The most digitally savvy cities in the U.S. (and what makes them that way)

Wed, 2013-11-13 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

There are lots of lessons to glean from the annual Digital Cities Survey by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government (CTG) and the Digital Communities Program. But one that any city can take to heart: You don't have to be big to be digitally savvy. Just ask city leaders in Ponca City, OK (population 24,974) or the town of Marana AZ (population 36,756). Both made the top 10 list of digitally savvy cities with populations less than 75,000.

On the other hand, even if you are a big city that flexes a lot of digital muscle doesn't guarantee a spot on this list. Case in point: Curiously absent among the big city winners is New York City.  

You can read the press release below to see which cities ranked in the top 10 in each of the four population categories; they'll all be honored during the National League of Cities conference in Seattle this week. But perhaps most useful for cities striving to make the list in years to come are the trends and takeaways from the survey itself. As Todd Sander, Executive Director of the CTG explains, “The top digital cities are leaders in open data and transparency efforts, as well as innovators in deploying mobile applications to citizens while conforming to fiscal standards.”

Here's a quick summary of what made the top city in each category noteworthy, according to the CTG:

Boston, Massachusetts (250,000+ population) – Its Open Government platform that gives residents access to city data in interactive maps and digital databases was cited along with Boston's broadband adoption program, City Hall to Go site and expansion of its Office of Urban Mechanics.

Irving, Texas (125,000 - 249,999 population) – Irving gets high marks for its innovative use of data to drive government efficiencies, including saving $44 million dollars and reducing the city's staffing workload by 50,000 hours since 2008, according to the CTG.

Avondale, Arizona (75,000 - 124,999): Several initiatives drove the city's digital progress, including an online citizen engagement feedback program called A-Voice that CIO Rob Lloyd says was used as Avondale developed and refined its 2030 plan, which ended up passing with over 80 percent voter approval.

Palo Alto, California (75,000 population or less): Two standout projects were front and center for Palo Alto. One was PaloAlto311, an online reporting site for citizens to report infrastructure issues. The other was an effort to public permit data in near real time.

And be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the release to see 10 overall city priorities that surfaced during the survey. In the No. 1 spot: Open Government/ Transparency/ Open Data.

Council Lead Partner AT&T was one of the survey underwriters.


13th Annual Digital Cities Survey – 2013 Results

Center for Digital Government and National League of Cities Congratulate 2013 Digital Cities Survey Winners                                                     

Nov. 7, 2013 – e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government and the Digital Communities Program today announced the top-ranked cities in the 2013 Digital Cities Survey. 

This year’s top-ranked cities—Boston; Irving, Texas; Avondale, Ariz.; and Palo Alto, Calif.— improved transparency with open government initiatives and access to city services via mobile apps. The cities eliminated waste and enhanced service levels using agile project management, and reduced costs and improved services through advanced analytics and performance measures. Learn more about their accomplishments here.

“Nationally the number of tech-savvy digital cities is increasing, particularly among the larger jurisdictions responding to the survey,” said Todd Sander, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Government. “The top digital cities are leaders in open data and transparency efforts, as well as innovators in deploying mobile applications to citizens while conforming to fiscal standards.”

The top 10 ranked cities will be honored at a special awards ceremony during the National League of Cities’ (NLC) annual conference in Seattle on November 15th.  

"These are the cities that invest in engaging with their constituencies and that continuously improve their municipal services to be models of excellence nationally,” said Marie Lopez-Rogers, NLC President and Mayor of Avondale. “The cities honored reflect public administrators and IT professionals wisely adopting technologies with a readiness to share with others serving public interests. NLC and the City of Avondale are strong believers in those approaches. The Center for Digital Government deserves immense credit for its work facilitating community success through technology for many years.”

In its 13th year, the annual survey is a part of the Digital Communities Program and is open to all U.S. cities. The survey criteria focused on results achieved by cities - via the use of technology - in operating efficiencies, realizing strategic objectives, innovative or creative solutions or approaches, effective collaboration and transparency measures, among others.

The Center for Digital Government thanks this year’s survey underwriters Accela, AT&T and NIC. 

Congratulations to the 2013 Digital Cities Survey Winners:

250,000 or more population category:

1st City of Boston

2nd Louisville Metro Government, Ky.

2nd City of Philadelphia

3rd City of Jacksonville, Fla.

3rd City of Riverside, Calif.

4th City of Henderson, Nev.

4th City of Seattle

5th City of Corpus Christi, Texas

5th City of Las Vegas

5th City of Virginia Beach, Va.

6th City of Austin, Texas

6th City of Chicago

7th City of Albuquerque, N.M.

7th City of Denver

7th City of Long Beach, Calif.

8th City of Mesa, Ariz.

8th City of Tucson, Ariz.

9th City of Baltimore

9th City of Los Angeles

10th City of Raleigh, N.C.         


125,000 – 249,999 population category:

1st City of Irving, Texas

2nd City of Augusta, Ga.

3rd City of Alexandria, Va.

3rd City of Durham, N.C.

4th Salt Lake City

5th City of Fort Collins, Colo.

5th City of Hampton, Va.

6th City of Chula Vista, Calif.

6th City of Scottsdale, Ariz.

6th City of Winston-Salem, N.C.

7th City of Modesto, Calif.

7th City of Tacoma, Wash.

8th City of Richmond, Va.

9th City of Fayetteville, N.C.

9th City of Simi Valley, Calif.

10th City of Springfield, Mo.


75,000 – 124,999 population category:

1st City of Avondale, Ariz.

2nd City of West Palm Beach, Fla.

3rd City of Roseville, Calif.

4th City of Westminster, Colo.

5th City of Lowell, Mass.

5th City of Davenport, Iowa

5th City of Richardson, Texas

6th City of Lynchburg, Va.

7th City of Independence, Mo.

8th City of Arvada, Colo.

8th City of Boulder, Colo.

9th City of Roanoke, Va.

10th City of Pueblo, Colo.


Less than 75,000 population category:

1st City of Palo Alto, Calif.

2nd City of Fayetteville, Ark.

3rd Carson City, Nev.

4th Town of Marana, Ariz.

5th Ponca City, Okla.

6th City of Rancho Cordova, Calif.

6th City of Shawnee, Kan.

7th City of Auburn, Wash.

7th Village of Schaumburg, Ill.

8th City of Hudson, Ohio

9th City of Williamsburg, Va.

9th Town of Enfield, Conn.

10th City of North Port, Fla.


Selected Survey Findings:

Top 10 Overall Priorities:

1. Open Government/ Transparency/ Open Data

2. Mobility / Mobile Applications

3. Budget and Cost Control

4. Hire and Retain Competent IT Personnel

5. Broadband and Connectivity and Portal/ E-government

6. Cyber Security

7. Shared Services

8. Cloud Computing

9. Disaster Recovery/ Continuity of Operations

10. Virtualization: Server, Desktop/ Client, Storage, Applications


The Center for Digital Government is a national research and advisory institute on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government.

The Center is a division of e.Republic, the nation’s only media and research company focused exclusively on the state and local government market and education.