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Startups may be a smart way for resource-strapped leaders in state and local government to address civic stress points.

Just as emergent and popular technologies are changing how businesses interact with customers, they're also boosting citizen awareness and expectations for savvy services. Fortunately, a new generation of government is ready to apply these promising solutions to problems plaguing public service—and to drive innovation. But breaking away from legacy IT is often cumbersome, and complex procurement processes and budget limitations restrain forward momentum. Indeed, the pace of implementing tech changes in government can be described as lethargic at best.

Enter startups. "Technology startups have finally broken into the government IT space, bringing the promise of Silicon Valley-esque innovation to the traditionally slow-moving world of government technology," says Kyle Barney, cofounder and CEO of BeneGov, which provides cloud-based customer service, citizen engagement, and productivity enhancement software to local governments.

Driving Innovation, Saving Resources

Barney explains in a BeneGov blog post that startups offer state and local leaders a way to work around the often lengthy, expensive, and frustrating experience of upgrading government technology. "Startups offer a much smoother and more pleasant road to IT system changes—one that is faster, cheaper, and much less of a headache," he says.

Startups offer lower development costs because they don't have to support the typical overhead or proprietary technology costs. In practical terms, this means that government offices won't need to implement a new department, acquire new resources, or onboard any new employees, for example.

Startups also can iterate and create new features more quickly. According to Michael Goldstein, who runs Exhilarator, a startup accelerator in Washington, D.C., local leaders can use a startup to hit the ground running with a project. "The startup doesn't have to go through extensive protocol to get the ball rolling. They get moving quickly, take risks, experiment, and get the job done," he says in Wired.

Streamlining Services, Helping People

Several cities, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, are working with startups to address civic concerns. Case in point: San Francisco has launched Startups in Residence (STIR), which welcomes startups to work with government for 16 weeks on key issues, such as recovering quickly from an earthquake or giving homeless people the services they need in real time. In 2016, 14 startups worked with 13 departments in San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro, and West Sacramento.

For example, San Francisco's Human Services Agency (HSA) collaborated with startup Binti to develop a mobile-friendly, cloud-based software solution for individuals interested in becoming foster parents. The Binti team worked closely with HSA staff for four months to understand the foster family placement and approval process, the associated challenges social workers experience, and what an ideal process might look like. In addition to digitizing the current paper-based review, assessment, and placement process, HSA sought to improve its pipeline for potential foster parents. HSA also wanted to reduce the time social workers spend managing their caseloads and completing tasks required to approve new foster families.

To address these needs, Binti built an initial version of the software, tested it with users, and continued to improve it based on the HSA team's feedback. According to San Francisco's HSA, Binti saves social workers 20-40 percent of their time and will reduce time to approve each foster parent applicant by approximately 50 percent.

In another local area partnership, San Leandro's Recreation and Human Services (RHS) department worked with the startup LotaData to develop a platform that uses analytics to help leaders make critical decisions about activities and classes for residents. RHS serves approximately 90,000 residents through 5,000 programs, classes, events, and activities annually. The department also manages 40 facilities, including community centers, senior centers, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and aquatic centers.

Although the department had recently deployed a new enrollment system, it was unable to obtain key metrics for program planning and budgeting. The LotaData team worked with RHS staff to identify what data to capture and how to collect them. They combined city data with third-party private data, including census tract and community surveys, to reveal new insights for RHS decision makers. The team analyzed registrations, enrollments, and revenue for RHS, who could then plan programming that was more responsive to community interests.

The result was a geo-dashboard platform that ingests data from all available city systems and databases and then extracts trends and patterns across data streams, including monthly enrollments, withdrawals, wait lists, demographics, and revenue for each council district. Additionally, people enrolled in a program or visiting a facility can receive push notifications and email alerts.

"LotaData revolutionized our ability to receive, analyze, and project our program data and will shift our operational paradigm, allowing us to better serve our customers and community," says Jeanette Dong, director of RHS. "The STIR program allowed us to technologically improve our ability to be responsive to our community,"

Debbie Acosta, chief innovation officer for San Leandro, adds that through the STIR program, members of the city's staff have been able to experiment with innovative technology applications designed by startups to improve services to the community. "As experimentation and risk-taking lie at the heart of innovation, this program will help to accelerate a culture of government innovation for the benefit of the community," she says.

The GovTech Market Emerges

Research from e.Republic, an e-government publishing and research company, shows an estimated $99.8 billion in annual information technology spending just at the state and local levels. That's a lot of funding up for grabs, and startups are taking notice. In fact, January 2016 marked the debut of the GovTech 100, an annual listing of the leading 100 companies focused on government as a customer of technology.

This new market has come into its own, "emerging as a stand-alone industry composed of hundreds of startup companies," explain Dustin Haisler, chief innovation officer of e.Republic, and Paul W. Taylor, chief content officer of e.Republic.

GovTech 100 companies develop innovative or disruptive offerings geared toward improving and transforming how the government conducts business and delivers services to citizens. Typically, they are active in one or more market segments, including administrative, service delivery, intelligent infrastructure, and civic tech. Some examples may be emerging tech to support mobile-equipped workforces or help with data-informed decision making.

Haisler told Fast Company that although these companies may not be as sexy and as marketable as some, each has "the ability to catalyze massive amounts of change from within city hall."

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Ryann K. Ellis

Quelle/Source: ATD, 10.04.2017

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