Strips Away the Boundaries
GIS and Web Technologies to Better Serve Citizens and Staff
do I call the Education Programs Office or the Human Services
Department?" Phoenix citizens looking for job training opportunities
no longer have to flip a coin to answer that kind of question,
or bounce from phone extension to phone extension. Using "Phoenix
at Your Fingertips," a Web site organized with the end user,
not the service provider, in mind, they can get the information
they want fast.
citizen-focused Web service that strips away the traditional boundaries
between government and citizens is just one of many ways the city
uses information technology to create more efficient, responsive
government. Since 1990, Phoenixís population has grown from 900,000
to 1.1 million while city government has simultaneously reduced
head count. City leaders attribute at least part of this accomplishment
to information technology investments that date back to the late
1980s, when $42 million of a voter-approved $1.2 billion city
bond issue was earmarked for IT reengineering and network expansion,
as well as projects such as the Web site and a Geographic Information
the last decade, Phoenix has fine-tuned its deployment of a number
of technologies. It uses many of the same tools as other cities
ó GIS, shared databases, imaging systems, intranets and the Internet
ó but is a leader in tailoring information to the needs of the
end user. It is also linking technologies to provide both internal
and external customers with better ways to measure performance
and solve problems.
at Your Fingertips
at Your Fingertips, a World Wide Web site http://www.ci.phoenix.az.us,
went online in October 1995 and now receives about 900,000 hits
a month. It offers a menu of virtually every service the city
has to offer, from where to find job training to how to have a
fallen tree removed. It also includes some related services offered
by nonprofits. Citizens use it to download forms and job applications,
sign up for services, learn about public meetings, send e-mail
to city officials, report crimes, read neighborhood newsletters,
use the local libraryís card catalog or follow links to over 250
outside agencies. More services will become available as the city
merges its Web infrastructure with its GIS system, making the
Web the front end to access GIS data.
other cities have gone online to provide citizens with information
on city services," concludes a report by the U.S. Commerce
Departmentís Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure
Assistance Program (TIIAP). "Phoenix stands out because it
presents the information in a user-friendly manner, i.e., in categories
that make sense to citizens, rather than by department or program
common ó and simple ó approach is to let each department devise
its own Web page, but citizens often donít know which department
offers which services. So Phoenixís Information Technology Department
(ITD) spent six months negotiating with city departments to design
the system properly. Information technology officials had to persuade
departments to relinquish some control of what appears on their
Web pages and to give up some visibility.
needed to understand that they fit into a larger scheme,"
says Kristine McChesney, deputy information technology director
within the Information Technology Department (ITD). "Itís
not important that the departmentís name shows up anywhere or
that all the departmentís services appear in one list, which is
what would happen if each had their own Web page."
grants totaling $275,000 from the U.S. Commerce Departmentís TIIAP
program enabled the city to set up about 30 public access workstations
(browser-equipped PCs and trainers on site) across the city. The
Information Technology Department partnered with the Human Services
Department to train senior citizens as trainers. For activists,
inclusion of a cadre of active senior citizens, and e-mail access
to officials and related policymaking sites is a big attraction.
Lonnie Wells, a Phoenix citizen and trainer, says people who use
the online service become more interested in learning about government.
Phoenix, the cityís intranet, is the technology platform for the
city managerís "Seamless Service" directory. When a
citizen calls a city employee in error, the employee obtains the
name and number of the correct contact with a desktop PC using
a keyword searchable database. Callers arenít transferred from
department to department. The directory also helps city employees
who often have to get information from workers in other areas,
but may not know who to contact. Soon employees will be able to
use it to find answers to frequently asked questions.
popular is this application? Of the roughly 300,000 hits to the
intranet in May, 11,864 were to the directory, ten times the number
of hits (1,160) to the personnel departmentís list of job descriptions,
the next most popular database.
employees in different departments to search the same databases
is just one of the benefits of having an intranet, which is essentially
like a mini-World Wide Web ó only for internal use.
the intranet positions the city to take advantage of new applications
now being designed to run in a Web environment, from the geographic
information system to workflow and e-mail to such software packages
as PeopleSoft (human resources management) and SAP (Phoenixís
comparison to traditional networks, intranets make it easier for
employees to send and receive reports and use various programs.
Employees go to the main menu (similar to a Web page ó only a
little less fancy) and point and click. McChesney describes it
as one-stop shopping: The browser serves as the front end to all
applications, so staff members donít have to learn a different
set of commands for each, something they have to do when accessing
a network through a typical client-server arrangement. The intranet
also has plenty of capacity (bandwith), which is needed when sending
major files like GIS maps over the network at high speeds.
the citizen-targeted information windows separate from the staff
"Web" pages may create more work for Web site designers,
but is critical, she explains. "By organizing things the
way we have we make the system more user friendly," says
McChesney. "Inside Phoenix is organized by workflow. If you
are trying to accomplish a particular task, all of the steps and
information you need will cascade from your menu picks. Staff
can concentrate on what needs to get done and citizens donít get
a lot of stuff they donít care about."
officials are excited about using intranet technology to help
coordinate fragmented service delivery. A prototype project is
the Phoenix Education and Youth System (PEYS).
Phoenix, many youth services are provided through the schools.
the Fire Department offers urban survival courses through schools.
The Human Services Department places social workers in school-based
CARE Centers and runs Head Start programs through the schools.
Through contract, the Police Department places school resource
officers on campus to enhance student safety and follow up on
truancy and child abuse cases. Several city departments are helping
schools reduce truancy through a program called Operation A.I.M.
(Attendance is Mandatory). Public Works does recycling outreach;
Streets and Transportation honors crossing guards; Planning looks
at school capacity and zoning impacts; and the Parks, Recreation
and Library Department provide a number of youth programs on campus.
has 295 schools ó 50 of which are charter schools ó in 28 districts.
Keeping track of who was doing what and where was a major headache,
not to mention the difficulty of spotting patterns in service
distribution and tying them to community outcomes. The Youth and
Education Programs Office in the Office of the City Manager, which
coordinates information about city departments that serve youth
with staff members, wanted to get out of the business of constantly
answering queries from the field, and turn more attention to the
PEYS, every department will have access to the schools and youth
facilities database. They can use it to do their own personnel
scheduling without having to constantly update addresses and changes
in school grade level enrollments, student absence rates, and
ethnic breakdowns. The county provides information on the number
of adjudicated youth in the schools and the parks department provides
the number of curfew violators in the schools. The database also
includes such information as the police precinct, library, and
human service center closest to each school.
Information Technology Department developed the centralized relational
database using a popular business area analysis program called
the Municipal Reference Model, from Allen Mitchell, Inc. in Canada.
Six city departments used the programís standardized taxonomy
of city services to outline the scope of services the new system
would cover. (Business area analysis essentially asks, "What
business are we in?") But it was the interviews ITD conducted
with more than 55 representatives from various departments and
the city council office that drove design specifics, says Deborah
Dillon, director of The Youth and Education Programs Office.
to Dillon, once these individuals began telling interviewers what
they do and what information they need to succeed, they got excited
about ways in which they could help one another by sharing information.
predicts the database will foster collaboration. For example,
someone who is starting an after school program can find out which
schools have a school resource officer and coordinate with them.
Dillonís department can also answer inquiries from council members
who, for instance, might be concerned about violence prevention
and want to know where programs are targeted.
ultimate goal is to tie the database to performance indicators
using the cityís GIS system. That will position departments to
benefit from the data collection activities of other departments
and do some creative problem solving.
$7.6 million GIS combines geographic, census, infrastructure and
zoning data in a common database. It replaces thousands of physical
maps, covering 460 square miles of parcels, streets, sewer lines
and other data, with a desktop application that can overlay one
map with one or many others. Departments use the system for spatial
analysis, as well as planning and decision support. For example,
Public Works uses a GIS-generated map of land parcels and streets
to estimate when trash vehicles on certain routes will be full,
and to select optimum routes. The Police Department plans to use
maps of district population density, resident demographics, and
crime statistics to decide where to deploy patrol officers. The
City Clerkís office uses a map overlaying crime rates and proximity
to schools to support liquor licensing decisions.
also enables faster response times in key areas, says Bill Bayham,
deputy information technology director. The Police Department,
for example, uses it to support its 911 response service, in conjunction
with computer-aided dispatch.
geographic information system was designed with software development
tools from Oracle Corp. and the Environmental Systems Research
Instituteís (ESRI) Arc/Info software. The Information Technology
Department administers the GIS using a client/server architecture
that links relational databases. Individual departments maintain
their own data. The Planning Department refreshes zoning and census
data, the Engineering Department tracks parcels, and so forth.
GIS and Internet/Intranet Applications Converge
new services for citizens and employees are coming online, thanks
to some new technology developed by ESRI, says Bayham. The company
has developed an Internet or intranet map server that acts as
a broker between the Web server and the spatial data in the GIS
system. That means that someone accessing the server through a
browser can request the map server to grab spatial data and overlay
it with information from a live dynamic database. The result:
customized maps that include statistical and tabular information.
plans to tie the geographic information system to Phoenix at Your
Fingertips. A pilot project is underway to help citizens find
out about community events. Through the Web site, citizens can
access a community calendar, as well as seven specialized calendars,
such as one listing arts events. Users can customize their own
calendars by selecting which of 33 different categories of events
they want listed. Once they find the event, they will be able
to key in an address and GIS performs an optimum route analysis
and delivers a map to their screen.
administrator Bayham envisions a growing capability for citizens
entering through Phoenix at Your Fingertips to browse the cityís
map information much like employees can now do. For example, someone
moving into a given area could find all parks within 1/2 mile
that have swimming pools.
possibilities will expand as intranet applications such as the
Phoenix Education Youth System (and another shared database being
piloted in the environmental management area) proliferate. Deputy
Information Director McChesney predicts, for example, that parents
will be able to download maps showing youth programs available
in their neighborhood schools and youth centers.
the most important result of the GIS/intranet marriage is the
ability it gives staff to manage performance. Right now, about
700 city staffers access GIS through a client-server application.
When the Web front end is built, everyone can take advantage of
GIS. They will be able to integrate statistical and tabular information
from relational databases with spatial data from GIS. The upshot:
maps that illustrate trends and patterns in community outcomes.
and the rest of the staff in the Youth and Education Programs
Office are excited about using the GIS to analyze youth programs.
have a lot of ideas about what we do but we donít know how much
we can say about cause and effect," says Dillon. "For
example, we have a program called Operation A.I.M. for Truancy.
It is based on the assumption that keeping kids in school reduces
property crime in an area. We are digitizing crime grids and overlaying
school attendance boundaries. We hope to track performance indicators
like juvenile property crime and see if we can make any connections
between indicators and the programs that address those problem
staff are also looking for ways to use the geographic information
system for creative problem solving. "Letís say a certain
school has a high rate of teen pregnancy," says Dillon. "You
could begin to look at schools with a lower rate and ask, ëWhat
is going on in that area that is positive that might be impacting
that rate?í "
cites a prototype: a map of domestic violence service calls overlaid
by school attendance boundaries. It has people discussing ways
to address the problem as it affects youth. Someone suggested
initiating girls sports programs in those areas with high domestic
violence rates, based on national studies that show that participation
in female sports is a good way to break the cycle of violence.
another taste of whatís to come regarding ways to improve performance,
Bayham offers the following scenario: A water service truck responding
to a break in a water main brings up a map on a laptop or handheld
computer, locates the shutoff valve, and speeds to the next crisis.
Bayham, 602-534-9799; Deborah Dillon, Education Program Director,
602-495-0518, fax 602-495-5650, e-mail: ddillon@
ci. phoenix.az.us; Kristine McChesney, Deputy Information
Technology Director, 602-256-3393, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
az.us. The U.S. Department of Commerceís NTIA program office,
which provided some of the material and description on Phoenix
at Your Fingertips in its Networks for the People profile, can
be reached at 202-482-2048, fax 202-501-5136, e-mail: email@example.com,
Web site: www.ntia.doc.gov.
1998, The New Public Innovator magazine, published by the Alliance
for Redesigning Government. Reprinted with permission. For subscriptions
and Alliance membership information, contact the Alliance at 202-347-3190.
Engdahl is the editor of The New Public Innovator. You may reach
her at (202) 347-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trends on Geographic Information Systems by Sally Matthews, General