Data is at the center of just about everything happening in Wichita. Projects are prioritized based on the value they provide to local residents and daily operations. For example, rather than rolling out gunshot detection systems across the entire city — a costly endeavor — city staff look to GIS heatmaps to determine where they are likely needed the most. An advisory council helps city leaders and IT staff take a “realistic view” of local needs and feasible solutions. The city is also focused on improving performance while saving taxpayer dollars through zero-based budgeting and reassessment of existing resources. Recently, an inventory gave staff new insights into programs and allowed for a reappraisal of what was needed and what was not.
When it comes to keeping city operations transparent, Wichita is no stranger to sharing information. Code for America, local media and Wichita State University are all part of a data steering committee that helps staff to publish high-value data sets. To date, 70 of the most common records requests have been published to save staff time and provide ease of access. In September 2018, the city embarked on a mission to replace its CRM to better allow for data mining.
Like in many other cities across the United States, the need for access to the Internet has prompted aggressive action. This year alone, efforts to expand the broadband network resulted in a 171 percent growth rate. Over the course of the next two years, officials anticipate connectivity will jump by 762 percent.
IT officials are also excited about the potential for an AI chatbot they feel will improve the interface between the city — specifically the website — and residents. There is also potential for augmented reality to help utility staff locate underground power and water infrastructure. In a similar vein, the city and Wichita State University are working on a project to improve wayfinding for the visually impaired.