- San Diego; Miami; Norfolk, VA; Lynchburg, VA and Weston, FL were recognized as first-place winners in the Center for Digital Government's 19th annual Digital Cities Survey for their use of technology to serve citizens, update municipal services and enhance cybersecurity.
- San Diego took home first place among cities with a population of 500,000 or more, in part for its Digital Strategy Division and its citywide cybersecurity strategy. Miami, which ranked first among cities with a population of 250,000-499,999, was recognized for the formation of its Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT).
- Smaller cities were also given credit for technology work, like Weston's prize in smallest population category (75,000 people or fewer) for strategies like an ePermitHub and a revised website with an active Alexa Skill. Lynchburg took top marks in the 75,000-124,999 people category for using information technology (IT) across the government for its Bridges to Progress data initiative aimed at reducing poverty levels.
The annual survey reflects the greater role that IT departments are playing across city governments, not just to enhance back-end services, but also to create citizen-focused tools that make government more accessible. San Diego, for example, has built up open data, mobile apps and the Get It Done citizen reporting tool to highlight infrastructure repair needs. Miami has trained more than 250 city employees at its Innovation Academy to bring more tech education to all civic departments.
"The top Digital Cities this year are taking the IT department far beyond the role of service provider," said Phil Bertolini, co-director of the Center for Digital Government. "They’re exploring creative ways to leverage their technology investments and redefining the role of the public-sector technology leader at the city level.”
The survey also reinforces the idea that cities of all sizes and budgets can build up IT departments. According to Government Technology, Weston, the smallest city with a top place award, is just 23 years old and has only 10 city employees working as contract administrators. In the 125,000-249,999 population category, Norfolk was named the first place city for its work with four neighboring cities to build a dark fiber connectivity ring that helps support the city's "Technology Zone" and offers lower-cost broadband services.
As IT departments take on a greater role, cities are exploring how to make them most effective. Philadelphia, for example, recently announced plans to redistribute some IT staff to other departments to make them more accessible. Chicago, meanwhile, is debating a controversial plan that would move staff to the department of fleet and facility management, which critics say could silo the tech workforce.