November 3, 2009 By Casey Mayville
"We're getting about 99.9 percent accuracy on the readings and it's helped us quite a bit." Corpus Christi CIO Michael Armstrong (pictured) regarding the city's electronic gas- and water-meter reading system.
Each year the Center for Digital Government takes a survey of U.S. cities to evaluate how municipalities are integrating information technology into operations to better serve their citizens. This year marks the ninth annual Digital Cities Survey and also a year full of challenges for city governments. From pit bulls to tighter budgets, local governments have had many obstacles to overcome this year. Cities have had to become more innovative and creative with the way funds are used and how technology is incorporated to improve government services. The survey was open to all U.S. cities with a population of 30,000 or more.
Trends and Statistics
Local governments are doing more to increase their Web presence and are reaching out to a wider range of citizens. They are also becoming aware of the need to reduce their carbon footprints. These statistics represent growth in self-service, transparency and sustainability over the past year:
Citizen Participation and Transparency
Corpus Christi, Texas (First place in the 250,000 or more population category)
In an interview with Government Technology, Michael Armstrong, CIO of Corpus Christi, Texas, said he and his municipal information systems (MIS) team had a very busy and exciting year. Along with completing 156 projects (an activity that requires at least 40 hours of MIS staff time), answering over 440,000 calls to the call center with a wait time of approximately 15 seconds and responding to 18,000 service requests, the MIS department also monitored the Corpus Christi Web site which received more than 1.2 million visits.
A notable service is the automated water and gas meter-reader. According to Armstrong, the system was "pit-bull-driven," after a meter-reader was mauled by a pit-bull in the back yard of a home while trying to read a utility meter. The new system electronically reads approximately 115,000 water and gas meters twice daily and the billing agency then generates an online billing statement. "That project is going really well. We're getting about 99.9 percent accuracy on the readings and it's helped us quite a bit," Armstrong said.
Looking to the future, Armstrong says a big project they will be working on is installing video surveillance in all police patrol cars. "We've been involved with our Police Department for about a year now planning this project and it will be very helpful to us, but it comes with some very large infrastructure implications. A ton of video takes a ton of storage," Armstrong said. "We're also looking at bringing in much more rational data and document management. We have tremendous applications in place and collect tremendous amount of data. But all the reporting comes out of those individual silos so we can't do