New York State

City & State summit discusses technology in government and push for modernization

Key issues addressed were adopting consumer-centric practices, streamlining services and data centralization.

Attendees at City & State’s Modernization in Government Summit Thursday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Attendees at City & State’s Modernization in Government Summit Thursday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Phenix Kim

Experts discussed tech’s future in government at City & State’s Government Modernization Summit Thursday, touching upon a range of topics from streamlining services with centralized systems to judicious use of data analytics and feedback loops. Speakers at the event held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan also urged for government's adoption of consumer centric models to increase constituent satisfaction. 

Keynote speaker Melanie La Rocca, chief efficiency officer within Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, pushed for a consumer centric model that borrows practices from the private sector. 

“The private sector chases after their customers eager to understand how they can streamline processes, remove burdens and barriers and deliver services in the manner their customers want,” she told attendees. “If a customer can have exceptional experiences, they will become or stay brand loyal. We are being judged against the private sectors in terms of how we manage our customers' experience.” 

By applying this model on government practices, La Rocca stated that this will lead to increased digitization efforts and streamlined services, with an increase in rapport leading to greater trust among constituents regarding government services. 

“What I believe is among the most significant indicators of a truly customer centric government is trust. We know public sentiment is struggling at all levels of government,” she said. “Today's world requires a comprehensive, coordinated and deliberate approach to improving operations that starts with and ends with the customer's experience. In order to become a truly modern government, we must change and bring in objective measurements, agency-led initiatives and compulsory feedback.”.  

Panelist Ashka Dave, associate partner at McKinsey & Co., continued on the importance of data collection practices to identify areas of constituent satisfaction through IT. “If you're armed with this kind of data, as a technology leader, you can start to make some trade-offs on how you deploy your systems,” he told attendees. 

Echoing La Rocca’s earlier points on customer satisfaction, Dave emphasized that improving aspects within specific systems ultimately leads to changing attitudes towards government as a whole. “If you improve the customer experience or the resonant experience associated with this service, it is not just about how they [constituents] feel about your service, but you are changing how they feel about government operations altogether,” he said. 

Panelists also highlighted the importance of digitization documents, in addition to data analytics and protection measures given the growing prevalence of virtual information transmission.

Maryanne Schretzman, executive director of the New York City Center for InnovationThrough Data Intelligence, spoke of data catalogs in an effort to streamline processes among agencies.

 “The agreements that have to take place between agencies, within agencies, for the data sharing have always been a big barrier, making data not outwardly accessible to the people,” she said. “So we're looking at things like data catalogs, that are used in the private sector. A data catalog is a system that takes documentation that can be synchronized across different data assets and formats, assembled together then made accessible with contact information. If you have that information at your side, you then can create your data use agreement.” 

Panelist Dan Steinberg, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, spoke of the centralization efforts of the MyCiTi project and the difficulties underlying vast digitization and interoperability.

  “[MyCiTi] is one of the quintessential projects to deliver on a promise of a one-stop shop for all services. How do you work across that many organizations and make their systems more interoperable?” he asked. “I think the biggest thing this administration did toward that was not a technology investment, but the rearrangement of its IP and technology, data offices by centralizing everything.” 

Several panelists also noted the importance of the 2020 pandemic in ushering a shift in data sharing culture, from increased connectivity to opening new lines of communication between constituents and government agencies.