Delivering Innovation Through Digitization

Whether the government is ready or not, the world is going digital. The biggest modernization problem for governments is that staying on track with the rest of the world and undertaking a secure digital transformation can be challenging. However, it is critical that governments start adopting digital tools in order to deliver better solutions for government end-users and citizens.

At today’s Government Innovators Virtual Summit, Diane Gongaware, Vice President of Services in the U.S. Public Sector at Cisco; Michael Lee Sherwood, Director of Information Technologies in the City of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Scott Cardenas, Chief Information Officer for the City and County of Denver, Colorado sat down with GovLoop to discuss how agencies can effectively leverage digitization.

Gongaware started the conversation by explaining the premises governments are operating under are changing. “We are undergoing the biggest transformation of our lifetime and we are seeing this the most in our cities and counties who are challenged with things like rapid urbanization and economic constraints,” she said. “As a result, cities are becoming digital and leveraging digitization, which requires local leaders to rethink how their agencies operate and efficiently deliver citizen services.”

The four biggest challenges local governments face when embarking on a digital transformation are the availability of human capital, security, culture and technology. However, harnessing digitization offers tools to overcome these challenges. Gongaware recommended a strategy that addresses these roadblocks with a digital network architecture.

Cisco’s solutions connect things that are important to local governments like parking, traffic, safety, urban mobility and lighting and feeds the data back into a single operations center. “Essentially, it connects everything on a standard shared infrastructure and one common platform enabling cities to lead digital transformation and create a fully connected environment,” Gongaware explained.

Ultimately, leveraging a connected solution through digitization allows cities to expand overtime while reducing expenses and time to market and enhancing livability.

Two cities that have been leveraging the digitization tools that Gongaware discussed are Las Vegas and Denver.

Building Community to Make Life Better in Las Vegas 

Las Vegas, Nevada is the 26th largest city in the United States and sees 40 million annual visitors. “As a result, we need to make a wonderful experience for tourists and citizens of our city,” Sherwood said. Their motto for achieving a better experience is ‘Building Community to Make Life Better,’ and they achieve this through technology.

Sherwood explained that this premise of building a better community has driven him and his team to leverage digitization and digital tools to work towards building a downtown area that is connected for everyone. Some of the areas they are concentrating on the most in their digital journey are mobile engagement, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, data analytics and cloud. “This huge suite of products has allowed us to take our city from an analogue city to a truly digital one,” he said.

One example of this is their consolidated view screen that monitors traffic, waste, lighting, parking and environmental factors in real time. Sherwood explained that they are leveraging real-time monitoring of the city’s critical infrastructure to enhance the quality of life throughout all facets of the city.

Las Vegas is also leveraging augmented data reality applications so they can view city services in real time. This allows employees and citizens to use the app throughout the city and gain an augmented layer of data about connected areas. For example, a safety employee could hold their phone over the manhole and the app would produce an augmented data layer that gives critical information about the manhole to the employee working in it. “These tools are really how we are addressing the future and making Las Vegas a better city for tourists and residents,” Sherwood said.

Turning Denver into a Smart City

Denver, Colorado is also leveraging a lot of the same technology as Las Vegas. “We are operating under the umbrella of smart cities to walk through this digitization path in Denver,” Cardenas said.

While some cities try to tackle multiple smart city initiatives at once, Cardenas explained that in Denver, they have chosen to focus mainly on improving traffic and the environment through digitization. Transportation and environment are one prong in what Cardenas described as the Smart City Engine. The engine is a comprehensive approach to smart city initiatives that includes elements like housing and small businesses, city services, and community wellbeing.

“While we are spending a lot of our efforts focusing on improving transportation and environment, we’re trying to approach the Smart City Engine through a regional and larger perspective that integrates the region and each part of the Smart City Engine into one approach,” Cardenas explained.

However, adopting this approach may mean that you will have to make some organizational changes to fully implement smart city initiatives. “We had to change our internal organization to manage these smart city initiatives,” Cardenas said. “At the end of the day, it is very important for cities to get organized and have the proper governing group so you can proactively talk about end goals, results, and what to do with the data you gather.”

This blog post is a recap of a session from GovLoop’s recent Government Innovators Virtual Summit. For more coverage, head here.

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