State and local governments reap benefits of technology to transform cities

The following post is from Michael Donlan, Vice President, U.S. State and Local Government, Microsoft.


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State and local governments are on the leading edge of progress, emerging as the drivers of not only a national, but global economy. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the National League of Cities “Congress of Cities” event in Seattle this week. I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to engage with leaders from around the country and one thing has been consistent: Our state and local leaders are challenged to deliver more services with less resources at the very time that they are stepping up to big societal challenges.

This is an incredibly challenging position to be in, but new advances in technology are helping government agencies across the U.S. transform cities to drive economic development, better serve citizens and improve a range of efficiencies.

To help these government agencies apply technology in support of their unique needs, our Microsoft CityNext initiative places people-first to enable governments, businesses and citizens to create more sustainable, prosperous and economically competitive cities. Yet it’s not the technology alone that will take cities to the next level. With help from technology, we have an opportunity to innovate and deliver value to customers in core areas around which cities care the most, such as:

Improving Citizen Safety and Security

Like many government agencies today, law enforcement departments are stretched thin, but with a constant rise in new threats, they’re still held responsible for keeping citizens out of harm’s way. To help improve the safety of its citizens, police departments are deploying technology trends such as big data and cloud computing, both of which serve to increase operational effectiveness and efficiency. For example, the Pennsylvania Criminal Justice System implemented a Unified Case Management (UCM) application built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM to provide a common platform and enable information exchange among several departments. By providing streamlined, up-to-the-minute data, case workers, probation officers, and jail guards all have access to the same information eliminating the need to call the probation office or search files for individual warrants which ultimately ensures the safety of officers and citizens.

Empower Mobile Government Workers

State and local government employees, like workers across all enterprises, are expected to be able to manage their workloads from anywhere and keep their productivity levels high. As a means to help meet these needs, many city and county governments are prioritizing efforts to become more mobile. For example, the City of Charlotte in North Carolina deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM online when it hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention to provide an effective way to manage resources, public safety, and transportation, while at the same time, evaluate and process event requests from both citizens and organizations participating in convention activities. The City of Philadelphia has also improved communication and efficiency for building field inspectors and in-office managers through the use of Surface Pro devices with the Office 365 cloud solution. This solution allows field inspectors to conduct more inspections weekly, eliminate paper and more efficiently rout to and reschedule resources.

Develop Smart Buildings and Intelligent Infrastructure Systems

Many cities across the U.S. are full of sensors collecting enormous amounts of data on a daily basis, but the problem is many of these systems are disconnected, preventing city officials from being able to analyze data effectively or in a timely manner. To address this issue on our own campus, Microsoft developed a data-driven software solution to create the city of the future. This solution connects disparate systems and allows them to communicate with each other in order to increase efficiency and help detect and fix problems automatically. As a result, we are saving millions of dollars every year. Leveraging similar software, the City of Seattle has joined with Microsoft, Accenture, Seattle 2030 District and Seattle City Light to increase energy efficiency in large commercial buildings across Seattle’s downtown corridor. The goal is to utilize the cloud solution to collect data and provide a prescriptive approach to conserving energy and reducing downtown energy use by 25 percent, with the intention to expand the pilot over the next year.

This is just the beginning, and at Microsoft we’re excited to be a part of the process, in partnership with our City customers. As my colleague Brad Smith is sharing in his keynote today at NLC, we will always be driven by several guiding principles: 1) Transform processes through the efficiency of the cloud while providing industry leading terms and conditions around government regulatory compliance like CJIS and HIPAA 2) Engage citizens and businesses by providing them with real time, integrated information; and 3) Accelerate growth by increasing the skilled workforce, attracting new small businesses, attracting innovators, and unlocking potential of all citizens. We have the resources and creativity to make change impactful for all citizens, and the time is now to take action.