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Posted by on in Trends
We are entering a new era of innovation, disruption and change. The very “norms” of how we live, travel and use energy are changing. Some of these changes are technologically-driven; e.g. ride- and home-sharing platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, or solar panels and their next generation, solar roofs. And some are cultural shifts—ten years ago we were telling kids not to talk to strangers online or get into unknown cars. Today, we casually hop into the car of a stranger we are connected to through an app and trust they will take us to our desired destination. Emerging responses While the sharing economy provides convenience and progress for many, it can also be quite challenging for government agencies to navigate. Across the country, the fight to determine how or if these changes will take permanent hold in our society continues to be waged. In fact, governments swing wildly on the...
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Presidential politics has the tendency to drown out all other electoral storylines. If you're in need of proof, consider this: marijuana was legalized for either recreational or medical use in eight of nine states in which it was on the ballot, including the big one – California. Cannabis is now legal in some form in 28 out of 50 states, yet that headline has barely been discussed in the mainstream media. This is just one of several public policy issues that will challenge government officials in 2017. Another is the sharing economy. State and local government officials throughout the U.S. have been trying to figure out how to handle the rise of Airbnb and ridesharing services Lyft and Uber for some time. In San Francisco, Airbnb hosts are now required to register and pay fees to the city. But of the 7,000+ residents who rent out their homes, only a little over...
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I’m pleased to announce that our latest Building Capacity column can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. Written by our own Darryl Booth (SVP/GM of Accela Environmental Health), this column covers a project we’re exceptionally proud of as it comes from one of our own clients, Seattle & King County Environmental Health in Seattle, Washington. The Department knew that there was growing interest in publishing health scores from local restaurants. But when leadership began to investigate placarding methods, they identified variations in the data underlying existing scoring systems that they didn’t feel they could ignore. Luckily, Seattle & King County doesn’t lack for bright minds. Food and Facilities Section Manager Becky Elias contacted Daniel Ho, a preeminent scholar of government data disclosure and administrative law at Stanford Law School. Together, Ms. Elias and Mr. Ho set up a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness...
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What would happen if you and your family were living paycheck to paycheck and you lost your job tomorrow? For more than half of all Americans, this is an all too real fear as they have less than a thousand dollars in the bank and little to no financial cushion should a catastrophic life event occur. Whether out of necessity or a desire for greater financial freedom, one of the modern marvels of the headline-grabbing sharing economy is that it provides citizens immediate access to income if they need it, and flexible work arrangements that can fit into complex lives. That is, if the right technology is in place to help them quickly. Perhaps you have a spare room that could be posted for availability on Airbnb. Or a car you could drive for Lyft or Uber. I would venture to say that many Americans have been reassured knowing that they...
Tagged in: Sharing Economy
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The below is a guest article I published in North American Clean Energy earlier this month. In 2015, the solar industry celebrated three historic moments — in Paris, world leaders came together and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach zero emissions by the middle of the 21st century; in Washington, D.C., Republicans and Democrats briefly put aside their differences and voted to extend tax credits for wind turbines and solar panels; and, fortuitously, this came on the heels of new federal regulations mandating a 32 percent cut in carbon from power plants that pollute our air by 2030. But before this is proclaimed a miracle for the planet, there is a government-created problem, from the horse and buggy era, which must be dealt with. And the solution may lie in our cities and counties. Disrupting the permit expediter Since 2008, residential solar panel installations are up nearly 2,000 percent....
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The below is an excerpt of my guest post on National League of Cities’ Cities Speak blog last week. You can read the full post here. Municipal laws and codes have been forged over decades and are currently facing challenges keeping up with emerging and rapidly expanding regulatory issues such as solar/clean energy and the legalization of marijuana and initiatives like the White House’s Startup in a Day challenge. Even with the best-intentioned legislation, public policy initiatives can stall without the proper tools to enable easy and efficient compliance. So how do governments balance the additional workload required to address these emerging issues with limited staff resources? How can cities keep up with the demands and expectations of their citizens? Fortunately, civic technology, which provides targeted solutions for governments to solve real problems, is experiencing exponential growth, reaching not just urban cities, but also suburbs, farm towns and remote resort villages....
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This is the fourth post in a series on "The Mobile Citizen," a look at how the Civic Platform is helping agencies of all sizes engage their mobile citizens and stay ahead of the "mobile mind shift." ------ Late last month, Winter Storm Jonas hit much of the east coast. From Friday, January 22 to Sunday, January 24, the storm affected 102.8 million people and covered about 434,000 square miles in 26 states, according to the NOAA. For many local government officials, Winter Storm Jonas meant around-the-clock work to keep citizens safe, roads accessible and communication constant. In Philadelphia, the nationally renowned Philly 311 call center received more than 21,000 calls (8x more than normal), nearly 8,000 requests via its Accela-powered mobile app and website and 6,000 requests through social media. The efforts of the team behind Philly 311 are evidence of the changing nature of customer service in local government....
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The Environmental Health world, like other government domains, is fertile ground for aspirational data projects. Local Health Departments consistently capture records of applications, permits/licenses, inspections, violations, complaints and the time spent providing services. Financial accounting is also key to doing business. In some ways, our collected data is like a dashboard camera, constantly recording video out the windshield of an Uber car. In most cases, the video is never retrieved and studied…until there’s an accident (or a UFO sighting), in which case, it’s gold! The difference is that dashboard cams are cheap. Data collection is extremely expensive, yet expected without question. The “Dashboard Cam Effect” can be evident when we hear things like the following: Data Collection Dashboard Cam “Our data is collected, but never used again.” The dashboard camera is always on, but the video is never viewed. “Our million-dollar system is great at taking in data, but I can...
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Without a doubt, 2015 was Accela’s biggest year to date. In February, we announced new funding — bringing us just north of $233 million invested in the business. We’re using the latest round to continue growing the Accela family through acquisitions and partnerships, while investing in building an even stronger Civic Platform. Building on six announced acquisitions in 2014 (Decade Software, Government Outreach, Kinsail, Envista, IQM2, GeoTMS), we established our productivity and civic engagement platform as unparalleled in the industry, adding Springbrook Software, SoftRight and PublicStuff in Spring 2015. We’re now laser-focused on efficiently integrating these stellar technologies into the core infrastructure of the Accela Civic Platform. In October, we proudly released Civic Platform 8.0, offering a responsive and carefully crafted user interface that reinvents the way government workers interact with residents and meet their daily goals. In 2015, Accela’s customer base grew significantly, and across all product lines we celebrated...
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This is the third post in a series on "The Mobile Citizen," a look at how the Civic Platform is helping agencies of all sizes engage their mobile citizens and stay ahead of the "mobile mind shift." ------ Wednesdays in the New York City office means a rotating assortment of cuisines for team lunch (follow @dshaeffbk for the occasional #foodtweet). Typically we gather to talk about work, upcoming weekend plans, sports, movies, anything really. Every now and then new faces will spice things up. Earlier this month, Mark Headd and Seth Axthelm from our technical evangelist team were visiting. They work to enable, support, educate and innovate with Accela partners and customers to expand the Civic Platform. The lunch gave Mark and Amir Reavis-Bey, a co-founder of Civic Insight, the chance to catch up between bites of lasagna. As I eavesdropped on their conversation I realized that Mark and Amir's relationship...
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This is the second post in a series on "The Mobile Citizen," a look at how the Civic Platform is helping agencies of all sizes engage their mobile citizen and stay ahead of the "mobile mind shift." ------ What makes a good mobile tool? This was the question I was asking myself as I read the results of the annual Digital Cities Survey. The survey identified technologies and initiatives that cities are likely to have an increased focus on in the coming year. Mobile technology ranked in the top 3, behind only cybersecurity and open data. As I thought about good examples I’ve seen as both a student of government and working in the industry, I kept coming back to a quote from Philadelphia CIO Adel Ebeid. To paraphrase, he said that a successful mobile tool solves a real pain point as opposed to being just "cool and fun." His city, Philadelphia,...
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A California version of the highly acclaimed U.S. Digital Service (USDS) just took a big leap forward. In its recently released report, the Little Hoover Commission, a bipartisan government oversight committee, has called on elected officials in Sacramento to create a local version of the federal program in the form of a new California Digital Service (CDS). For background, the USDS was created by President Obama in 2014 to make it easier and more efficient for Americans to interact with government services. The agency offers designers, engineers, product managers and others from the private sector the opportunity to work for the government for a week, a month or a year, and the work being done is impressive and impactful—from  improving services for America’s veterans, to modernizing our immigration system, to helping Americans access healthcare. In a blog post on TechCrunch back in March, I called on California Governor Jerry Brown to...
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There's a shift happening in how we get information, use services and communicate with others. It's a mobile shift. Forrester, a leading market research firm, calls it the "mobile mind shift" and describes it as an "expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need." As companies like Uber and Amazon continue to leverage mobile technology to reach customers during these specific "mobile moments," it's not as easy for government to engage their "mobile" citizens. Why? Because, unlike businesses, governments can't target their customers with a service tailored to a specific need. Government must serve everyone by delivering a multitude of services as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. At Accela, we believe that governments, regardless of size, should have the best tools to meet their residents where they are, when they need it. With the Accela Civic Platform, citizens are able to use their...
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Earlier this week, we hosted a webinar on the national Startup in a Day initiative. The White House is working with the National League of Cities, and has challenged governments across the country to reduce the new business licensing and permitting process to less than a day. As of last week, 71 cities and Native American reservations have taken up the challenge. I was joined by Clarence Anthony, Executive Director of the National League of Cities and former mayor of South Bay, Florida, and Peter Koht, who previously focused on small business support with the Economic Development Department in Santa Cruz, California, which inspired him to cofound OpenCounter. We’ve teamed up with OpenCounter to offer a solution that meets the needs of this national call to arms by making it easier for cities of all sizes to support new businesses. In fact, the City of Palo Alto launched OpenCounter’s business registration...
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I recently spent a hot and humid few days in Charlotte (Mecklenburg County!), North Carolina, which was hosting the National Association of Counties (NACo) annual convention. Vince Nicoletti, the Building Chief from one of our great customers, San Diego County, was asked to share his department’s experience around online solar permitting at NACo’s Technology & Innovation Summit. Vince was also part of the San Diego County team that was being honored by NACo with an award for its Process Improvement Team (“The PIT crew”). San Diego County might be a leading indicator for the rapid growth that we’re expecting to see for residential solar in the coming years — the County has seen a 300 percent increase in requests for solar permits in five years and expects to issue 6,000 in 2015. Many attribute this spike to the ownership arrangements now available that clear away the hefty upfront costs of installation....
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Nearly 100 years post-Prohibition, alcohol control remains a highly complex topic. This is due in large part to inconsistencies surrounding alcohol licensing, permitting and citizen confusion about the rules and regulations of when and where alcoholic beverages can be purchased and consumed. State by state, differences abound for citizens’ ability to buy alcohol in grocery stores vs. liquor stores, and on Sunday vs. any day. Questions linger even within restaurants and bars: What time constitutes "last call," and is it consistent across county and state lines? Business owners face a slightly different challenge: a lengthy and complex application process for liquor licenses and permits that can require months of waiting to receive an approval, or worse, a denial. In a previous life, I was the State Licensing Director for the State of Connecticut. I’ve seen the thick paper files of alcohol permit applications, reference checks and background information required for a...
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Social media can be a powerful tool for the government to listen to their citizens and for citizens to interact with their local government. It is a force to help build relationships, drive engagement and enhance agency reputations.

Government agencies are using social media more and more to interact with citizens and local businesses in their community.

Here are 7 tips to help get your agency started on social media:

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There’s no denying that technology helps you deliver services faster—giving you the ability to improve your civic operations. With an ever-changing technology landscape, municipalities are pressured to transform and adapt quickly. As the evolution in technology and government grows in 2015, we not only need to evaluate trends, but also understand what makes sense for your city and your citizens.

Here are the top five local government technology trends to check out in the coming year:

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“Civic technologies provide the platform and tools to fuel government transformation, and this journey is just beginning.” Civic tech aims to solve the problems facing citizens. With technology we can help government agencies engage their communities in new ways and modernize the way they serve citizens. This can be anything from voting automation to data access and transparency to crowdsourcing ideas for community improvement. Civic tech is a growing area for state and local governments, as well as funding agencies and start-ups. We teamed up with the International Data Corporation (IDC) to develop a free report: “Civic Tech Fuels U.S. State and Local Government Transformation.” The report estimates that U.S. civic tech market spending will reach $6.4 billion in 2015 in a space that will grow 14 times faster than traditional state and local government spending from 2013 to 2018. You can download the report here to learn more about civic...
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The Open Government movement is an effort towards making government information transparent and accessible in order to encourage civic participation and promote efficiency. A recent development of this concept is the theory of open source governance, which encourages the development of software to allow citizens to participate more directly in the legislative process. Check out the videos below to learn more about basic terms, key players and events. David Eaves: Open Government. Open Government activist David Eaves explains the basics of Open Government, Government 2.0 and open data. See also Open Data, Baseball and Government, explaining the importance of the availability of government data and how people can use this information to make improvements. Civic Hacking in Pursuit of Democracy. A Sunlight Foundation effort to brainstorm and identify solutions for problems around the country. These “civic hackers” create apps and software to benefit their communities. Their National Day of Civic Hacking...
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Posted by on in Trends
The last few weeks have been big for open data and civic innovation. Awareness of the power of open data, the new ideas it can help foment and the new apps and services it can support are spreading from coast to coast. On May 15, I had the pleasure to take part in the Open Data NJ Summit at Montclair State University. The event brought together experts on open data from the Sunlight Foundation, the U.S. Open Data Institute and others to present to local government officials and the journalism community on the power and promise of open data. The event featured presentations from, among others, Jersey City and the City of Newark—both of which are using CKAN as the basis for their open data releases. CKAN is also used as the foundation for, which is free to use for Accela customers and other governments looking to release open data...
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The open government movement is gaining critical momentum, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Making the data the government collects publicly available has the power to transform everyday life by better informing our decisions, from what restaurant to eat at, to where to start your business, to what apartment to rent. Just last week we had great presence at events from Sacramento to Berkeley. There was an exciting group of experts lined up to speak at California FWD’s open data event—including Kris Trujillo, the lead architect of Accela’s free open data portal, Kris talked about open data as the key to bridging the divide between government and citizens and the opportunity for developers and civic entrepreneurs to build businesses by creating useful apps for government. Earlier in the day, Kris was a panelist on an open data webinar organized by the Center for Digital Government where he and representatives from...
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Posted by on in Trends
Allen Chen and I had the chance to present to the Concord City Council last week. Concord, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, is actively using Accela to manage a lot of their land, licensing and assets, and they also have agreed to partner with us to help test, validate and chart the future of Civic Hero, a mobile app for iPhone, Android and Windows phones that lets citizens easily report community issues such as potholes, graffiti or damaged public property to their local government. The City Council meeting was like many others: a Council comprised of many community elders and prominent citizens, community participants insistent on having their voices and issues heard, and a contingent of younger folks learning about civics and the workings of their government. The key recurring theme we heard from citizens and from the City Council was the need to spur more—and better—civic...
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Nole Walkingshaw is Brigade Captain for Open Salt Lake as well as the Manager for Institutional Engagement, Community and Economic Development, for the City of Salt Lake. A new report by the IBM Center for The Business of Government titled, Engaging Citizens in Co-Creation in Public Services, defines four key roles members of the community can play in conjunction with their government. As explorers,citizens can identify/discover and define emerging and existing problems. As ideators, citizens can conceptualize novel solutions to well-defined problems. As designers, citizens can design and/or develop implementable solutions to well-defined problems. As diffusers, citizens can directly support or facilitate the adoption and diffusion of public service innovations and solutions among well-defined target populations. So, what kind of “Civic Innovator” are you? Check out the report and comment here....
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Posted by on in Trends
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) just released an updated version of their Better Life Index. The annual report measures the well-being of societies on 11 different dimensions from Housing, Education, and the Environment to Life Satisfaction and Civic Engagement. Accela is interested and involved in most all areas of governing, but we're keenly focused on civic engagement. In fact our new mission can be summed up as bettering government through civic engagement. Check out the Better Life Index here: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.orgThere's a rather nifty interactive UI that lets you tailor your own index according to the topics you value most. So how did the United States fair in 2013? When the 11 topics were weighted equally, Australia came out on top, with the U.S. near the head of the pack (6th out of the 34 nations included). The U.S. was #1 in both Housing and Income. In fact, if household income and financial...
Tagged in: Civic Engagement
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Posted by on in Trends
It’s already happening. You see it when citizens report potholes, broken signs, graffiti or nuisances using 311 apps. You see it with hackathons, the open data movement, and with organizations like Code for America and Tumml brokering innovation by bringing together developers and government agencies. There’s a palpable energy driven by technological innovations, heightened expectations, and the diverse needs of governments and the businesses they serve. At Accela, we’re keenly focused on improving governing and governments through civic engagement. Why Civic Engagement and why now? Agencies of all sizes can now deploy cloud, web, mobile and social technologies to more effectively engage with their constituencies, meet changing regulatory and compliance standards and manage civic functions. The Center for Digital Government recently completed a survey of 150 local government IT and business leaders to measure awareness and need for regulatory software. The study showed that government efficiency is the most important issue to...
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