Phoenix Technology Award

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Phoenix has been honored as a technology leader for using digital solutions to improve citizen engagement. Phoenix came in third among cities of 250,000 residents or more in the 2015 Digital Cities Survey organized by E.Republic’s Center for Digital Government. Maria Hyatt, public transit director for the city of Phoenix, will tell us more.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation looks at why Phoenix was recently honored as a technology leader for using digital solutions to improve citizen engagement particularly municipal transportation. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."

MARIA HYATT: thank you.

TED SIMONS: Recognize -- first, E.republic center for digital government?

MARIA HYATT: These folks look at the cities to see how they are improving their digital impact on their communities T. so they have been doing this for a number of years. In fact this is the second year that Phoenix has placed in the top ten.

TED SIMONS: I was going to say, top three this time, second straight year in the top ten. You're doing something right out there. What are they looking at?

MARIA HYATT: We sure are trying. Things are changing, Ted. I have two millennials at home. When we talk about the traditional ways that we reach out to our citizens, to our community, those ways are not working any longer so we really need to think differently. For instance I'm in transportation. So when we go out and we talk about transit project we have a public meeting and we invite everybody to get their input. My two millennials are never going to go to a public meeting. They look at me like why would you do that? Why can't I just send in my information online. This is trying to take advantage of that.

TED SIMONS: Talk to us, how did the city develop the transportation plan? How online public tools help with resident input.

MARIA HYATT: It is providing another option for our community members so that we don't lose out on that discussion that they provide to us. So we develop talktransportation.org as proposition 104 public outreach. It was not only a way to grab information from community members but allows them to give us input. What did they want to see? How did they want to see it? Where did they want to see it? We could create surveys, get information. We had more than 3700 people who helped us provide information through talktransportation.org.

TED SIMONS: Sounds as though the website had surveys, maps, the whole nine yards.

MARIA HYATT: people could pin. Hey, I really think we should connect this location over here, that information was captured and provided back to us.

TED SIMONS: I know noted expanded library Tech resources and procurement resources for city processes.

MARIA HYATT: How many people have E-readers. Another thing that was great for the library they now have a digital branch. Instead of you going physically to a library branch you have a digital branch so you can check out books on your E-readers. This is another way people are going, a way that kids are getting information too. We're just continuing to try to meet what our community wants.

TED SIMONS: As far as the procurement process for city purchases, that again all through, what -- are using a cloud for this?

MARIA HYATT: we're actually using competition, so better competition which will save the city of Phoenix money over the long run by allowing different vendors to bid only our projects, things we need to buy so we're getting the best deal. It makes -- the way we have been doing things in the past makes no sense.

TED SIMONS: Court users, there's a web-based payment plan for court users. The open data program. All these were mentioned by this group honoring Phoenix. Something is going on. Talk to us about these.

MARIA HYATT: Another thing that we did was we don't know everything. I would like to think that I do but with don't know everything. We have a technology summit back in November of 2014 where we invited in the public and private sector to tell us, small businesses, large businesses, tell us what innovative ideas that they had. How they could get better information from us. So we have been able to use that. For instance we now have open data. A lot of cities do but on my side we now have real time data on when your bus is going to come, when the next train is going to come. That information is provided out there to app developers who can Crete an app for our passengers to be able to cull from. It's about trying to find the best ways to get digital information out to the private sector so they can spend the money doing what we would have had to have done before through our public outreach.

TED SIMONS: Is there a threat, though, that all this technology, innovation, Apps here, tablets there, may leave some folks who aren't so Tech savvy, either they are stuck in their old ways or may not have the resources to get the equipment needed that they may be left behind?

MARIA HYATT: Believe me we're not going away from the old way too. We still do our normal -- you can still visit a library and visit them physically. You can still go and we'll have our public meetings where we invite people in. We still take phone calls. So we're not trying to take that away. What we're trying to do is make sure that we're broadening so that we can capture as much input and provide as many services to the community versus narrowing it down.

TED SIMONS: Ranked third among cities over 250,000. Second straight year for Phoenix in the top 10. What happens next year? What are you guys working on? What's the plan? What's on the wish list?

MARIA HYATT: You know, each of the departments in the city we really look at ways that we can be more transparent. I think what you'll see is a continued increase in transparency to our community. They want to know what we're doing. They give us, you know, taxpayer money. They pay for services. They want to make sure they are getting their services back. That's one of the things you'll see on my side for the proposition 104 is being transparent back. Here's the money that we said, here's the projects we said we were going to do, here's how we're doing it so you can make sure we're doing what we said we would do.

TED SIMONS: If I'm stuck at a transit stop and no one showed up for the past half hour I have a way to say, let's fix this.

MARIA HYATT: You absolutely do. One thing I think we need to do is say you go to a game. You're going to a football game, Cardinals are playing. You have some obnoxious people behind you. They -- you can send a text message and they get taken care of. What I would like to see is eventually down the line, next year, couple of years, that we have that on our transit system so our passengers feel more safe and we provide that better service for them.

TED SIMONS: that's a good idea.

MARIA HYATT: I think so too.

TED SIMONS: Good to have you here.

MARIA HYATT: Thank you, Ted.

TED SIMONS: Wednesday on Arizona Oregon it's other Veterans' Day special. A group ignored or mistreated because of the color of their skin. And find out about local Evers to help homeless vets. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much forever joining us. You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Maria Hyatt:Public transit director for the city of Phoenix

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