Veracruz Digital City (VDC)- Open Government at the service of the citizen
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MXN 42 Million
Savings per year
Region : Latin America
National GDP Per Capita (USD) : 9,807.44 (IMF, 2018)
City Population: 428,323
Year Implemented : 2014
National Gini Index : 43.4 (World Bank, 2016)
Tags : GOVERNANCE ECONOMY DATA CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
Technologies Utilized : Website, Mobile Application, GPS, Complaint Management System
Funding Source : Government
Project Cost : MXN 6,743,022
Project Savings : MXN 42 million/ year
Planned Project Duration : Ongoing
KPIs : Number of visits, Number of downloads, Number of cases submitted, Number of cases solved, Number of scholarship applications, Number of scholarships granted
Project Context and Overview
The Veracruz Digital City (VDC) program laid the foundation for the development of Veracruz into a full-fledged smart city. The program combines principles of open government and e-Government by making use of ICT to increase transparency and generate digital services oriented to citizens. There are various projects and services under VDC, some of which are mentioned below.
The Integral System of Relationship with Citizens (SIRC) is the city’s complaint management portal where citizens and government employees can track their complaints and suggestions and georeference each submission.
Through the Digital System of Procedures and Services (SDT), citizens can apply for municipal services and download all their documents in PDF format.
Employment Veracruz is a website where citizens and companies can offer their services or provide job opportunities. The website also produces valuable data on employment and citizen behavior that can be later used for policy making by government officials.
The Platform for Attention and Monitoring of Gender Violence was developed jointly with the municipal women’s institute under the instruction of the municipal president. All the reports submitted are recorded, sent to the responsible government agency, thoroughly investigated, and then resolved according to the needs of the citizen.
The municipality constantly collaborates with community leaders (“apple chiefs”) that represent their respective neighborhoods. This system had been in place in Veracruz for a long time to facilitate communication between citizens and the government, but the meetings always took place in-person and there were no electronic records. Now, the city has developed the Integral System of Apple Chiefs to keep electronic records of the representatives and their activities.
All of these services can be accessed through the city’s one-stop municipal portal. The website also includes other services such as online payment services, online tax collection, and online application for government scholarships. Citizens and city officials can also communicate through the VDC mobile app, online chatting service, call center, and official social media accounts. The city also has a Transparency Portal with an open data section where all public information is readily available and downloadable.
Project Planning and Implementation
The initiative was first proposed by the mayor of Veracruz City as part of the Municipal Development Plan for his 2014-2017 term. The local government collaborated with local community leaders to learn about their proposals and needs. Citizens were consulted through surveys and a citizen participation online portal. The mayor appointed a Directorate of Innovation and Electronic Government to lead the project, manage it, and coordinate participation among other government departments.
Sensitive financial and administrative information are housed in servers located in the municipal center of the city and the port of Veracruz. Data and systems related to citizen servers are hosted in cloud servers to ensure high availability, greater stability, better processing, growth according to demand, security, but above all, an unlimited channel bandwidth. Most systems are developed in open PHP software and using MQL databases in order to avoid costs for licensing, and only one system was developed using Java. For internal collaboration, the municipal government uses Google cloud solutions. City officials mostly used open source software to reduce costs.
Planning: MXN 100,000.00
Engineering: MXN 50,000.00
Software development: MXN 400,000.00
ICT Infrastructure: MXN 3,251,966.00
Human resource: MXN 1,321,056.00
Training: MXN 100,000.00
Licensing: MXN 500,000.00
Security: MXN 400,000.00
Furniture and offices: MXN 120,000.00
Total estimated sum: MXN 6,743,022.00/ USD 337,151.10
Municipal funding was used to develop solutions, provide training, and secure employees’ salaries. Federal funding was used for ICT infrastructure and hardware.
The Mayor’s Office, the Municipal Comptroller, and the Director of Innovation and Electronic Government monitor the daily management indicators generated by the system in real time. Each month, a meeting is held to follow up on the most important aspects of the project and analyze the performance of the different areas of municipal government. Every three months, meetings are held with the city's advisory councils to follow up agreements, proposals, recommendations, complaints, and general matters. The project management indicators are also presented for monitoring and agreement by the Mayor every three months.
As of 2017, the municipal website has been visited over 1.2 million times. The Platform for Attention and Monitoring of Gender Violence has registered 234 complaints, each of which was thoroughly addressed by the municipal government. The Integral System of Relationship with Citizens (SIRC) has registered more than 168,431 requests by citizens, out of which 157,520 have been solved, indicating a 93.5% rate of completion. The Digital System of Procedures and Services (SDT) has eliminated redundant processes, and has reduced the number of procedures and services from 369 to 202. The system has received over 338,127 applications as of 2017. Within one month of the launch of the Employment Veracruz website, the website had 2,500 job offers and over 20,000 visits.
In regard to other channels of communication, the call center has served 141,036 citizens, the online chat system has served 29,549 citizens, and the municipality has received 2,878 emails with reports and requests. The VDC mobile app has been downloaded 8,750 times. The online tax collection portal has collected MXN 27,730,028.00, which makes up for 15% of the total municipal property tax. 215,000 students have applied for government scholarships online and 55,000 scholarships have been granted.
It is estimated that the project generates an annual saving in printing and stationery of over MXN 2 million. City officials performed a test to estimate how much it cost to submit a report and follow up, and they determined that each transaction cost citizens about MXN 160. When multiplying this by the number of applications received, it was estimated that the municipal government had saved more than MXN 26 million by making use of e-Government services. By making use of open source software, the government saves over MXN 4 million. Conservatively, the VDC project represents an annual savings of more than MXN 10 million.
The Integral System of Relationship with Citizens (SIRC) has been mentioned in u-GOB Magazine and NetMedia Magazine. In 2016, Comité de Informática de la Administración Pública Estatal y Municipal A.C. (CIAPEM) awarded VDC first place in the “technological innovation in municipalities” category of their I+T GOB Awards.
The project faced several difficulties during implementation. Some of the hardest obstacles to overcome were silo mentality within departments and citizens’ reluctance to use digital services. City officials provided extensive training for government employees to become acquainted with the use of new information and communication technologies. They also offered information sessions to parents and guardians of all schools, community leaders, and any other relevant authority figures.
In the future, Veracruz hopes to provide 100% of municipal services electronically, improve Wi-Fi connectivity across the city, create a website for local e-commerce, develop a virtual education portal, among others.
Recommendations for Transfer
From its implementation, VDC has produced amazing results that can be mostly attributed to their careful planning and implementation, including adopting ICT solutions to fit their own city context. The initiative put emphasis on developing citizen-centered solutions and working collaboratively with citizens. The citizen referendum portal and city-wide surveys gave city officials valuable insight on the needs and opinions of their citizens. Also, instead of getting rid of traditional citizen participation methods, they integrated them into the new initiative and updated them by using technology, such as in the case of the Integral System of Apple Chiefs.
An initiative of this scope requires a significant amount of seed capital and maintenance budget. However, cities with limited resources could cut costs by using open source software or using free collaborative tools such as Google Drive and Calendar. If possible, cities could apply for federal grants to finance some of their needs.
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