A new digital services team will join the government of South Bend, Indiana, next year to help establish “one-stop shop” for residents to access services both digitally and in-person, officials announced this week.
The new team is part of the northern Indiana city’s push for both digital and offline user-friendly solutions that assist residents in interacting with South Bend’s services, said city Chief Innovation Officer Denise Riedl. A physical “one-stop-shop” will be located near South Bend’s new city hall, Riedl said. The new team, meanwhile, will launch digital services, automate business processes and support customer service requests, she said.
“A lot of what we’re trying to build is just not only an in-person space with the new city hall, but a digital place that is intuitive and user-friendly for people to interact with their city,” Riedl told the Smart Cities Connect fall conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.
Riedl told StateScoop the new team builds on work that was already underway by her team at Department of Innovation and Technology. She cited a user testing program that helped to make city’s processes and services “better and more user-centric.” She said that work highlighted the need for a program to unify in-person and digital services.
“I’ve centralized the frontline customer service workers under innovation and technology to start the slow evolution of what that will look like — [for example] incorporating more automation and AI,” Riedl said. “This is the perfect moment to start that journey because of external circumstances.”
Riedl said that the new team will be “home for a lot of opportunities we see rising across cities and the industry,” such as automating processes for the city’s business, human resources and legal teams.
She said the new team is now in “hiring mode” after working with U.S. Digital Response, a nonprofit civic tech group that aids government agencies in improving their digital services.
“Everyone always underestimates how much time and energy it takes to hire people properly,” she said. “We’re never going to be totally digital. We’re always going to have residents that either want to or have to engage with us offline. They have to make payments in person, they have to make payments in cash, we have to accommodate that. If we’re only thinking about user-friendly digital, we’re not thinking about user-friendly in as broad of a way that we need to in the city.”