In 2013, digital specialist Jessie Adcock, now the CTO of the City of Vancouver, was tasked with landing the planes at the City of Vancouver. The City had approved Canada’s first municipal digital strategy. And Adcock was the country’s first public sector Chief Digital Officer. She would lead the way.
“The City had benchmarked its digital maturity against other cities and it was deemed to be low in comparison to other global cities. Our presence on social was just beginning, public Wi-Fi was limited, services weren’t yet mobile,” says Adcock.
“Online, our website was more notice board, less service delivery and engagement channel. We needed a common playbook in terms of digital goals and objectives.” Adcock took a citizen-centric approach in executing the four-year digital strategy. The people of Vancouver were demanding it.
“That’s basically what drives the business case for digital in government,” she says.
Fast forward to 2016, the final year of the strategy. The City’s website is easier to navigate and mobile optimized. Public Wi-Fi is available in 80 locations. Citizens can use the VanConnect app to stay updated and submit service requests as well as access tools built with open data sets. People are emailing the City to say their experience has become easier.
As other cities put their digital strategies into play, Vancouver is looking at the next step, harnessing the city’s tech boom and continuing to develop digital maturity. “In terms of innovative tech, we have the hottest economy in the country,” says Adcock. “Tech and innovation are leading job growth. Part of what we do to help as a city is that we continue to be mindful of the tech sector and do whatever we can to enable it to thrive.”
And now in 2018, the next step is a Smart one. “The smart city paradigm is the holy grail for cities. Cities are marching toward greater adoption of technology and data-driven insights all over the world,” says Adcock. “We all want to be intelligent cities, we all want to be smart cities. We all want to use data to help us manage the city in an open, transparent, innovative, resilient and sustainable manner. She’ll be looking at the City’s legacy applications and evolving technology needs to support transformation.
“We’re going to take an ecosystem of disconnected technologies and weave a thread through them to create an integrated technology layer for the city,” she says.
Adcock says that a connected architecture will allow Vancouver to leverage smart city technology, the Internet of Things and the promise of big data. Cities aren’t often at the leading edge, according to Adcock. “It’s just not always feasible. We have daily realities that we need to manage. Things are changing rapidly so we have to have internal processes that keep us on the right side of the rules we have to follow but also enable us to be flexible and adaptable. That’s the secret sauce.”
Digital is relatively new to government, but it’s being applied and prioritized across the board now. When the penny drops, the penny drops. Vancouver is proud to have been one of the first cities to create and successfully execute a digital strategy. The strategy has served to build a solid foundation upon which to leverage the promises and benefits of emerging technologies in this digital world.