How Alexandria excels at using technology to help residents

WASHINGTON — Alexandria, Virginia, is among the top “digital cities” in the nation for using technology to connect with people and improve citizen services.

Digital cities winners “leverage technology to enhance inclusion and solve social challenges,” according to the Center for Digital Government, which conducts the survey. In the nationwide rankings for cities in the 125,000-to-249,999 population category, Alexandria tied for 10th place with Hampton, Virginia. Also in that category: Norfolk, Virginia, is ranked third.

“Alexandria is very proud to have been ranked among the top 10 cities of its size in the 2017 Digital Cities Survey,” said Craig Fifer, spokesman for the City of Alexandria.

Two factors that helped Alexandria earn its ranking involve social media and traffic.

“We have a project to dynamically adjust traffic signal timing based on vehicle volume,” Fifer said. “As the volume on a route increases during rush hour, for example, the traffic signal would weigh the traffic on the main road versus the feeder roads, so we keep as much traffic moving as possible.”

One example of citizens being served by social media engagement would be a major snow storm. When more snow is coming down than can be removed within a few hours, Fifer said, that’s considered an emergency, because it affects people’s ability to move throughout the city.

In that case, Fifer said, social media can be used to both distribute and collect useful information.

“This incorporates geocoding, hashtags (and) keywords in terms of finding out what is going on in the community during an emergency,” Fifer said. “And it involves the city using text and photo and video on social media during emergencies to inform the community about what’s going on and any actions that might need to be taken.”

The survey also took into consideration city expansion of customer account and payment portals, allowing people to manage accounts and electronically pay for things such as fines, personal property and real estate taxes.

Alexandria has made the top 10 list for digital cities of its size for 13 consecutive years. In part, Fifer said, because long-term financial planning considers information technology systems and projects to be capital projects, much like new buildings or facility improvements.

“Alexandria was actually only the second city in the country that used its capital improvement program for information technology projects,” Fifer said.

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