#LocalGovSolutions: Staying Current with Technology

Posted on October 7, 2015

In a continuing series as part of the ELGL & UTA Local Government Challenge, Shahrzad Rizvi, Budget & Policy Analyst with the Dallas County Office of Budget & Evaluation, highlights technology trends facing local government.

By Shahrzad Rizvi

With the continual updating of technology it can be a challenge for local government to stay current on technology. To make your job easier, I’ve outlined a number of the current trends and resources needed to stay current.


I know what you're thinking But this isn't where your stuff is stored Enabling cloud solutions/”SAAS”:  Depending less on on-site storage saves resources (financial, space, data administration) so that local government can focus on building tools, rather than maintaining them. There are contingencies related to security and connectivity that must be considered and risks mitigated before selecting an appropriate cloud solution.
Agile Development: If your Information Technology department is charged with in-house software development, “agile development” is a growing trend. Agile development emphasizes cross-functional teams and expectation of constant changes.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: This book has taken the private sector startup and civic technology circles by storm. This New York Times best seller introduces the concepts of “pivoting” and “minimal viable product.” The concepts promoted in the book emphasize small failures as ongoing experiments to eventually find the ideal solution. The challenge in applying these concepts to government is that we cannot always allocate resource for quick experiments with public funds and citizens may not accept the “minimum viable product” as a service.

Offices of Innovation: Urban mechanics and chief innovation officers are growing in popularity among local government. GregHermann notes “these offices can be risk aggregators within the City” as departments struggle to internalize these experimental, but risky programs.
Civic Technology Blogs: Subscribing to “Civic Tech” blogs help you stay on top of trends in this exciting space.
Challenges to These Trends
The approaching wave of body cameras for police officers will result in the need to store large amount of data. Local government will need the capacity to process footage quickly.
Technology procurement and hardware replacement cycles can mean your office computer is outdated by the time it arrives on your desk. We often have more processing power in our pockets than on your desktops.
Advice for Graduate Students
A benefit of being in graduate school was learning how to read academic papers (more than the abstracts) and having access to the latest elite journals. For me this was the purpose of a Master’s degree; to gain the ability to absorb, retain and apply the latest knowledge in your respective field. Related to technology, I recommend reading into “Digital Era Governance” which some theorize to be the new paradigm in Public AdministrationGoogle Scholar is a great tool to locate citations about citations, works cited and the academic acceptance of an article.
To realize the full benefit of being a student, many professional organizations offer discounted rates for students (including ELGL, which is free). Join everyone of them and join them now! These groups offer scholarships to local and national conferences. Some of your professors and fellow students may have opportunities to present at these conferences. Joining these organizations, attending events, and being engaged is the best way to create “weak connections” which can catapult you into your next government position and enhance your career prospects.

Supplemental Reading

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