News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 11/07/2013
Subject :

City of Palo Alto Recognized for Pushing the Boundaries of Technology in Government
Contact : Jonathan Reichental, Chief Information Officer    650-329-2121
Claudia Keith, Chief Communications Officer    650-329-2607
Palo Alto, CA – The City of Palo Alto today was named the #1 Digital City in America - in the category of cities under 75,000 - by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute focused on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government. The award recognizes cities that adopt innovative ways of using information technologies more effectively, and demonstrate technology-enabled improvements for interaction between city staff, community, businesses and visitors. Digital cities provide easier access to government information and provide city workers with innovative technology tools to get their jobs done.

"As the center of innovation in the Silicon Valley, Palo Alto has employed technology to both provide information as an open and transparent government, as well as to engage with the community," said City Manager James Keene. “This award confirms Palo Alto's place as a digital leader and recognizes its importance as a city that strives to integrate a vision for local government within the global economy.”

In 2012, Palo Alto developed a three-year information technology plan with a goal “to build and enable a leading digital city”. This vision was the outcome of the City Council and City Manager creation of an IT department and recruitment of a Chief Information Officer in 2011.  

“We’re trying a lot of new things at City Hall from experimenting with social collaboration, to publishing important City data in open formats, to engaging with communities online,” said Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental. “There is still a lot of do, but our new technologies and capabilities are making a big difference in how we work on a daily basis with the community.”  

There are a number of new ways community members now have to interact with City Hall, including PaloAlto311, a tool for reporting infrastructure issues such as sidewalk cracks and fallen branches. PaloAlto311 runs on smartphones, tablets, and the City website. Community members can participate in city discussions using the recently upgraded Open City Hall platform. The City also recently began engaging in community conversations using Nextdoor. During the year, the Police Department also provided insight into their work by running ride-a-longs via Twitter. 

A new state-of-the-art phone system is now utilized in City Hall, and most City buildings were rewired for fast network performance. The City also developed a platform for easily sharing City data such as geospatial information, financial data, and City permitting. California Forward called Palo Alto, “a model for transparency in California” citing its work on an open data platform that includes budget and personnel salary and benefits. The adoption of a public-private partnership approach resulted in the first free, high-speed, WiFi hotspot in Cogswell Plaza. 

“Smart cities will be increasingly reliant on innovative ways of using technology,” added Keene.  “Adding efficiencies to processes, enhanced collaboration and cost containment are some of the essential and increasing qualities that we’ll look to technology to help achieve.”

Becoming a digital city has required a big shift in how Palo Alto delivers information technology to its employees and the community, according to Reichental.  “We’ve adopted new approaches in government including lean methods of project delivery. It has been an internal challenge for our information technology team as well. But we have had good outcomes and the team is proud of its accomplishments. There is a long list ahead of us, but we’re in a good position today to take on those challenges.”

On June 1, the City participated in the National Day of Hacking, holding the largest event in the U.S. More than 5,000 people showed up on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto to explore new technology, talk about the future of government, and write software code. The event received national attention and was recognized at an event at the White House later in the summer. The digital cities award also considered this innovative and collaborative community event in determining its winners. 

Palo Alto joins other #1 cities including: Boston (250,000+); Irving, Texas (125,000 – 249,999) and Avondale, Arizona (75,000 – 124,999).