WASHINGTON, D.C. — To make government in the nation’s capital more efficient, Archana Vemulapalli, Washington D.C.’s chief technology officer, invites private sector tech companies to collaborate directly with various district departments.
She told StateScoop after the district’s second Demo Day last month that she got the idea from her SmarterDC team. They would meet to discuss problems they needed to solve and always had questions they felt the private sector could answer.
The Demo Days also give tech companies servicing local governments the chance to share their ideas directly in a collaborative setting.
This is not about us buying. We may buy, but that’s not the point. This is about learning and understanding what is out there,” said Vemulapalli.
At the recent Demo Day, several firms working on everything from transportation-related technology to software focused on public safety participated. Vemulapalli invited local academic institutions and various business improvement districts to get their insights on possible civic technologies they would be using if implemented.
Vemulapalli asked her PA 2040 team to discuss the hybrid video and sensor technologies they are using to help the city monitor Pennsylvania Avenue through miles of lampposts. That team, which includes staff from the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the National Capital Planning Commission and George Washington University, designed a streetlight that detects incidences like automobile accidents and increased pedestrian traffic. The goal is that the smart lampposts might increase the district’s emergency response times, reduce energy consumption and optimize city operations and maintenance crews. In the future, they might enable smart parking on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The district’s Demo Days are an opportunity to accelerate a city’s study of new technologies and increase the rate at which cities pilot test.
You want to plan and quickly try out stuff, and where it’s feasible, roll it out, test it out, and if it works, you learn so much more,” Vemulapalli said. “Sometimes you get them right and sometimes you figure it out, you have to keep going and that’s what keeps people engaged and motivated.”