4:30pm | Long Beach was recently recognized in a survey as a Top-10 Digital City, meaning the city improved operational efficiencies and reduced costs via technological innovation. So just how did the city go about doing so?
Curtis Tani, Director of Technology Services, claims the effort to reduce costs without compromising service delivery has been three-pronged:
- Consolidate information and communication technology (ICT) services.
- Increase transparency and collaboration across the enterprise.
- Digitize processes, forms, and workflow.
“The Mayor, the City Council and City staff understood the value that technology could bring the city and were open to change at the foundational level to allow Long Beach to become a technology leader,” says Tani. “They understood that the shortfalls in our budget challenged operational efficiencies and gave the Technology Services Department the freedom to lead initiatives to make Long Beach a digital community.”
In succinct terms: consolidate and standardize — which is more difficult to implement than it is to theorize.
First was the movement of the entire IT staff into one office with a centralized operation unit. For example, in 2009, Long Beach chose to replace its existing IBM FileNet system that ran throughout various departments with an enterprise content management (ECM) system from local technological company Laserfiche, in order to be used across the city. Essentially, this cut the city’s ECM support costs by 50% by having to provide less equipment and avoid pesty maintenance fees.
Other features of Long Beach’s new ECM sysem that the city stand out above the rest: a new, enterprise-wide Internet-based phone system expected to generate $165,000 in annual savings; virtual servers and workstations expected to generate $100,000 in energy and hardware savings over three years; and cluster databases that have reduced licensing and hardware fees.
In a step that was both political and technologically driven, the transparency of the local government was radically increased. In April of 2011, the Long Beach City Council adopted an open government policy that identified transparency as a core function of local government. This was difficult to uphold for a few reasons. Previously, the city had been paying upwards of $120,000 a year for off-site storage of records and archives. These records had to not only be manually accessed, but often took a significant amount of time to find as well as get out to the person who was requesting the document. Now, many documents ranging from sample ballots to council agendas are instantaneously available via the new ECM system.
According to Tani, “All the right elements were aligned for the success of our technology initiatives. City leadership, staff and citizens were onboard with the transition and willing to go above and beyond to make our efforts to centralize and standardize Long Beach’s approach to technology successful.”
November 7, 3:20pm | The City of Long Beach was named a Top-10 Digital City, beating out hundreds of other cities in a national survey that spotlights municipalities that best demonstrate how information and communication technology are used to enhance public service.
“The City of Long Beach takes great pride in our use of technology to be more efficient and make City Hall more accessible and responsive to the community,” said Mayor Bob Foster.
First District Councilmember Robert Garcia said in an email last week, “Improving our technology and communication efforts has been a top priority. We have developed innovative new smartphone applications, focused on social networking, enhanced online video, and numerous other technology improvements.”
The 11th annual survey was conducted by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology.
Here are some examples of technological innovation through which the City has improved operational efficiencies and reduced costs:
- Launched the free Go Long Beach smartphone application for the public to submit service requests. Available from the Android Market and the App Store; services also accessible at www.golbcity.com
- Embraced social media, especially Facebook, to engage and communicate with the public www.longbeach.gov/socialmedia
- Consolidated multiple document management systems into a single enterprise system, cutting annual support and storage costs
- Enhanced online streaming video to allow the public to view live and archived City Council Meetings through the Internet or on a mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad
- Extended fiber optics between several City facilities, improving productivity and enhancing disaster recovery capabilities
- Implemented new online permits and licenses (garage sales, preferential parking, pet licenses)
- Implemented Internet-based phone technology that will generate over $150,000 in savings annually
- Implemented virtual servers and workstations, estimated to achieve over $100,000 in savings over a three-year period.
- Provided online access to executed contracts and enabling online submittal of public comment on agenda items
- Led an effort among community stakeholders to create a public-private partnership to bring back public access television
The Center for Digital Government is a national research and advisory institute on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government.