January 2, 2013 By Steve Towns
Can government agencies create better technology by acting a little more like Silicon Valley startups? That’s the idea a handful of cities are running with -- one used by some of the nation’s hippest companies -- in an effort to build offerings that work better and reach citizens faster.
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The city of Palo Alto, Calif., is stealing an idea from the commercial technology industry to improve services for its residents. In this video, city CIO Jonathan Reichental offers lessons learned from Palo Alto’s use of Lean Startup principles during several recent technology projects. The Lean Startup approach – which lets users test unfinished versions of new apps and websites – is routine in the commercial space. Now it’s catching on in government.
Palo Alto put Ries’ concept into action earlier this year to finish a long-running website redesign. Although the project was nearly done, a continuous cycle of internal changes kept the city from wrapping it up. “We could have spent another year making it perfect,” Reichental says. But instead, the city released the unfinished site side-by-side with its existing website, inviting users to try it and offer a critique. Citizens eagerly tested out the new site and offered their feedback, which was used to fine tune the project. Not only was the project finished much faster, he says, the final product worked better too.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.