As the threat of COVID-19 increased, elected officials and civic leaders across the nation have needed to find ways to maintain government services while minimizing in-person interactions. For many, this means uncovering innovative solutions during unprecedented times. Cities across the country have been forced to relocate operations remotely and employees have had to adjust to working remotely full-time. Coral Gables, FL, also known as The City Beautiful, is located in the heart of South Florida. Juggling the needs of its 50,000+ residents during these unprecedented times has proven to be challenging to say the least.
“In challenging times, it’s critical for municipal governments to step up and serve residents with no interruption of service,” said Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli. “We have come to rely heavily on technology solutions in adapting to these unprecedented realities.”
Three months ago, city leaders could never have imagined having to navigate the effects of a pandemic, while also continuing operations and providing services for its residents. Raimundo Rodulfo, Chief Innovation Officer at the City of Coral Gables, is responsible for all strategic planning, oversight and management of city-wide IT operations, infrastructure and smart city initiatives. His job, now more than ever, is crucial in keeping the community connected. “My objective is to lead a team of first-class business and technical experts that serve our government and its citizens with the utmost communication through this difficult time.”
The City of Coral Gables had already been executing a digital transformation and smart city strategy for multiple years. This has provided a foundation of high-speed communications and robust cyber-infrastructure for business continuity, emergency management, teleworking and collaboration. The City had previously developed a large mobile workforce, including public safety and multiple cloud, mobile platforms and applications, such as Microsoft Office 365 and various cloud-based enterprise systems. “These comprehensive strategies for continuous improvement, innovation, emergency preparedness and business continuity facilitated the transition to the current operations during the pandemic,” Raimundo explained.
In response to the crisis, the City deployed additional mobile computers and devices for remote access and teleworking. They also increased the capacity and number of licenses required for remote access to computers and applications in order to enable virtual workspaces. This provides employees and stakeholders access to applications and documents, or the ability to conduct virtual commission meetings. The City of Coral Gables has had to leverage the functionalities of scalable, flexible and secure cloud-based platforms and enterprise systems.
Raimundo and the City of Coral Gables have been using Microsoft technology to run business as usual during this time. Microsoft Teams helps facilitate virtual meetings and remote collaboration on projects and daily tasks, while through SharePoint they access emergency management workspaces and digital resources. The City utilizes Outlook for email along with the other Office 365 applications. Employees also have access to OneDrive work data repositories in the cloud and manage network assets, back-end functions and automating network administration processes.
Though prepared, COVID-19 has represented for the City a significant increase in number of tasks, meetings and processes to be conducted remotely and with additional safety precautions. Meetings are now being held remotely, using tele/videoconferencing tools, skyrocketing employee mobile device usage to access digital resources and applications necessary to perform their work.
Thanks to the City’s forward-thinking leadership and its technology infrastructure, the organization and its constituents have been able to communicate and work efficiently in meetings, projects and work tasks, while responding to this emergency and abiding by the social distancing guidelines in place.
As the City has provided rapid solutions throughout the emergency, it has been very important to keep the necessary standards and best practices to guarantee security, compliance and interoperability for its employees and citizens. Raimundo explained, “When leveraging the functionalities of platforms and applications in the cloud, it’s important to be mindful of known risks and performance issues, so that they are addressed or mitigated in advance.”
Raimundo reminds all business owners on the importance of training the users of respective systems and supporting them during these times, as many of them will be using some new technologies and will have to quickly adapt. He also expressed the importance of the websites and cloud applications have the ability to be used to communicate across multiple platforms and devices.
“From a technology standpoint, during a crisis like this, it is very important to implement a comprehensive digital strategy that focuses on business continuity, customer service, teamwork and cybersecurity,” Raimundo explained. Understanding the needs of the emergency management team and all the stakeholders, identifying which technologies are the right ones on each case, and working on an agile way making sure those needs are rapidly and securely met has been a priority for the City during this pandemic.
Some of these emergency management digital strategies and resources can be accessed at https://www.coralgables.com/itdocs. For the latest information, please visit the City’s COVID-19 emergency information hub at https://www.coralgables.com/emergency.