Digital payments. There are two main factors in digitizing local government. The first is digitizing interactions between government and citizens – the focus of this chapter. The second is digitizing payments. Although digital payment is a form of city services, it is so important that we have created a separate Smart Payments chapter. For one thing, any city service that includes payments – taxes, fines, fees, etc.– needs a digital component. For another, switching to digital payments can save larger cities millions of dollars. For another, electronic payments produce data that shows trends in how people shop, travel, park and more.
Discovery. Solutions in this category help citizens, workers and tourists find what they need, such as local job openings, day care centers, or restaurants without any health code violations. For instance, Nice, France publishes an Apps Corner web page that lists a variety of discovery apps for tourists. The Houston CareerArc web page alerts job seekers when a position opens up that meets their criteria. (Or residents can install an app on their mobile phones.) New York City's Restaurant Grades web page lets residents scan health inspection results for any of its 24,000 restaurants.
Economic development. Provide citizens and businesses the tools to plan a business (such as the best location for a new retail outlet); to open a business (with a one-stop site for all licenses); to manage a business (with proactive alerts about tax payments, code violations, license renewals, etc.); or to promote a business (such as electronic coupons for residents and tourists). And unleash the software developer community with Open Data (see below).
Inspections and permitting. Top cities are equipping inspectors with tools that get them out from behind the desk so they can meet their constituents to improve services, reduce costs and increase public satisfaction. Key features includes document management, workflow management, and payment processing. And many cities are now providing self-service information too. For instance, the Sacramento Community Development Tracker lets residents see how many applications have been made for building permits, how long it is taking to process them and where the activity is occurring. Users can also track any individual property by entering the address.
"Don’t think mobile inspection and permitting is only for large cities and counties," counsels the Center for Digital Government. "Any size jurisdiction can benefit from at least some of these tools. Don’t underestimate the importance of improved permitting and inspections to your community and elected officials. These are important functions for any community, and visibility will be especially high." The CDG confirms the need for citizen-centric design. "Include members of the community in implementation and oversight of the new technology. Corpus Christi made its planning process very inclusive, and complaints about inspection and permitting declined sharply."
Issue reporting and case management. Provide mechanisms for citizens and staffers to report issues; for staff to assign tasks and manage tasks; and for staff and citizens to monitor progress. Create an easy-to-use communication platform that empowers users to access non-emergency services, such as reporting graffiti, flagging unsafe intersections, etc. Track the inquiry's status as it moves through the system, giving residents progress and city staffers insights into common sticking points. Some solutions also have self-help options, such as connecting citizens with experts or with suggested solutions.
Kansas City, Missouri, has a 311 call center that handles about 10,000 calls per week. But it now gives citizens digital ways to request services. They can report issues via social media, or using a special app. Not only have the digital versions improved service and lowered costs, they’ve also produced valuable data.
“Initially, it was about the input and not so much the outcome,” explained Jean Ann Lawson, assistant to the city manager, speaking to Government Technology magazine. Today, however, every 311 user is asked to complete a satisfaction survey. “By pairing 311 data with surveys, we can do a much better job targeting resources.” More and more of the city’s departments are now using 311 data to measure their performance.
Although there are many fine examples of standalone case management solutions, some cities choose to integrate case reporting and management into their larger citizen relationship management systems (see separate discussion above).
Mobile workforce management. Create work orders, dispatch field technicians, and monitor performance in the field. The best systems support the work cycle from beginning to end: Receiving notifications, booking appointments, creating work orders, creating schedules, assigning crews, tracking vehicles, monitoring status and creating reports for management and citizens. Some systems also automate the process of hiring outside contractors.
The San Jose Water Company uses mobile workforce management from Oracle, a Global Lead Partner of the Smart Cities Council. "Customer service is improved because everyone – from office staff to field staff – knows the status of work," explains its VP of Information Systems Dana Drysdale. "We also significantly improved productivity for field service management, dispatch staff, and field service technicians.”