Necessity is the mother of invention, in particular for governments operating under increasingly tight budgets.
On Tuesday, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government announced 111 government initiatives as Bright Ideas. These ideas offer creative solutions to wide-ranging issues including crime prevention, economic development and environmental protection that face governments of all levels ranging from school districts to cities or federal agencies. Many of the initiatives strive to improve the efficiency of government and offer better services to citizens. Notably, many winners deployed innovative technology to solve government challenges.
In Baltimore, for example, the police are using a data-driven approach to crime and traffic safety to more effectively deploy law enforcement resources. Given that many crimes involve a car, the Baltimore police are analyzing location-based crime and traffic data together, allowing traffic enforcement to address more than one problem at once.
Public infrastructure is also benefiting from a tech upgrade. The combined sewer overflow control technology employed by the City of South Bend, Indiana uses real-time monitoring and distributed sensing to optimize existing infrastructure. The benefit is big: $114 million in savings.
Governments are also looking to bridge the digital divide. The Connection Benefit Portal in the State of Washington increases access to state services despite a reduction in state resources. Using an online portal that offers information for low-income families, citizens can apply for state and federal benefits, as well as social services.
The City of Newton in North Carolina has gone one step further. It is providing free, outdoor Wi-Fi networks while also supporting the downtown business district, small businesses, and the use of public parks and facilities.
Technology can help governments do more with less. Now that’s a bright idea.