Amazon already disappointed 218 cities when it culled the list of applicants for the tech giant’s secondary headquarters down to 20 finalists. Ultimately, of course, another 19 will fall short of the final prize. There can only be one.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this exercise reflects on how tech savvy these cities are, though. In our work we’ve crisscrossed the country, evaluating and writing about local government innovation in municipalities large and small. We’ve found hundreds of effective new programs and initiatives.
In Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, for instance, when a family services caseworker enters a home in response to a call alleging abuse to meet with an often emotional, sometimes angry, family, she arrives with a tablet connected to information on the client’s history of involvement with the child welfare, mental health, and criminal justice systems. Back at the office, she gets alerts about critical changes in the household such as a new violent crime offense.
For corporate America, this kind of readily available, wide-ranging data to inform decisions has become business as usual. For local government, the benefits have just begun. Breathtaking developments in mobile and cloud computing, GPS, digital platforms and similar high-tech options tantalize public officials with their potential. Yet despite the many innovative programs we’ve seen, no city has found a way to mainstream these approaches fully into its day-to-day activities.
What will that take? Here are five suggestions.