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How the City of Philadelphia plans to use tech to drive change in government

"This is our way to tell everyone what we’ve been doing, and where we want to go next," said Chief Information Officer Mark Wheeler of the new strategic plan.

City Hall during the Hack for Change kickoff. Photo by Mark Headd.

The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) released a public-facing plan and set of strategies to drive innovation and change within city government on Wednesday.

The report, officially called the “IT Strategic Plan: An Inclusive Approach to Crafting Vision and Strategy for Technology Across City Government,” addresses how OIT and other City departments can solves challenges in response to public needs.

The process began in early spring 2018 when those in OIT began talking internally and with other departments about what the City was doing well and what it could be doing better in terms of technology, said Chief Information Officer Mark Wheeler.

The office opened those questions up to a focus group of about 30 City stakeholders, community leaders and technologists, said Andrew Buss, deputy chief information officer for innovation management. Between internal discussion and comments from stakeholders and the public, the office narrowed down a handful of themes surrounding technology and innovation:

  1. Support and develop the local technology ecosystem
  2. Strive for digital access and equity
  3. Improve government efficiency and effectiveness
  4. Enhance online public service delivery
  5. Promote community-driven technology
  6. Strengthen and advance internal operations and infrastructure
Read the report

In the 42-page report, the department outlined goals relating to each theme, ongoing projects or programs that support them, and developing initiatives and strategies to further them.

Some of the initiatives touch on attracting and retaining tech talent to the city, making city websites and resources more accessible for residents, supporting digital literacy, and connecting with some of the city’s technology companies.

Some of the programs touted in the strategic plan are the StartupPHL Venture Program, the Digital Literacy Alliance, OpenDataPhilly and GovLabPHL. The plan also outlines developing initiatives, like CityGeo Training Sessions, which helps departments share data used for mapping, analysis and city services.

It’s not too often that internal assessments of a department are released to the public, Wheeler said, but it’s important to OIT to share the progress and intent of the office with residents and businesses.

“This is our way to tell everyone what we’ve been doing, and where we want to go next,” Wheeler said.

Stephanie Tipton, interim chief administrative officer, said themes three and four address work that the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer does, and focuses on making government work better for residents, businesses and other departments.

“It’s our way to show how we’re using our resources and to be clear about what we’re trying to do,” Tipton said.

Wheeler acknowledged that the city hasn’t been as collaborative in its past planning of use of resources, and that the department wanted that to change.

“The plan is really the first of its kind for Philadelphia and attempts to drive change,” Wheeler said. “It outlines current as well as future initiatives and strategies aimed at combining and leveraging technology, innovation, engagement, access and efficiency.”

Companies: City of Philadelphia / Office of Innovation and Technology

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