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Upgrading Cities: How CIOs Bridge the Gap Between Cities and Technology

Filing cabinets, clunky phones, and computers using dial-up are some of the things that people might imagine still exist in local government organizations. And in part, there is some truth to these stereotypes. But things are changing. Cities have recognized the need to shift to be more tech savvy organizations and to become “smarter,” but that requires someone with the digital expertise to help connect cities with the tools and resources. That’s where the CIO comes into the picture.

Helping Cities Become Smarter Using Technology

The Chief Information/Innovation Officer is the bridge between a city and new technology. A CIO comes with a toolbox of accumulated knowledge and experience from the private sector to help execute the city’s vision. They have the skills to identify where an “upgrade” in technical tools is needed. And the CIO does all of this in the interest of helping the city better serve the public.  

The Hurdles

For a CIO, it’s the norm to use cutting-edge technology and use tools like dashboards and cloud-based software solutions in a private sector organization. But a city isn’t a large private tech company, and there are multiple hurdles a CIO must deal with such as:

  • A much smaller and/or limited budget, which is a general issue for local government organizations
  • Limited communication and/or collaboration between departments. This means data from, for example, the Transportation Department, is often siloed and separated from other departments, like Waste Management, even if both parties could potentially benefit from the shared knowledge
  • Lack of an overarching tool, like what large private sector organizations use from companies such as SAP, to help manage a city’s entire software suite
  • Outdated software like older operating systems, browsers, and websites that are in need of upgrading
  • Established paper-based systems for storing, managing, and processing information
  • And perhaps a local government organization itself where the culture is a general fear of technology and change

All these potential limitations can make things all the more difficult for a CIO to affect broad organizational change. Still, all these limitations can also help a CIO get creative with solutions.

Using Technology to Improve Cities

A CIO has the opportunity to integrate new technology into existing frameworks. CIOs have an understanding of the need to connect with consumers, which for cities are residents. This is where they can introduce new ideas and innovation that a city might not be familiar with. That is how CIOs help a city shift from a slow, outdated organization, into an efficient modern-day, tech-savvy institution.

CIOs also bring with them an understanding of a different organizational structure that can be adapted to City Hall. CIOs help departments formulate and identify relevant KPIs and metrics to create benchmarks to improve upon. This also helps the CIO organize and leverage data and introduce the right tools to manage it. For example, a city might want resident feedback on a new park that is being built. Public meetings where citizens can voice their opinions are great, but a platform like Zencity allows them to connect with the voice of silent majority that will most likely not attend a council session.

Helping Everyone Upgrade to the Next Level

The CIO is the influential behind-the-scenes person that most citizens will likely not encounter. They make sure that resources like city-related websites, forms, and call centers run faster, smoother, and more effectively. Beyond all that, the CIO is the person who wants to bring about change and improve residents lives within a city by taking it to the next level.

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