Smart Communities

Three Smart Community Examples (and What You Can Learn from Them)

A list of communities where smart technology was used to solve problems and improve service delivery and the customer experience.

Smart Solutions: Technology Serving Communities E-Book

Smart Solutions: Technology Serving Communities, we encourage public administrators to become more familiar with the trends in smart technologies

Smart Cities, Shrewd Thinking

A 2017 ICMA study tour visited China to exchange ideas on key elements of evolving smart cities.

Smart Communities: A Resource Guide

ICMA has a number of resources that can help you and your community become part of the smart-city movement.

Broadband Access

3 Challenges Local Leaders Face When Expanding Broadband Access

A robust, efficient, and well-maintained infrastructure system is critical to support and sustain the nation's economy and strengthen global competitiveness.

How Engaging the Community First Will Expand Broadband Access

Broadband Internet opens the door to a world of resources for learners of all ages in the community.

No Middleman Required: Taking on the Municipal Broadband Challenge

Satiating the growing needs of our technology-based society is an increasingly significant focus for local governments. One of the primary barriers to successfully reaching business and personal needs of everyone is accessibility to internet. But in the day of digital everything, simply offering any broadband solution isn’t good enough. And many local governments have recognized this, taking on the responsibility to provide high-speed, readily available internet to the community at-large. In this article, two Ohio communities share their experience in accepting the challenge and bringing this service through municipal-owned networks. Hudson, Ohio, Takes High-Speed Internet into Their Own Hands In the summer of 2015, Hudson, Ohio, introduced Velocity Broadband, a city-owned and operated fiber broadband Internet service. The service offers 1 Gigabit (Gb) of speed to customers, which is faster than any other broadband available in Northeast Ohio. As one of the first “Gigabit Cities” in Ohio, Hudson is blazing the trail for other communities.  Responding to Business Needs The idea to develop Velocity Broadband came from a need expressed by businesses throughout Hudson. The economic development department heard business complaints about slow and inconsistent Internet service, and in local surveys, businesses indicated that faster, more reliable Internet was key to growing their business. The challenge at the beginning was how to fix the problem. City Council first considered running high-speed lines and asking a private broadband company to take them over, but a willing service provider could not be found. It begged the question: Leave things as they are and risk losing businesses or find a way to provide high-speed Internet on their own? Ultimately, Hudson city leaders decided that establishing their own broadband Internet service was the best way to retain businesses and attract new companies to the city. Hudson already has its own power company, so fiber lines were installed quickly, and the service has started rolling out to Hudson businesses. In September 2015, city offices and private businesses in the Executive Parkway business park were connected to Velocity Broadband and the response has been great. For one new Velocity Broadband customer, the switch to the city’s Internet service meant a large graphic file that previously took one hour to upload, now takes just over two minutes. Hudson is using a design-build approach as Velocity Broadband continues to roll out. Sections of the network are designed and built as the project progresses, allowing for flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. Since the first phase of the rollout plan, Velocity Broadband has continued to expand. By this summer, the First & Main shopping area and downtown Hudson will be connected and State Route 91 will be connected by the end of the year. The City is currently developing a business plan to expand the service to residential customers in the coming years. Advice to Other Cities The City of Hudson’s advice to other cities considering going down this path is to put your businesses first. It wasn’t Hudson’s first choice to own and operate their own broadband Internet service, but they knew the payoff would be great. Hudson businesses are experiencing improved connectivity and greater productivity. Already, Hudson is receiving calls from companies outside the city looking to relocate to Hudson because they heard of the new high-speed fiber service. Fast and reliable Internet service is important to all businesses today’s high-tech world, and by offering this service, the city is able to retain current businesses and attract new ones. Partnership First and Fiber Fast: How Montgomery, OH Continues to Build on Their Fiber Foundation Describe how the idea helps improve services? The City of Montgomery had a need to install a fiber-optic connection to its public works facility to increase bandwidth and improve operational capabilities. Because of the distance, this typically would have been accomplished by leasing a connection from one of the local telecommunication service providers. The cost to lease a connection of sufficient bandwidth to address current needs and future growth was always cost prohibitive for such a small organization.  Montgomery has a long-standing positive relationship with Sycamore Community Schools and conducted several meetings to determine if they could help solve the problem given their extensive fiber-optic network and in a way that would be of benefit to both organizations. Because of this partnership, Montgomery is now part of the Sycamore network and has connected all City facilities via high-speed fiber optic cables, extending the reach and boosting the capabilities of both organizations. One of the most recent improvements resulting from the partnership, is the installation of a shared telephone system. In addition to improving services, Montgomery has been able to reduce costs. Instead of leasing a connection from a telecommunications provider, Montgomery installed its own fiber optic cabling from City facilities to Sycamore facilities for a one-time cost and reimburses Sycamore annually for network engineering support and professional assistance for other technology projects. This has resulted in a savings of approximately $9,500 per year for Montgomery, and Sycamore benefits by having the resources to hire a full-time network engineer, a win-win.  The City gained additional annual savings through the installation of the shared telephone system. In total, Montgomery saves $15,500 per year and has provided Sycamore the resources they need to improves services to their students, teachers, and staff. How did the idea develop? What are the goals?  How have they changed? Anything been implemented? Sycamore Community Schools serves the City of Montgomery, City of Blue Ash and portions of two townships.  Montgomery and Sycamore have a long-standing professional working relationship and meet regularly to discuss local and regional issues that affect both organizations.  Late in 2012, the technology directors from both organizations met to discuss the challenges they faced and potential opportunities for cost savings and service enhancements. It was during this initial meeting, that the seeds were sown for a much larger vision of service collaboration for information technology services.  The goal was to create a partnership that could solve the technology challenges of both organizations while enhancing service and reducing cost. This is still our goal today. The continued partnership has set the foundation for many future possibilities. For example, the upcoming installation of fiber optic traffic signal controls by Montgomery will expand the network reach even further facilitating the possibility of expanded public Wi-Fi, something not economically feasible for either organization to accomplish on their own before the partnership.  This would benefit both organizations as it would aid economic development for the City, and help Sycamore expand their initiative of offering Wi-Fi access to students in underserved areas to allow after-school access to school resources. Another potential service improvement, is network redundancy allowing for failover Internet connections, load balancing, and server colocation. Any challenges with the idea? How did you overcome them? The most significant obstacle was recognizing that if each organization continued to operate in a silo, they would not be able to provide the most efficient and high quality service to their stakeholders.  This was quickly overcome because of the existing relationship and through the support of the executive leadership in each organization. In addition, consideration had to be given to ensure E-Rate rules were not broken, potentially jeopardizing technology funding for Sycamore, which did not impact Montgomery.  E-Rate is the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Any advice for other communities interested in building their own version of the idea? What made this partnership successful was the openness of both organizations to work together to do what’s right for the community. When two organizations approach a problem at a higher level, smaller challenges or roadblocks become more manageable. Also, creating partnerships similar to that of the City of Montgomery and Sycamore Community Schools, creating a vision of future possibilities, not just solving the current problem, builds excitement and energy to continue in a positive direction and on a personal level, makes working together enjoyable.

5 Ways to Use the Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age Resource Guide

A resource guide designed to support communities of all sizes and geographies in advancing their goals for expanding high-speed Internet access and digital inclusion.

Big Data & Analytics

Responding to Open Data Concerns

The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University responds to concerns about releasing data to the public.

Interpreting Data Analytics and Communicating It to the Public

I remember sweating through statistical analysis class in grad school. I held out until my final semester to take that required course. I wasn’t keen on the heavy emphasis of formulas and number crunching (back then, it really was crunching –punch cards running through large mainframe computers). I recall asking myself the proverbial question every student asks: “Will I ever use this stuff in the real world?” My instructor’s response was that it wasn’t his goal to make us into data masters. Rather, it was to give us the knowledge to make sure we weren’t “snowed” by someone who presents (data) to you later in life. And he was right. Throughout my career in public administration, I have come in contact with a lot of data and analyses.  What was more challenging than simply interpreting it was packaging it for public consumption as a spokesperson for a municipal government. Communicating data to citizens about a government action is a key element to help them gain an understanding of that action.  And let’s be honest, it has also been a political way to smooth over an action that affects the public. Not in a negative sense of “hiding behind the data,” but more of an apolitical explanation of an action as suggesting “the data speaks for itself.”  Yet, while data is a key part of government policy making, particularly when it comes to a numbers game, such as budget preparation, it isn’t as much a part of government decision making.  Let me explain. While we are awash in data these days thanks to advancements in technology and automation (we can quantify just about everything), line employees and many managers don’t use the data they have in making day-to-day decisions.  Making a decision using data means having to sit down and go through the data. This process suggests that incorporating data into daily work plans has not been practiced in government decision making on an institutional level. Governments have their data masters. Internally, we always knew who these people were.  Today, we call them Chief Data Officers. And data is accumulated and shared to internal agencies on a daily basis. Yet, the general mindset is to use that data for making policies where agencies can set aside the time to pore over spreadsheets of details and discuss its meaning as they plan and execute their programs and services.  And in noted cases, the data becomes a reactive mechanism when government is put on the defensive. We have seen cases when a decision is made and the public (or media) asks questions that explicitly or implicitly refer to the data that contributed to that decision, the response from an agency or an official is “we can get you the data.” Again, this suggests that data is separate from the decision when it should form the foundation surrounding it. It was suggested in another article by PTI executive director, Alan Shark that “local governments should establish a ‘data/information’ policy that begins with taking an inventory of what types of data a city or county has, how is it collected, stored, retrieved, and in what format.”  I suggest taking it a step further and adding to the policy that each employee receive instruction about how to access that data, understand how it impacts the agency’s programs, services and policies and how to use it in their daily work. Government data should not be a hierarchy. It should be treated as the ubiquitous entity that it is. In this age of open government, government transparency and FOI requests, public institutions are learning if they do not effectively communicate and interpret their data to the citizenry, there is a good chance their citizens will do it for them.   Unlike a business that can withhold certain data when it doesn’t suit their needs or their strategy, government must be open with data they possess.  And while we know data is still an imperfect science open to interpretation, and that access is more easily available and attainable by citizens, it is imperative for government officials to communicate it and interpret it, simultaneously, as part of the message, decision or policy that’s being announced.                    The #LocalGov Technology Alliance is an Esri-ICMA initiative to explore the world of big data, open data, apps and dashboards, and what it all means for local governments. For more resources to help navigate the complex world of technology, go to icma.org/localgovtechalliance.

Don’t “Deflate” the Importance of Data

Hopefully you do not have to hear about “deflate-gate” anymore now that Super Bowl XLIX is in the books.  The only pressure this post touches on is the increasing pressure on local governments to properly manage data. With advancements in technology, local governments are spending more time in developing data management policies.  Even a Super Bowl commercial was based on data management. During my four months as an administrative intern in the City of Altoona, Pennsylvania, my main tasks were data management projects, which brought me to the realization that data management is one of the vital tasks of local government. A quick search on the Internet and the Knowledge Network reveals numerous resources on data management. Here is a list of a few: Alisha Green, former policy associate for Sunlight Foundation, presented on open data policies during the ICMA 100th Annual Conference.  This conference document outlines how open data policies can promote transparency, efficiency, and engagement. This blog post in the #LocalGov Technology Alliance blog summarizes a recent publication on the future of technology in local government by the Florida League of Cities, and a majority of them are data based. In this article, Government Technology provides local governments with 5 tips for getting started in data analytics. Jerry Schulz, from GovHR USA, writes how publishing data should be added to local government managers’ to-do list.  Govloop recently wrote a blog post answering the question: “Is Open Data Worth the Hype?” A local government chief information officer discusses, in this article, that small data management is equally as important as big data management. This blog post discusses the importance of big data in local government. This Government Technology article shows how the city and county governments of Durham, NC use collaboration to deal with the challenges of data management.  ICMA outlines the 5 steps to data-driven management for local government in this article. Robert O’ Neill, ICMA Executive Director, will join other leaders to discuss state and local issues that are driving the nation’s policy agenda in the Outlook 2015 event.  One of the topics will be cutting-edge data management software.   What are some innovative ways your community is managing its data? Is data management the most important task of local government administration? Please post your comments below. Douglas Shontz Knowledge Network Intern 

Doing Data Right

Leading Practices That Can Help Managers Ramp Up Their Data Efforts

Mobile Technology

Smart Communities and Mobile Strategies: New Tools for Local Governments

A good mobile strategy allows local governments to consider workflow for the whole of the organization and respond automatically to changes taking place in the community.

What’s BYOD...and Why It Might Make You Want to BYOB

“Bring Your Own Device.” What it is and why it might not be a good thing for your organization

Mobile Devices Bring Benefits but Raise Management Issues

Best practices for mobile devices and local goverment

Surviving the Smart Machine Age

Essential principles for adapting and staying employable in the Smart Machine Age.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity: Your Go-To Report for Protecting Local Government Digital Resources

Breaking down the latest research and leading practices in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity Alert for Local Governments

Learn about a possible cybersecurity risk that may affect your local government.

Ransomware Attacks Illustrate the Vulnerabilities that Local Government Entities Face

Government networks are attractive targets for hackers, cyber sleuths, and professionals.

Growing Impact of Cybercrime in Local Government

Managers face an uphill battle against cyberintrusions and data breaches.

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