- The City of Philadelphia is piloting three new systems to digitize paper-based processes, the start of a larger process to streamline time-consuming civic work, according to Government Technology.
- The city is replacing its request for proposal (RFP) process with a system called Govlist, which can automatically fill in certain parts of the forms. The city is also working with a startup to digitize its position requisition process. Finally, it is using DocuSign, a digital signing tool, to affix signatures to certain forms that had previously required several rounds of signatures.
- Jeannette Bruno, Philadelphia’s assistant chief administrative officer, told StateScoop the three processes were ones that "folks across the government have to interface with every single day," and that making them run digitally would have a "far-reaching impact."
While it may seem that Philadelphia is targeting low-hanging fruit, these processes have eaten up valuable time. The paper-based RFP process took about 246 hours before the request could even be posted, according to Government Technology. Alternatively, a pilot that tested 20 RFPs using the digital system took just 27 hours.
As city budgets are stretched, time savings and efficiencies can make a big impact, even on relatively unsexy things like position requisitions. Austin, TX upgraded its time sheet process from a paper method that used up some 750,000 sheets of paper per year, while Los Angeles has used open data to try to streamline digital processes. Startups like Code for America have tried to automate other city processes, like an initiative in San Francisco to automatically fill in forms to clear past marijuana citations.
There may be concerns about the security of putting financial or other personal documents on a digital system. But many have focused on the benefits, making things easier for both city officials and residents. Alex Pedenko, CTO of CityBase, wrote in Smart Cities Dive that eventually cities should move toward unified application programming interfaces, or fully digital systems that talk to each other across departments.
"Government becomes an almost invisible system of support, rather than a cumbersome obstacle," he wrote. "Data can be shared in a smooth, streamlined way among agencies so citizens can get more done, more quickly."