From low-cost open-source tech tools to better citizen services, government IT staffs show how creative -- and cost conscious -- they can be.
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Information technology has become a pivotal tool for government agencies trying to improve services, even as budgets slide steadily backward. Continuous advances in technology, from mobile applications to cloud computing, are helping federal, state and municipal government agencies develop new approaches to delivering better services to the public -- and more efficient tools to government employees.
Each year, InformationWeek Government sets out to identify the best examples of how agencies are applying IT in creative ways. After reviewing dozens of submissions, we selected 10 standout examples of IT innovation in government as InformationWeek's 2013 Government Innovators.
Their fresh approaches take many forms, from open source applications that put new tools into the hands of government employees at substantial savings over past projects, to more sophisticated information services available to on-the-go citizens via mobile apps.
For example, the city of Chicago, like many cities, faces growing information demands. Yet the need to stretch resources and collaborate across departments has never been greater. The challenge was how to pull data from many disparate sources, define the relationships for using that data, and make it relevant to a diverse array of communities of interest. The solution: Chicago's Department of Innovation and Technology developed a low-cost, comprehensive situational awareness program called WindyGrid, pictured here.
The application presents a unified, real-time situational view of operations across a map of Chicago, including 911 and 311 service calls, asset locations, building information, tweets and other critical data, all available in one place. It provides city employees instantaneous deep-dive analysis for a specific location.
To support tactical and strategic predictive modeling, WindyGrid also provides a comprehensive analytics platform to understand the impact of changes in service delivery. Departments can use this to analyze historical patterns or model future changes to service delivery to determine what might result in improved outcomes and cost savings. Chicago personnel already have been able to make quicker, smarter decisions and do a better job of allocating resources.
WindyGrid uses a highly scalable MongoDB database with an ESRI map solution, already owned by the department, and industry-standard Java Web services. As a result, the department was able to create a prototype within a few months and deploy the application at a much lower cost than similar commercially developed systems, which the city estimates would likely have cost tens of millions of dollars.