Orlando goes all-in on digital services (and you should too)

One of our key messages to cities is that you can provide better service — and at lower cost — by going digital. In an age where citizens can order almost anything online and have it delivered in a couple of days — if not a couple of hours — the old ways of providing city services seem even more antiquated.

But citizens aren’t the only beneficiaries. After the initial technology investment, digital services typically have the lowest per-transaction cost to provide.

That’s why we’re so glad to see Orlando making a strong commitment in this area. Orlando was one of our 2017 Readiness Challenge winners. When we delivered a Readiness Workshop last spring, we found a city identifying smart strategies to keep the city livable as it undergoes exponential growth.

As you’ll read below, six months later it wants to digitize more than 200 services and is on track to do that with 50 of them by this summer. Great progress! And you can get started in your own city by using the Digital Services section of our Readiness Guide. — Kevin Ebi

Orlando is well on its way to becoming a digital city. It says it has identified 225 city services that can be provided online — and will have 50 of them web-based by the summer.

The city has already launched an early version of a digital services portal, which allows residents to do everything from report potholes and graffiti to start building permits and reserve playgrounds. It’s an initial set of services for test purposes, but the city says it’s ready to do even more.

Design academy
To add additional services, Orlando has created its own Digital Services Design Academy. As described by StateScoop, the academy brings experts from city departments together with IT professionals.

Over the course of a four-day workshop, the two groups work together to map out existing city processes and then attempt to adapt them to a digital approach. Empathy for citizens is key. All participants are told to put themselves in residents’ shoes, designing the services while acting out the process of using them. The city says people who have participated in the workshops have found the process informative and rewarding.

Another opportunity to roll out services faster is to find overlaps between various departments. Different departments may have their own versions of volunteer forms, for example, and the process aims to standardize them as much as possible.