The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations of every stripe to rethink the way they do business, and the City of Victoria is no exception. As social distancing recommendations have guided us to limit the number of people in City-owned buildings, we’ve adapted with one goal in mind: to provide the same level of service even if the way we provide it looks different.
Although City facilities have reopened to the public after temporarily closing earlier this year, we continue to see a need to use technology to keep people connected. By providing accommodations for employees and residents alike, we’re able to ensure that the City can continue serving the public in a safe and efficient manner.
One way that we’re promoting safety is by transitioning some of our employees to working from home. We’ve used our resources efficiently to furnish devices where needed, and we’ve worked to provide employees with consistent access to the files and software they need to do their jobs. This has allowed many employees to continue working from home even as City offices have reopened, limiting exposure for themselves and members of the public.
One of the more visible examples of the City’s shift to remote technology is the new virtual format for our City Council meetings. For years we’ve provided the option to watch City Council meetings remotely through Vtv15 (www.victoriatx.gov/vtv15). Since we’ve shifted to a virtual format, conducting the meetings through Zoom has allowed us, for the first time, to allow residents to comment remotely during a meeting. My department collaborates with Communications & Public Affairs to record and transmit the City Council meetings, and during the transition, we’ve worked together to ensure that the end product is something Communications can use and post on multiple platforms to allow for greater accessibility.
The process of adapting City services has involved identifying each City department’s needs and determining how to use technology to meet those needs. For example, when Municipal Court officials wanted to host virtual dockets, I helped them understand the options that were available to us. The rollout of the E-Court option has been so successful that Municipal Court is likely to continue offering it post-pandemic as a convenient alternative to in-person appearances.
Our society’s response to COVID-19 has set a new precedent for what can and can’t be done remotely. Even after people in Victoria and elsewhere can gather safely again, they’re likely to ask themselves if it would be more convenient to access certain things virtually. Similarly, organizations that have adapted to remote work may continue to offer this option to their employees. Regardless of how the City of Victoria operates during the pandemic and beyond, we will continue to seek out the best possible solutions for our employees and for the people we serve.
James Foote is the director of Information Technology for the City of Victoria.
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