Planning Departments Using Civic Tech
Planetizen has released a survey that shows how the use of civic tech is growing in planning departments. Over 600 cities of all sizes were included in the research.
An expanding industry:
- The number of civic technology companies grew by roughly 23% annually between 2008 and 2013 (Knight Foundation).
- The U.S. government is estimated to spend over $6 billion per year on civic tech. Much of this activity is happening in states and cities to manage local services, like planning.
The survey found near-complete adoption of web communication. Use of social media and mobile access continues to grow in importance.
- 99% of the cities had a dedicated website for their planning department (only 2 did not).
- 59% of city planning department websites use responsive design to accommodate mobile users. Mobile internet use now exceeds desktop use and many low-income groups may use a mobile device as their only internet access.
- 53% of city planning departments update their website at least monthly.
- 14% of planning departments have dedicated social media. Social media is even more commonly used in larger cities, where 32% of planning departments use it.
- 85% of city planning departments use their web sites to publish their zoning code.
Growing use of tools:
- 47%of cities offer an online GIS tool to search properties.
- Planning use of online GIS increased by 7 points since 2015. But adoption is still slower in smaller cities: Only 38% of small cities offer online GIS tools, compared to over 50%of medium-sized cities and almost 70%of large cities. Regionally, GIS is more commonly used in the West and South than in the Northeast and Midwest.
- 35 percent of the cities surveyed offer online permitting capacity.
- While 65 percent of cities still do not support online permitting, the increase such services was significant. Between 2015 and 2017, online permitting grew from only 21% of cities to 35%.
- Online permitting is being adopted first and fastest in larger cities (with populations greater than 200,000).
The study’s authors offer a few conclusions and recommendations from the data for both cities and civic tech innovators:
- Web sites need to continue to implement responsive design.
- Planning departments should plan and budget for increasing use of electronic formats when they publish zoning codes, planning documents and more.
- Adoption of online permitting systems and GIS sites will continue to increase and spread to smaller cities.
- Cities should consider designating a civic tech advocate on their teams to help implement new technologies within their agencies.