Maryland’s Montgomery County is the state’s most populous county. It borders Washington DC and has a population of about a million residents. It is also one of the most affluent counties in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau, Montgomery County is the 12th richest county in the nation with a median household income of $94,365 in 2013. It is also one of the most educated counties in the U.S. In 2012, the County was ranked first among large counties nationwide in educational attainment, with 30 percent of residents having earned an advanced degree.
As part of an open government initiative, the County passed legislation in 2012 to make County data accessible to the public and developed a digital government strategy to guide the County’s efforts to “deliver better services using modern tools and technologies.”
The County implemented a portal called openMontgomery that serves as a gateway to the County’s digital services. It consists of four portals:
- dataMontgomery provides direct access to published County data sets, which include employee salaries, cable inspections and complaints, residential and commercial building permits, hospitals, schools, fire stations, post offices, real property taxes and MC311, the County’s 311 system, requests. The data is available for viewing and can be sorted and downloaded. Datasets included in the dataMontgomery portal are also accessible on the Federal Government’s data.gov, where data can be compared with other jurisdictions such as Chicago and Baltimore and other states. Montgomery is the first county in the nation to be included on the cities.data.gov website.
- accessMontgomery provides access to digital services focused on government accountability, accessibility and transparency, such as MC311 as well as CountyStat, the metrics tracking system used to evaluate the performance of the County’s departments (Figure 3). The portal also includes links to internal audits, spending disclosures, contracts, open solicitations, budgets, and free Wi-Fi locations throughout the County.
- engageMontgomery is a social media platform that serves as “an informal online Town Hall Meeting or a place where people can share ideas on ways to improve the community” (Figure 4). engageMontgomery is based on MindMixer’s MySidewalk online engagement platform. Users, who are required to sign up for an account, are encouraged to offer ideas, support ideas they like from others, and provide feedback to the County on various topics such as the kinds of books that the Library Department should purchase for its collection, or funding priorities (Figure 4). To reward participation, users are awarded points for signing up, for good ideas, and when others support their ideas. Points can be “cashed in” for various prizes such as a free round of golf at a County golf course, a home security evaluation by a County police officer and a story time and tour for children at a County library.
- mobileMontgomery lists the County’s mobile apps – that can be used anytime and anywhere – such as MC311, Transportation’s Storm Operations, County Libraries’ BookMyne, Crime Reports and RideOn Bus System Real Time, with directions on how to download or bookmark them (Figure 5).
The Public Technology Institute awarded openMontgomery its 2013 Technology Solutions award for “its use of technology to not only effect government performance and service delivery, but to also improve the way the community can interact with government.” The County was also ranked number #1 in the nation in the 2013 Digital Counties Survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government in conjunction with the National Association of Counties.