San Jose named most innovative US city

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) —  A South Bay city is being recognized as the most innovative in the nation in 2020. 

Last week, the Center for Digital Government announced the city of San Jose was named the nation’s most innovative local government. 

Now in its 20th year, the annual Digital Cities Survey recognizes how cities use technology to address issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic while continuing strategic initiatives to enhance services. 

“I am grateful that so many bright people have a passion for public service and for this work around innovation that have really brought us to this point as a city,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“We have an incredible team of really smart folks, a lot of long-standing city employees who have been desperate to have this opportunity to be able to leverage data, analytics, and technology in new ways to improve services,” he added.

Back in 2016, the city launched the Smart City Vision back in an effort to make San Jose the most innovative city in the country by 2020. 

The Smart City Vision to help San Jose become a global leader for civic innovation was defined by a series of core values and goals that influence transformative, user-centric technology to benefit the community. 

This year marks the city of San Jose’s fourth consecutive year placing in the survey’s top ten and its first top finish. 

“I never thought the time given our shortage of resources and the challenges we had that we could really get there so quickly,” said Liccardo. “We’ve been able to scale these and other efforts during this pandemic because we got a lot of bright folks at city hall working hard to leverage these tools and in particular in technology.” 

The overall innovation strategy for the city has been through a collaborative effort between the mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI), the Civic Innovation Team led by Dolan Beckel, and the city’s IT Department led by Rob Lloyd. 

In addition, other external partnerships with companies like AT&T were made possible through the work of Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness. 

MOTI was founded by Shireen Santosham and recently taken over by Jordan Sun in late July. 

“We’ve had at this point three crises if not more thrown on our plate and it’s been a really tremendous honor to have the opportunity to serve the city of San Jose,” said Sun.

“It is a collective city effort with the City Manager’s office and folks inside that department,” Sun added. 

“In a tech innovation role the best thing you can do in a crisis response is one, really be more attentive to the situation that is in your operating environment and two figure out what your tool kits are to respond to those situations.”

Among the city’s initiatives is the expansion of digital equity through public-private partnerships — in an effort to bridge the digital divide in San Jose through a Digital Inclusion Fund. 

The Digital Inclusion Fund aims to connect 50,000 San Jose households with universal device access and universal connectivity. 

In addition, the city has also created a “green” device donation program and is currently on pace to connect over 300,000 San Joseans to broadband by 2022. 

“It’s really about being smart and trying to be more responsive through the digital tools that we have,” said Sun. “I actually came back from a deployment to Afghanistan and was asked to start immediately … it’s interesting for some folks who have started new roles during the pandemic working virtually.”

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