Connecting Data, Systems and People to Build Community

This is a guest post by Meredith Trimble, senior marketing content specialist for Tyler Technologies. 

Local governments stand on the front lines of some of the most significant challenges of our day. From homelessness, the opioid crisis, barriers to justice, and redevelopment challenges, local governments are best positioned to meaningfully address these issues, even amidst their own uncertainties including parochialism, limited resources, and a shifting workforce.

To fully realize the power of local government to improve communities, certain connections must occur. These are the connections that give first responders access to aerial and street-level imagery before arriving on the scene, allow courts to issue arrest warrants that are simultaneously triggered at the police station, provide a shared parcel identifier for assessors, tax collectors, and planners, and allow citizens to report pot holes from an app for faster response. They also fuel creative solutions that improve communities by bringing together public and private partners for increased access to social services or smarter allocation of resources to target affordable housing shortages, food scarcity, and public health crises.

Local government leaders love their cities and community members love where they live. Leveraging the real bond between civic leaders, governments, and residents can be achieved in practice through modern technology and integrated line-of-business systems. Uniting data, systems, and people leads to better constituent service and solutions to some of societies greatest issues.

To create these connections, local government agencies must begin to share information in actionable ways:

  • Across the enterprise;
  • With residents; and
  • Across jurisdictions.

Emerging technology platforms enable these types of sharing. Electronic portals, for example, gather information from disparate departments and allow internal and external stakeholders to not only access but work and build with real-time data to create department efficiencies and community solutions. A strong digital infrastructure is the backbone of solving problems and creating opportunity through integration.

Cities across the country are already realizing results:

  • In Mobile, AL, simply linking police and court recordsshrank police department paperwork by 98 percent and the city saved more than $500,000 annually.
  • Buffalo, NY, offers “Data 101” courses for the public on its open data portal so businesses, researchers, and organizations can use it to build apps or solve issues.
  • Hartford, CT, connects multiple data sets from different departments to create a higher return on investment in blight remediation.
  • Temecula, CA, increased citizen engagement and reduced processing time for permit approvals by centrally connecting their community development processes.
  • East Point, GA, partnered with Fulton County and its 13 other cities to launch a connected tax dashboard to give citizens and businesses insight into transportation project cost, spending, and timelines.
  • In Little Rock, AR, a “data retreat” involving neighborhood groups and staff from housing, finance, public works, and parks departments led to a pilot project that fixed broken street lights, increased safety, and cleaned up a key city street corridor.
  • Plant City, FL, used integrated ERP and financial systems to expedite maximum FEMA reimbursements to rebuild faster after Hurricane Irma.

These cities represent the “Connected Communities” vision. Seamless communication of important data improves citizen services and agency outcomes. This is not just a vision, but the natural evolution, or next step, of smart cities. Smart cities stay smart by investing in modern technology platforms to easily exchange data. Truly smart cities seek to move the needle and achieve genuine connectivity through a cohesive, foundational digital infrastructure. This infrastructure powers internal efficiencies that turn moments of challenge into ones of opportunity and ready the organization for partnerships and innovation.

Bruce Graham, chief strategy officer for Tyler Technologies, recently described a roadmap for these types of effective integrations. In his article for American City & County, Where do we go from here?, he describes a digital pathway for cities to ensure immediate returns on investment while maintaining the flexibility necessary to successfully grow, adapt, and create change for improved communities.

As cities mature in a digital context, the shared use of data empowers public and private partners to demonstrate their love for their cities by creating connections and solving problems.

About the AuthorMeredith Trimble is the senior marketing content specialist for Tyler Technologies. Trimble is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting, and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies.