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LA Story: Technology is about the Customer

At the heart of every technology decision, leaders need to keep the customer in mind. Los Angeles CIO Ted Ross demonstrates how his agency is keeping their citizens at the center of their mission. (Video, GovTech)

Whether it’s cloud-based solutions, mobile apps, open data projects or the next big thing, cities and government agencies should still start with the customers’ needs, Ross argues. To that end, his agency created 3 bureaus – and one of them is dedicated to customer engagement.

The approach Los Angeles is taking to innovate civic engagement with technology tools is getting attention. With 4 million residents and 250,000 businesses over 469 square miles, communication and coordination between agencies, leaders and citizens is a formidable challenge.  LA has evolved to the challenge by launching a comprehensive city portal, LACity.org, and a convenient mobile app so that citizens can interact with 311 services like pothole repair, graffiti removal, waste pickup, and bill paying. While these logistics and solutions seem overwhelming to manage, Ross’s approach to implementation makes them straightforward:

Innovation doesn’t have to be expensive.  Use existing platforms and products in creative ways to address civic needs.

Use social media and mobile: Learn how people already interact with one another. Use responsive design when building websites.

Stop and think about the customer: Focus on their lifestyle, their needs, what they already use and what they need. Then figure out how to make their lives easier.

“Maybe change starts off with the low-hanging fruit, or maybe it starts off with the most popular items,” Ross said. “The best recommendation, from a technology perspective, is to invest in the types of platforms that give you flexibility and the opportunity to change with the times.”

As an example of LA’s pragmatic approach, their tech initiatives have included supporting existing libraries and schools with broadband, and working with city council programs to repurpose old city computers for underserved residents.

LA is moving forward by thinking of technology in a cross-agency, cross-disciplinary way. Their Chief Technology Officer, Jeanne Holm, came from the communication and information department – and in fact, still serves in both departments.   “We want to be embedded everywhere, so that everyone moves up together,” Holm said. “I think being here in [the Information Technology Agency] gives me this really great opportunity to take the mayor’s office perspective and combine it with ongoing efforts in the city so that way we bring those two pieces together.”


SMARTGOV from Paladin is part of the civic tech services revolution to transform government by providing agile, secure, cloud-based solutions that improve processes. SMARTGOV streamlines permit processing, saving cities and counties time and money while delivering better customer service.
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