The first-place winners in five population categories are: Los Angeles; Virginia Beach, Va.; Durham, N.C.; Roanoke, Va.; and Tamarac, Fla. Judges evaluated the survey submissions of each city by considering 10 key characteristics of a digital city: open, mobile, engaged, collaborative, secure, staffed / supported, connected, efficient, resilient and innovative. And the six criteria by which the responses were evaluated are: city priorities supported by ICT; demonstrated return on investment; progress over the previous year; creative / innovative approaches; effective collaboration; and successful measures of transparency, privacy and security.
For L.A., it’s not enough to simply deliver city services. The city also wants to engage citizens and the community. And, with 4 million residents and 48,000 employees across 42 different departments, L.A. needs technology to accomplish that task.
“For most residents, city government is not foremost on their mind,” said Ted Ross, general manager and CIO of the city’s Information Technology Agency. “However, city services are often very important to them. For us, digital is the means to engage and serve our community — and we try to do this in a variety of different ways. We believe in promoting openness through open data; we believe in mobile and providing access to citizen services anytime, anywhere; and we want to be focused and energetic in applying technology to make life better for the average Angelino.”
The city recently built an extensive open data portal including a variety of APIs available to developers or businesses, as well as a plethora of GIS data. Both Code for America and the Sunlight Foundation have identified L.A. as the No. 1 open data city in the country.
“I think open data is a very important facet for how we engage our community,” said Ross. “We are proud of our openness and transparency — our ability to show and disclose who we are, what we are doing and how we’re doing it.”
L.A. leaders also believe in collaboration with businesses, education and nonprofits. Toward that end, L.A. uses its open data portal to create new relationships, partnerships and projects. One current partnership includes 11 universities that are analyzing data to determine ways to make L.A. a “smarter” city.
Ross said he plans to rely heavily on technology as he prepares for massive changes in the city’s workforce. About 50 percent of Ross’ IT staff of 450 are eligible to retire in the next two years.
“That poses quite a challenge when it comes to delivery of services,” he said. “We are therefore doing a lot of work around using technology to find efficiencies. We are also looking at the shift as an opportunity to promote gender diversity and equity in our workforce. We’re working hard to promote parity and to employ an IT workforce that represents the diversity of our community.”
Ross said he often hears people comment that because L.A. is a big city, it can accomplish its technology goals more easily than smaller cities. But Ross says that’s simply not true.
“My department has 40 percent less people than it did in 2008,” he said. “It’s not about having a lot of people; it’s about identifying technology opportunities and then making investments in the right areas. Sometimes small investments can yield amazing results.”