For the 17th year in a row Winston-Salem has been ranked as one of the top 10 most technology-advanced cities of its size in America by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute.
Winston-Salem ranked third in the center's 2018 Digital Cities Survey of cities with a population of 125,000 to 249,999. The annual study ranks the use of information technology by local governments.
The 2018 survey ranked cities for their use of digital technology to tackle social challenges, enhance cybersecurity and improve transparency, said Teri Takai, the center’s executive director. "This year’s Digital Cities Survey winners are leading the nation when it comes to leveraging data to improve a wide range of city services and initiatives," Takai said.
The center cited the city's use of data to better allocate city resources and combat such issues as blight in neighborhoods; its development of an "open data" portal that will be a prominent feature on the new city website now in development; its implementation of an online sign-up tool for citizens who want to speak at City Council meetings, and which allows the city to better identify trends; and the city’s active cyber-security program that includes training, preventative measures and disaster-recovery initiatives.
Tom Kureczka, the city's chief information officer, said that the ranking is national affirmation of the city's collaborative approach to using technology. "Multiple city departments, working together, have enabled us to leverage technology to efficiently provide more and improved services to our community," Kureczka said.
"Our top 10 ranking for 17 consecutive years validates the city's continuous effort to strike a healthy balance between maintaining our current technology and looking to tomorrow by aligning our technology investments with the City Council's strategic focus areas," he added.
Winston-Salem has ranked in the top 10 of the center's annual survey every year since 2002, the first year the city participated. This includes a first-place ranking in 2014 and second-place rankings in 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2017.
What exactly is What Works Cities (WWC)? WWC was launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015 with a purpose of enhancing how cities use data and evidence when making decisions and delivering services and programs, with an ultimate goal of improving the lives of residents. WWC offers a certification program which is the national standard of excellence for data-driven, well-managed local government. The certification program is open to cities with populations of 30,000 or greater.
Because of WWC and the certification program, cities across the United States are more effectively driving change and delivering results for residents. WWC has several expert partners that help local governments build the capacity and skills to use data and evidence. Some of WWC’s partners include The Behavioral Insights Team, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, Results for American, and Sunlight Foundation. Learn more about WWC and the certification process at https://whatworkscities.bloomberg.org.
In September 2017, WCW announced the certification of the City of Winston-Salem and welcomed the city into the project. Other North Carolina cities that are certified as WWCs include Cary, Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Fayetteville.
Photo Description: City of Winston-Salem Executive Staff holding a banner stating "We are a What Works City! Winston-Salem, NC @cityofws. Staff from left to right: Ben Rowe, Meridith Martin, Evan Raleigh, Allen Joines, Eddie McNeal, Lee Garrity, Tom Kureczka
Winston-Salem Joining What Works Cities Initiative
Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 Department: City Manager
Winston-Salem has been accepted into the What Works Cities project, an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies to help 100 mid-sized American cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve services, inform local decision-making and engage residents.
The initiative will focus on two areas:
Developing an open data policy for Winston-Salem to promote transparency and accountability in government by making data readily available and easy to understand; and
Developing a framework for using data to make decisions, manage performance and align the city budget with city priorities.
City officials plan to apply what they learn to all aspects of city government in general, and in particular to the six focus areas in the strategic plan the City Council adopted in May. As an initial step, they will target the city's strategic focus area of fostering livable neighborhoods. For example, better use of data could help the city better direct resources to address blight, improve code enforcement and allocate recreation resources.
Under the initiative, the city will engage in an intensive four-month program under the guidance of the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University. At no cost to the city, these organizations will provide experts and technical assistance.
Before being accepted into the program, city officials filled out an in-depth survey, after which a representative of What Works Cities made a site visit to evaluate the city’s current use of data and its capacity to participate in the initiative.
Mayor Allen Joines said that being accepted into What Works Cities is a feather in the city's cap that will benefit all city residents. "I'm excited about the process we are about to undergo. Out of this we will learn how to get better at using data to ensure that our taxpayers' dollars are most effectively used in accomplishing the goals we have set for our community."
The overall What Works Cities initiative is coordinated by Results for America, an organization dedicated to helping decision-makers at all levels of government use evidence and data to meet challenges and make "investing in what works" the norm when allocating public dollars, said Simone Brody, the executive director of What Works Cities. "Data is one of the best resources at cities' disposal for effectively solving challenges and driving progress," Brody said. "We’re supporting city leaders to maximize the use of their data to make more informed decisions, develop stronger programs and services and better serve their communities."
The Sunlight Foundation will take the lead in helping the city develop an open data policy. The foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for transparency and accountability in government at all levels.
The Center for Government Excellence will work with the city to enhance its ability to use data for performance management. The center helps governments improve their ability to make decisions rooted in evidence, open accountability and citizen engagement.