Cities take licensing, permit services to the cloud
Arizona and Massachusetts cities streamline services and save on infrastructure.
Saddled with shrinking budgets, smaller cities often lack the resources to buy the leading-edge technology needed to efficiently deliver services to businesses and citizens. As a result, a growing number of municipalities are exploring ways to automate and streamline civic functions – such as asset management, land management, licensing and permitting applications – via cloud-based services.
For instance, officials in Nogales, Ariz., a city of 20,948 people near the Mexico border, are looking to revitalize the downtown community and restore historic buildings that are over 100 years old. Along with the revitalization move, city officials wanted the Public Works Department to track building permits daily, according to Hector Tapia, the assistant public works director for Nogales.
Lacking the resources to buy new IT equipment, the city turned to Accela, which offers a suite of cloud-based civic applications under the umbrella of Civic Cloud. The move eliminated the need for the city to purchase new computer hardware, software and servers, allowing the agency to purchase only the licenses necessary to improve the office workflow, Tapia said.
The city’s goal is to implement a “one-stop shop” for development plan review and the permitting process. To accomplish this, Nogales deployed Accela Automation, a Web-based application with global search and integrated mapping capabilities. Automation lets workers share information across departments and communicate with workers in the field. Additionally, the Public Works Department will deploy Accela Citizen Access, a Web interface for initiating and tracking service requests.
These cloud-based solutions will eventually be extended to Apple iOS, Android and Microsoft Windows mobile tablets and smartphones to give inspectors and field agents real-time access so they can update project files from their mobile devices.
Accela offers city governments a complete suite of business services through the Civic Cloud, company officials said in a release. Specific civic solutions can be tailored to unique agency requirements by Accela or partner professional services staff. Agencies can also buy and quickly deploy the applications as packaged quick-start solutions, which are preconfigured to the most common agency needs. Initial packaged solutions are available for planning and zoning, permitting and inspection. Additional packages are being developed based on agency and market requirements, Accela officials said.
Other cities are turning to cloud-based services for licensing and permit processing. Officials in Chelmsford, Mass., recently selected a new system that will let residents apply for permits online. ViewPermit will provide an integrated system – rolled out over the next few months – that will combine GIS data and licensing information in a cloud-based environment. Other neighboring communities have already deployed ViewPoint, including Fitchburg, Lexington and Peabody.
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