In 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner saw that while Chicago was a nation leader in government technology, the state as a whole was in the bottom fourth of the country for efficiency and customer service outcomes. This spurred the creation of Illinois’s “Smart State” initiative, a holistic approach to improving technology across the state and it’s local municipalities.
Many other towns, cities, counties, and states are seeing similar opportunities for collaboration on government technology projects. Instead of approaching projects in silos, forward-thinking public agencies are seeing the benefits of creating technology “eco-systems” that innately benefit from their connectivity across governments.
The Benefits of Collaboration
Lowering investment costs. In the past, many states and local governments have separately invested resources into the same types of technology projects, essentially repeating efforts. Joint ventures mean that governments can share funding sources, research, human capital, and procurement processes.
More efficient implementation. Pilot projects allow for more efficient and effective implementation, because they inherently require an agile implementation process—moving in “bite-sized chunks.” Each successive implementation, whether it be the next city or county, learns from the mistakes and successes of those before them. Additionally, employees who are already familiar with the technology can help train employees in new municipalities through a “train the trainer” model.
Better service. When governments share the same technology products, it makes for a more fluid user experience. Business communities, for example, that work across multiple towns and cities in the same state will benefit from a unified permitting and licensing system.
Greater equity. Smaller and less funded municipalities are often the last to undertake technological innovation. Resource sharing and joint piloting projects allow greater access to new technology for those governments who could not otherwise afford the cost.
Increased collaboration. Shared technology also facilitates government collaboration on the backend. Compatible systems make it easier to share data and insights and work together on non-technology projects.
Government Collaboration in Action
Streamlined RFPs in Illinois
One aspect of Illinois’s Smart State initiative is a streamlined Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Under this new system, the state issues a single RFP for each type of technology or service, and cities can chose the selected vendor without having to duplicate the procurement process. Local governments are already seeing the benefits. In a recent press release, Illinois announced a new RFP for technology “allowing local governments the opportunity to explore the benefits of smart street lighting.”
Expanding access to Broadband in Ohio
The state of Ohio is trying to level the technological playing field by helping local municipalities better understand their current digital performance and opportunities for innovation. As part of the initiative, Connect Ohio, five areas across the state will receive a comprehensive digital assessment and project plan to provide greater access to broadband internet. While broadband might not seem like cutting-edge technology, this type of collaboration improves technological equity, crossing what Connect Ohio’s Executive Director Stu Johnson calls the “Sahara Desert of the digital divide.”
Unified ePermitting in Rhode Island
With goals of improving citizen service, promoting economic growth, and streamlining internal operations, Rhode Island launched the nation’s first statewide ePermitting initiative using the same online permitting software across state agencies and local governments. Benefiting from centralized management and an agile implementation process, the software is being phased in across three state agencies and 25 pilot towns and cities.
These states are showing the way for future technological collaboration across multiple levels of government. The private sector has long taken advantage of technology to foster national and global networks and innovation. Governments should, at the very least, be looking to their neighbors to see how they can accomplish more by working together.