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By embracing a digital low-code application development platform, the city has been able to combine 911 and 311 in a way that offers public servants more efficiency and citizens more functionality.

New Orleans and the Orleans Parish Communication District have recently consolidated their 911 and 311 systems, leading to major increases in both efficiency and functionality, officials said.

The government in New Orleans did this largely through the use of something called a digital low-code application development platform. This is essentially a single program that enables public servants with little software development experience to create programs to help digitize their daily tasks. Use of this platform in New Orleans is championed by Tyrell Morris, the executive director of Orleans Parish Communication District, who first used the software while working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Washington, D.C.

Morris discussed the improvements, how they were made, and what comes next during a recent phone conversation with Government Technology. To understand the recent changes, Morris points to when he first started working in New Orleans. One of his first major efforts was to consolidate 911 services in the area.

At the time, 911 calls went to an employee of the police department, who often had to transfer them to fire or EMT, depending on what was going on. With the use of the low-code application development platform, New Orleans was able to change this. The product New Orleans is using is the work of Quick Base Inc., which was formerly a division of Intuit.

The big thing with the 911 consolidation was that new digital applications helped the city eliminate 90 percent of related paper-based applications, Morris said.

“As you know with paper-based processes, things move slow,” Morris said. “Well, 911 and slow don’t mix well.”

They were also able to put more information in the hands of dispatchers and enable them to instantly transfer caller information to other departments. New Orleans built what Morris described as a “one-stop-shop to report an emergency.”

The project was so successful that local government leadership in the area went on to ask Morris to use the platform to also consolidate 311 and 911 processes. This move was mostly aimed at modernizing 311, which Morris said was using a server-based legacy system that did not afford public servants much flexibility to add new capabilities.

By instead basing 311 off of the same low-code application development platform that had helped improve 911, Morris and the team were able to make much faster changes. They ultimately developed a complete platform that hosted the 311 process from the time a resident called right through to the city department or agency that responded to the request, adding real-time alerts whenever the status of the request changed.

For example, if a citizen complained about a pothole in the past, their best way to check if it had been fixed was to drive to the pothole and see for themselves. Now, a citizen who makes that complaint can give the city an email address and get real-time status updates. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive.

“We are no longer an emergency gateway,” Morris said. “We are the gateway to the government.”

Jay Jamison, the chief product officer for Quick Base, said the platform is used by many in the private sector as well as some larger public health systems. With Washington, D.C., and the more recent addition of New Orleans, local government use of it is also on the rise.

This type of work to modernize legacy systems is a somewhat perpetual goal of governments across the country, with cost and efficiency being principle drivers. For his part, Morris said he expects New Orleans to use this same method to improve other governmental services, and he has already gotten interest from the city council and other jurisdictions interested in similar upgrades.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Zack Quaintance

Quelle/Source: Government Technology, 17.05.2019

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