Openness, Mobility, Security Top City, County Government Priorities

3 min read
  • Government
  • Customer Service
  • Document & Records Management

People tend to think of the federal government as being a huge entity that overshadows local governments. But local governments in fact dwarf the size of federal governments. For example, state and local governments combine to produce $3 trillion in spending, which is more than twice that of the federal government market (not counting defense spending). And local governments employ 19 million workers, which is more than seven times that of the federal government market.

Altogether, city and county governments are larger employers than the retail, manufacturing, construction, or financial industries, according to Dugan Petty, a fellow with the Center for Digital Government. In fact, if states were viewed as individual businesses, 19 (starting with California at #3) would be members of the Fortune 100.

Consequently, it’s interesting to delve into responses to the annual Digital Cities and County Survey from the Center for Digital Government. The results affect us as citizens, but from a business perspective, vendors are likely to tweak offerings to gain the interest of this large market.

Asked to rank the top priorities, cities said Open Government, followed by Mobility and Mobility Applications. Those topics topped the list last year, too, Petty noted. Cybersecurity is up to #3 from #6 the previous year. Portal/E-gov is up one spot, to #4 from #5. IT Staffing remains the same, also at #4. Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity made the largest jump, to #6 from #9. Cloud Computing also went up, to #7 from #8. Social Media, which wasn’t even on the list last year, broke in at #8. What were the losers? Broadband and Connectivity went down from #6 to #5. Budget and Cost Control dropped from #3 to #9—“a sure sign that the Great Recession is coming to an end in terms of City IT,” Petty said. Shared Services, which has come under criticism for not saving money in regions that have tried it, dropped from #7 to #10.

Not surprisingly, different departments in city and county government had different priorities. In fact, similar departments in different governments were much more alike than the two types of governments. For example, within finance departments in both city and county governments, the top three priorities were procurement reform, modernizing purchasing, and Enterprise Resource Planning/ legacy systems. And though modernizing the purchasing system scored well with both finance/administration departments and city/county governments as a whole, it was a significantly less important priority in other departments such as public safety, health and social services, transportation, and citizen engagement.

Public safety and transportation departments in both cities and counties had mapping and other geospatial applications as the most important, but counties in both departments consider mobile apps to be a higher priority than did cities. Mapping and geospatial applications were also a high priority in citizen engagement, presumably because they wanted to ensure that the city was serving all its residents relatively equally. Finance and administration, however, considered it a much lower priority than did other departments.

Citizen engagement departments were also the ones that were most interested in mobile apps. In general, though, counties were more interested than cities in mobile apps; about 65 percent of county respondents said that mobile apps were of growing importance in the next 18 to 24 months, while only a little more than 50 percent of city respondents thought so. In comparison, respondents in cities were more likely to consider cloud vendor management of growing importance than did county respondents (about 57 percent compared with less than 50 percent).

In health and social services, both cities and counties had privacy at the highest priority, though counties in general considered privacy more important than cities did. (Which makes sense, when you think about it; people who live in large groups of other people might be less concerned about privacy.)

“All government is local government,” former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill reminds us. With state IT spending growing faster than federal IT spending, this survey reminds us that this is still true. And when considering the needs of potential clients, the priorities of seemingly smaller businesses may trump those of the larger ones.

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