The Michigan Municipal League is one of two pilot projects for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM (NYSE: IBM) to develop a new way to help local governments improve services for their constituents and to reduce costs.
The IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud lets local governments appropriately share information internally and across governments nationwide.
With a combination of advanced data analytics and Software-as-a-Service technology, the IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud integrates services from multiple providers on an easy-to-use platform that governments can share. The new cloud platform will improve municipal operations, add Web-based citizen services, allow integrated data analysis, and provide better transparency. Government employees will save time, increase productivity, and help citizens quickly get the information they need.
The IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud will offer independent software vendors a low-cost, scalable, secure platform over which the can provide services for local governments. Municipal officials will the select the software products that best provide the services they need. This cloud technology will ultimately include a citizen portal, a Web-based way for citizens to understand their relationship with their government, enhancing transparency and trust in government.
“Right now we’re working with IBM on this pilot to make sure this product is gong to have broad appeal to our membership,” said Anthony Minghine, associate executive director and COO of the Michigan Municipal League. “This will redefine how our members will be able to cooperate and collaborate going forward.”
Minghine said the cities of Howell and Saline “have volunteered to test this technology with IBM in a real way.” He said the project could “open up a whole new world of opportunities and more efficent information sharing. We’ll be able to consolidate services in a different way. We really think the sky’s the limit.”
David Cohn, director of business informatics at IBM Research in Hawthorn, N.Y., said the tech giant has been working on the project a little more than a year, but that it’s an “extension of work we’ve been doing over past five or six years. The key is the ability to automatically integrate applications that ocme from separate providers. This is a way to get some of the benefits of consolidation before you go through all of the difficulties of actual consolidation. What we’re doing here is a cutting edge pilot program while we validate our technology and demonstrate to our customers that it’s valuable and useful to them.”
Cohn said the project would offer local governments an easy-to-digest dashboard of all their activities — and offer citizens an easy-to-digest dashboard lf all their interations with government.
Governments at every level have technology challenges: obsolete systems and software, poorly integrated applications, minimal Web-based constituent access, and limited data analysis. Applications tend to be costly to deploy and maintain, making it hard to integrate new services.
IBM Research and IBM Global Technology Services collaborated on the IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud to create transparent and efficient interaction among governments, citizens, and business enterprises.
IBM is also working with the New York Conference of Mayors, an association of and for cities and villages in New York State, to coordinate the participation of their members in the pilot.
The IBM platform supports loose coupling of applications. Applications will work independently, but when delivered together, they will be automatically integrated by the platform. Multiple applications will link seamlessly supporting data sharing and event handling. This loose coupling will significantly improve government productivity and service quality, and will reduce error-prone manual work.
The property tax process is a good example. Tax processing spans multiple departments, including building, assessment, tax, and finance. Each department typically maintains its own applications, and information sharing is frequently manual. With the IBM platform, information will flow between the applications, and much of the manual work will be eliminated.
“This is a time when local governments are feeling more intense fiscal pressures than ever,” Minghine said. “As a result, we’re constantly searching for new ways to help our member municipalities work smarter and more efficiently. IBM’ s new cloud technology can redefine how communities cooperate and collaborate together. The cloud creates efficiencies, reduces costs and allows communities to work together without regard to their geographic boundary.”
The IBM platform can benefit other municipal function including public safety. Integrating police, fire and court applications will provide faster and more accurate access to appropriate information. Linking with clerk and assessor applications will give emergency responders pertinent details about home schematics, registered weapons, and pets.
“On the national level, there has been a lot of discussion about consolidating local governments. This technology will enable governments to share services as if consolidated, to foster efficiencies and more effective services,” said Robert W. Elliott, former Mayor of Croton-on-Hudson, New York and former Deputy Secretary of state of New York. “Only IBM’ s innovative Municipal Shared Services Cloud can build municipal capacity and the efficiencies required to face the inevitable challenges of the future.”
The IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud will improve government operations in three ways.
* Integration — clients will access software as a service on the cloud, rather than paying for hardware, software and solution development. They will select what they need and subscribe as necessary. The cloud will support the infrastructure, manage operations and handle upgrades.
* Collaboration — Municipalities don’ t compete, so unlike commercial businesses, they are comfortable collaborating. The multi-tenancy capability of IBM’ s platform supports safe sharing between governments providing essentially standard services with variations accommodating local needs.
* Transparency — The platform will offer dashboards for government officials and citizens making operations more transparent and encouraging open, effective government. The platform’ s advanced analytics will provide insights for both officials and citizens.
“Today, municipalities need to integrate their operations to save money and improve the quality of services they provide to their constituents. IBM’ s new Municipal Shared Services Cloud uses unprecedented collaboration and information sharing to accomplish this goal,” said Robert Morris, vice president, IBM Research.
The IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud will be available through IBM Global Technology Services. This asset is the latest in a long line of technologies developed in collaboration with IBM Research for IBM’ s public cloud portfolio of offerings.
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