterns. MyPayLA, launched by the LA Controller’s Office and the city Information Technology Agency, is a mobile app that lets city employees view their payroll information on a mobile device. And theCityLinkLA broadband initiative is designed to attract broadband providers to the city with expedited permitting and access to existing assets like streetlights, real estate and fiber.

2nd place // City of Louisville, Ky.

Louisville’s mobile-friendly Web portal garnered the city a second-place finish in the Center for Digital Government’s Best of the Web awards earlier this year. Now, Louisville has a No. 2 ranking in the 2015 Digital Cities Survey to add to its trophy case. Besides running an excellent website — built on the open source Drupal platform and hosted in the cloud — Louisville is equipping its entire police force with body-worn cameras and expects to be finished by the end of 2015. Video from 1,000 officers, as well as footage from Metro Watch cameras placed around the city, will be stored in the cloud. Louisville’s Metro Police Department, one of 21 cities involved in the White House Police Data Initiative, also became one of the first in the nation to release data sets on assaulted officers, arrests and citations, and hate crimes on the city’s open data portal. In addition, a public-private partnership called Code Louisville offers free technology training to local residents. More than 500 people have taken 12-week classes to learn Web or mobile development skills.

3rd place // City of Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City’s Art of Data initiative may be one of the nation’s most creative attempts to engage citizens through open data. The city selected 10 local artists earlier this year to turn information from its open data site into visual art. The artists pulled information from 10 different data sets, ranging from life expectancy by ZIP code to citizen satisfaction with the safety of their neighborhoods. The exhibit drew a large crowd when it opened in June, according to the city, and more than 3,000 residents eventually viewed the works of art. Kansas City also was chosen to participate in a new HUD digital inclusion program called ConnectHome, which will offer broadband access, training, digital literacy programs and devices for residents in assisted housing units. And the city is working with a local startup business, RFP365, to simplify its RFP process. Through a pilot partnership, Kansas City will use the RFP365 platform — which lets buyers track and receive bids from vendors and suppliers — to make the government purchasing process easier and more transparent.

3rd place // City of Phoenix, Ariz.

The development of a new citywide transportation plan in Phoenix offers a great example of how to use digital engagement tools. Using the MindMixer platform, the city developed a website to let citizens suggest ideas for new transit services and street infrastructure, as well as discuss a range of transportation-related issues. Using polling, mapping, open-ended questions and discussion prompts, residents directly helped to develop the plan. The engagement process reached more 3,700 residents and generated hundreds of comments online. In addition, a city-led technology summit held late last year brought together big companies, small businesses and citizens to discuss how technology could improve city operations and boost economic development. And new court technology lets attorneys receive hearing notifications on a mobile device and enables Web and interactive voice response (IVR) payments for a variety of cases.