City digital services index in Israel
The proliferation of digital technologies has revolutionized government services across the world. In many cases, digital services to residents and businesses was a starting point for many smart city initiatives across the globe. The Israeli government, recognizing the need for a comprehensive national digital policy back in 2013i, established the Digital Israel Bureau (within the Ministry for Social Equality) to accelerate economic growth, reduce socio-economic gaps, and make government services smarter, faster, and more accessible.ii
One of the key initiatives under the National Digital Program was to build the foundational architecture for a national digital index. The index could help the state of Israel measure progress against each of the three goals set by the National Digital Program. Such a measurement can also help identify gaps and take necessary policy actions to drive progress in each area. The Digital Bureau along with the national ICT Authority is currently developing the national index and continues to refine it.iii
However, while the national digital index is intended to measure the efficacy of federal or national digital services, Israel still lacked an index that could measure digital services available locally. Hence, a local digital index was conceived to benchmark basic digital services at a decentralized level—across 254 cities and municipalities. The driving factor for this initiative was the varying level of digital maturity observed in different municipalities.iv As cities continued their march toward becoming truly smart, they needed to understand where they stood in comparison to their peers.v
The local digital index project, called “digilocally,” started collecting data for all 254 Israeli local authorities.vi, vii The data was grouped into 25 indicators, each indicator further classified under three categories—digital services for citizens, digital services for businesses, and ease of accessibility of these services. The digital services for citizens indicators were given the most weight of 60 percent, followed by 30 and 10 percent to digital services for businesses and accessibility categories, respectively.viii
The purpose of the exercise was to examine the digital services offered on websites of all the local authorities in Israel, including things such as how to register kids in schools, how to pay for parking tickets, how to pay for utility bills, and how to apply for a business license. The ease of accessibility indicators focused on whether the websites had a search option, whether they were mobile-optimized and accessible to the differently abled, and whether the municipality had a mobile app.
The digilocally index for municipalities was launched in January 2018 and was made available through an open public microsite. It enables municipalities to compare their rankings and explore categories and sub-categories to identify areas where they have fared well or poorly. In addition to the self- assessment and benchmarking capabilities, the exercise also highlighted some interesting insights. For instance, 96 percent of the municipalities operated a website, 74 percent operated Facebook pages, 51 percent facilitated online kindergarten registrations, only 31 percent had a special dedicated section on their websites for businesses, 28 percent supported online parking ticket payment, and only 9 percent had an online queue management system.ix
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were among the leading municipalities in terms of the index score. For instance, Jerusalem’s high score was a reflection of its quality of online services in the areas of municipal property tax, payment of parking tickets and requests for parking tags, contact options via the website, access to resident files, and registration to educational institutions. The municipality also enabled businesses to explore information online regarding starting a business, checking the status of a business license, and applying for a business license.x
The index serves as a benchmarking tool that municipalities can use to compare their digital services. Many municipalities have used the index for improving digital services for their citizens. For instance, the municipality of Ramat Hasharon, located in central Israel, with more than 46,000 residents, used the index to lead the highest improvement in its score, from 46 to 88. The national average has been 43.xi
In another example, the CIO for the city of Raanana used the digital services index to create a unique personalized heat map that takes the index a step further and maps all digital services in the municipality as well as areas that need improvement. Using the index as a starting point, the city built a working plan to develop digital capabilities further. Raanana’s final score changed from 80 to 87, which pushed the city into the top 10 list in terms of the index score.xii
Since the launch, the index has been well-received by local governments and citizens. And there are plans for further expansion, which include adding more indicators to increase its breadth and depth and to develop a more robust scoring system. The version 2.0 of the index plans to include planning and construction services for both citizens and businesses, while the version 3.0 plans to delve deeper into the internal digital processes and infrastructure of the local authorities and allow municipalities to assess the quality of service provided to citizens and businesses.