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Thursday, 30.05.2024
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The Syracuse, N.Y., Office of Analytics, Performance and Innovation and its partnership with the Department of Public Works demonstrates the cascading effects of what happens when traditional services go digital.

There are few city services that touch as many residents where they live as trash and snow removal. And yet little of the smart city buzz features the blue-collar public works departments that provide those services. The approach and results of the Syracuse, N.Y., Office of Analytics, Performance and Innovation (API) and its partnership with the Department of Public Works demonstrate what happens when these traditionally non-technical agencies go digital.

It began with the city’s decision to combine data, innovation and digital modernization into the single API office, which allows the office’s chief innovation and data officer, Nicolas Diaz Amigo, to serve as an internal consultant, offering services spanning business insights, performance management and process improvement. Of course, optimum improvement in those services occurs when a department is willing to digitize all processes, generating a large amount of actionable information while allowing a range of private and public technologies.

The second element of the Syracuse digital revolution is its commitment to connecting everything spatially to an address and/or a resident. Whether it’s the Trash and Recycling Pickup Route Map or the SYRCityline app, these ArcGIS data layers and dashboards help officials pinpoint and understand the nature of reported issues.

Multiple aspects of the city’s digital transformation are evident in both trash and snow services. For trash, locational devices on trucks increase efficiency and responsiveness. Conor Muldoon, deputy chief innovation and data officer, explained that the city wanted to make sure that “when a resident calls 311 and says, ‘You skipped my trash pickup,’ that the call center operator has the tools to authoritatively respond immediately. We use Rubicon software that utilizes curbside photos taken during pickup along with a time-stamp photo that says the crew was there at 6:30 this morning, to help the operator respond ... and describe the next steps to resolve the matter.”

The total digitization also allows workers to document and issue a ticket if someone puts out something illegal, which automatically connects to the city’s back-office databases to ensure that the follow-up processes are smooth and efficient. The city needed tools not only for ongoing questions about pickup, but also to support education, issue citations and respond to complaints, which it found with these digital solutions.

And innovations extend to snow, a serious issue in a city that receives about 125 inches annually. Part of the snow response is providing real-time logistics support to drivers and helping managers quickly make route changes and inform drivers, like the trash response. But snow puts even more pressure on transparency, as residents want to know when their street will be cleared to do errands, drive to work or walk to school.

“There is a direct benefit to customers,” Muldoon said, “in the sense of real-time information and transparency during a snowstorm, from our public-facing map built on top of Esri’s Winter Weather Operations system that integrates with Rubicon’s Snowplow solution and Samsara AVL [automatic vehicle location]. We can say when we were there and residents can see in real time on our web-based maps.”

This success depends on the performance part of the portfolio, which requires worker acceptance and usage, the third pillar of digital transformation. This means providing something valuable to the drivers, while also limiting the intrusiveness of the technology. Resident feedback can help in the configuration of a snow response, but inaccurate complaints are unfair to drivers and wasteful to the system. Muldoon knew of a resident complaint about an unplowed road, but thanks to an examination of the digital “breadcrumbs,” the city informed the neighbors that the plow had tried to clear the street multiple times but was unable to because of illegally parked cars.

The last pillar of digital progress involves commitment to continuous improvement, both in terms of tactical increases in productivity as well as new uses. Muldoon referenced current efforts to track salt usage during snow events that require additional sensors “to measure how the spreading mechanism is open and how much material is being utilized.”

The Syracuse story is remarkable because it shows that total digital transformation provides cascading results to residents and city staff while improving productivity, effectiveness and budget.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Stephen Goldsmith

Quelle/Source: Government Technology, March 2024

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