Increased uptake of state of the art technologies can consolidate various needs and demands for both a city and its people. Systems can be designed through smart phone applications, wireless gadgets, and the internet to collect and analyze updated data that enhances the usability and efficiency of the available infrastructure. The big-data based changes taking place around the world are dauntingly huge and can be aimed to create a more sustainable future.
In the short term, online portals on websites, text messages and smartphone applications can be popularized within the high-tech national infrastructure; and in the long term, automated kiosks could be constructed through the outward growing circles of the city for easy access to municipal services, such as applying for permits, registration or paying fees. Digital content and collaboration technologies can be integrated in a cost-effective effort to provide quality services and experiences in education and healthcare through storage systems for student or patient records and easier content sharing. Also in the long run, city utilities can depend on digital grids to optimize resource consumption in buildings. They are also able to cut wastes and losses by incentives to curb consumer behavior towards cleaner technologies. Similarly, traffic and transportation issues can be better managed through smart pricing by tolling higher for congested roads during rush hour, cities can alleviate congestion and pollution while raising funds for other programs.
One such example of using technological solutions to provide better services is the Property Tax Assessment Department in Jackson County, Missouri. The division is moving away from the labor-intensive task of manually appraising thousands of property accounts each year, and towards streamlining their business work-flow using handheld devices and tablets, as well as cloud-based data processing and inventory systems. Historically, appraisers selected the homes to review, drew a map of how to get there, and filled out paper forms during and after the review. Now, handheld devices directly route the field appraisers to the location of the property, keeping in mind the traffic, road blocks etc. and, and allowing them to see comps or similar parcels, any pending permits, new construction, and changed model values. The appraisers are able to flag an item in the property for further review, take a picture which is automatically cached in the cloud, and update the sketch of the house by measuring the exterior. All of the data is directly processed, saved, and sent to the office for verification by a quality control team using a similar data-driven platform. This eliminates the need to write up tedious reports and memos on each home, saving not only time during the workday, but thousands of dollars’ worth of paper, ink and maintenance. Not to mention, the process now adds transparency and accountability. Property appraisal in general is an important factor in the regional urban growth.
With this vast opportunity, however, come risks as well. Experimental innovation or risk taking may be institutionally blocked in such settings for various government agencies. Additionally, the public sector can at times fall victim to its budgetary parameters and mission statement, ultimately missing out on the opportunity to innovate. Although companies have the freedom to experiment with the way they operate, entities like the Jackson County Assessment Department are bound by Missouri State Statutes in the way that they can go about doing their appraisals.
Which begs the question, are local government units at a disadvantage in making use of innovative technologies than their private sector counterparts?
Credit: Images by Victoria Tiley. Data linked to sources.