Virtual Office CDMX
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Staff Participating in 2018
Region : Latin American & Caribbean
National GDP Per Capita (USD) : $9,614 (IMF, 2018)
City Population: 8.84 million
Year Implemented : 2016
National Gini Index : 43.4 (World Bank, 2016)
Tags : ECONOMY MOBILITY
Technologies Utilized : Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Virtual Office Platform
Funding Source : Municipal Government
Project Cost : Zero
Project Savings : NA
Planned Project Duration : Indefinite (currently pilot)
KPIs : 95 employees from the pilot surveyed on their productivity, expenses, and mood as a result of the program.
Project Context and Overview
Mexico City, with its population of over 8 million, requires solutions in order to alleviate pressure on transportation infrastructure, both public and private. A solution to alleviate pressure on the transport network which does not directly involve changes to infrastructure is a change in labor culture.
Given the number of Mexico City government employees, reduction in government officials commuting can produce a substantial impact. Keeping this in mind, the General Directorate of Information Technology Governance and Communications (GDITGC) designed a pilot project to test the feasibility of staff teleworking, which was dubbed “Virtual Office CDMX” (Ciudad de México). Capitalizing on advances in teleworking technologies and the affordability of such technologies, including free tools offered by Google, the project has low barriers to entry and the potential benefits are worthwhile, given the proper city context.
Virtual Office CDMX aims to decrease CO2 emissions, congestion, and overcrowding on public transport. It also holds the potential to increase organizational efficiency through the definition of specific deliverables with measured results. It hopes to improve the quality of life of bureaucrats and citizens in general and thereby increasing productivity and livability in the city.
Finally, an unfortunate but relevant context of Mexico City which relates to Virtual Office CDMX is the city’s vulnerability to natural disasters. Its location makes it susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic activity. As recent as September 2017, Mexico City was struck by an earthquake which tragically resulted in the loss of over 200 lives in the city and also substantial damage to infrastructure. Public officials already utilizing Virtual Office CDMX were able to carry out many of their duties without travelling to work, lightening the burden on the infrastructure and allowing emergency workers to go about their tasks more easily. As more and more employees take advantage of Virtual Office CDMX, this alleviation should become more apparent if future disasters are to occur.
Project Planning and Implementation
GDITGC initiated the pilot in May 2016 with 95 employees over the course of one month. Phase two was performed in July of the same year, with the number of employees expanded to 350. Employees joined on a purely voluntary basis for these first two phases. The Virtual Office CDMX platform was developed internally by GDITGC human resources, requiring no additional investment on web development. GDITGC also created user manuals and tutorial videos to educate and train participants in using the platform and resources necessary to use the platform.
Remote communications are mostly conducted via tools available on Google Hangouts, including chats, calls, and videoconferencing; while Google Drive is used for working on documents collaboratively. Both services have no cost when used in their base package.
For now, the telework exists in two forms: mixed distance and mobile distance. Mixed distance is available to eligible bureaucrats whose responsibilities can reasonably be carried out remotely and have a personal home computer with an internet connection. These workers do not telework daily but on days appointed by their supervisors. Mobile distance is limited to managers, who conference with workers, provide input on documents, and check up on their objectives in real time.
As the program expands, other departments which have expressed interest in the program will become integrated into the project and allow their employees to participate. By the end of 2018, it is expected that the number of public servants participating will exceed 5,000.
As the initial two phases of the implementation were small in scale (compared to what the project will eventually become, given the size of the Mexico As the initial two phases of the implementation were small in scale (compared to what the project will eventually become, given the size of the Mexico City government), there is not yet sufficient data to indicate whether or not Virtual Office CDMX is having the intended effects in terms of benefits to the infrastructure, congestion, environment, productivity, etc.
However, the city considered polls of the 95 employees participating in the pilot to be a performance indicator. The results indicated that the employees agreed on the following concerning Virtual Office CDMX: increased productivity (51%), saved participants money (75%), and improved their mood (80%). Of the participants who saved on transportation costs, 25.3% used their own cars, 33.3% used large-size public transport (subways, buses, light rail), 10.7% used smaller public transport (minibuses and taxis), and 30.7% used some combination.
Ideally, by the end of 2018, with the goal of 5,000 participants set, this should prove to be a significant enough sample population to yield some very useful data to further evaluate the project output for Virtual Office CDMX.
Recommendations for Transfer
Cities which could benefit most from such a project would be ones where quality of life is particularly impacted by commutes. Cities with long commute distances, high pollution, crowded public transportation, or heavy traffic congestion would fit this profile.
For successful implementation, public employees should have personal computers and internet at home. Cities where mobile use is the primary means of internet access or where there are low levels of broadband penetration would not be an ideal context for policy transfer. Additionally, Mexico City officials recommend a gradual implementation of the program. Buy-in of employees is necessary for sustained political commitment, and introducing too much at once before value has been demonstrated could lead to failure. To this end, Mexico City also advises the program be very flexible.
Access to free services such as Google Drive and Hangouts are optimal for budget savings, and in the case of Mexico City, it was a helpful factor in the success of the program. However, if needed, other services may be a better fit for certain contexts. The GDITGC staff was able to develop some solutions in-house as well to save costs. Additionally, such a department should be prepared to establish human resource guidelines and training programs in order to effectively equip employees from other departments to be able to use the system. Clear protocol should also be established early to avoid later problems.
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