- The City of Philadelphia has released its first IT Strategic Plan to coordinate and plan the use of technology across the city government and outline strategies to improve digital equity in the city.
- The 42-page plan came out of several focus groups that included city officials, community organizations, academics and industry partners. The project was designed to highlight both public-facing work and internal technology developments in the city government.
- As part of the strategic plan, the city plans to create a role to coordinate digital literacy work to establish a "collaborative model for connecting existing and future initiatives across departments." That includes continuing support of city initiatives, like the KEYSPOT network of publicly available computers.
The strategic plan reflects the fact that IT has moved from a largely internal, behind-the-scenes department to one that has a public role and coordinates across many city departments, Andrew Buss, the city's Deputy Chief Information Officer for Innovation Management, told Smart Cities Dive.
The strategic plan, he said, highlights how the IT office can provide "meaningful experiences with technology for citizens." It also helps the city "be as transparent as possible" and gather input from all communities on how technology can improve their lives, he added.
It mirrors the government's approach to smart cities work, which has prioritized community involvement through its SmartCityPHL initiative to ensure that assets are serving citizens.
The strategic plan highlights government-backed initiatives to foster digital literacy in a city where the digital divide has been widening. According to U.S. Census figures reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer last year, the broadband penetration rate was just 71.6%, the second-lowest among the 25 largest cities.
The government has opened up technology centers and created grants through its Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA). The latest round of DLA grants, set to be announced next month, will focus on projects around the 2020 Census and a future round will reward projects focused on the immigrant community, according to Buss.
Besides implementing more tech-heavy civic initiatives, the city also plans to offer more support for the private tech industry. That includes the Pitch and Pilot program, for entrepreneurs and startups to test ideas to solve municipal challenges.
"Philadelphia has a very vibrant tech ecosystem, and a lot of our work is just facilitating that space,” Buss said. "It's fairly new for us to tap into that local entrepreneurial community, but there’s a lot of opportunity in bringing solutions to us and helping that community grow."