ARTICLE

Harnessing mobility to move a city forward.

The City of Wichita is a leading-edge organization serving a dynamic and inclusive community. The team’s mission is to be an exceptionally well-run city.

The approach

Building a smart strategy.

Like many mid-sized cities around the U.S., Wichita, Kansas is in the midst of a technology renaissance. The city's IT leaders are rolling out technologies that are making their city more connected and more responsive to the people who live there.

And while they are using technology to solve hard problems, like reducing the amount of time city vehicles sit idling, they aren’t leading with technology. Instead, every idea must have a sound business case, meet a need in the community, or improve the city's quality of life before dollar-one is spent.

"We focus on business strategy,” says Wichita’s CIO Mike Mayta. “I'm not going to build a strategy around a specific technology. I'm going to build a strategy around what makes sense from a business perspective."

Even then, Wichita's IT department needs proof they aren’t wasting tax dollars chasing boondoggles. They start small, rolling out new technology in stages that begin with a short-term proof of concept, usually about 90 days.

If a trial is successful, Mayta’s team expands on that success, deploying technology in stages (design, deploy, decide) so they can use the resulting data to ascertain if what they expected to happen, actually happens. Nothing breeds success like success, so when they hit on a good idea, like loaning out 4G LTE hotspots to help families who don’t yet have reliable access to the internet, they leverage their technology partners to help.

“About 26 percent of Wichita homes do not have internet access,” says Mayta. “T-Mobile’s devices offer much needed coverage within buildings, and allow us to extend important protections as well, like filtering in line with the Child Internet Privacy Act.”

The partnership

Taking small risks to ensure success.

When the city's long-term partner, T-Mobile for Business, gets involved and plays a hands-on role by supplying the hardware and networking needed to get proof of concepts like hotspots off the ground, good things can happen much faster. And if they don't happen, then the city isn't left holding a bunch of expensive but useless equipment.

"T-Mobile for Business has been a good partner,” says Mayta. “They’ve given us the latitude to do some things that frankly, other vendors would not entertain. And to me, that's a distinction between being a vendor and being a partner."

Another good example of this partnership in action is when the city proposed providing law enforcement with tablets. There was enthusiasm for the idea but few assurances it would work as planned. To find out, T-Mobile for Business lent the city the tablets needed to pursue a trial. That turned out to be a good idea since, in the end, the idea didn't pan out.

"That's the piece I've always appreciated with T-Mobile for Business—they are in it with us as opposed to, ‘We'll supply you with whatever you need but it’s going to cost you’,” says Mayta.

Expanding the program

Using technology to enhance day-to-day programs and services.

Wichita is a hub for the aeronautics industry, and the area's engineers have high expectations for a digitally-driven, civic experience. The city needs to provide a great wireless experience in order to deploy technologies that enhance lifestyles, provide better services, and save money all at the same time.

The city fleet’s idle policy is a great example. Technology allows fleet managers to finally enforce a long-standing policy that city's cars and trucks should not be left idling, needlessly burning fuel and polluting the city's air. T-Mobile for Business’ fleet management solution will help achieve this goal, leveraging vehicle diagnostics to save what the city estimates to be between $80,000 and $160,000 on fuel and contract costs on an annual basis—resulting in better services at lower costs.

The city's public transit system is another area of focus. Sixty buses now have free, T-Mobile backed Wi-Fi. Not only will this help encourage ridership, ease traffic congestion, and cut down on carbon emissions and smog, it will allow the city to experiment with new types of ticketing systems that make it easier for people to pay. It all starts with a proven network deployed in the right places at the right times.

A similar program connects over 170 of the city's police cruisers to the internet, making sure officers get the vital information needed for today's law enforcement to be effective. As an example, moving data from license plate readers to the cruisers equipped with this technology helps quickly locate stolen or Amber Alert vehicles.

Next up on this ambitious agenda is getting the city ready for self-driving cars. It's no longer if, but when. Having an always on, always reliable next generation network will be critical.

"What we're really trying to focus on in 2019 is being ready, which requires us to take chances and lean into our partner relationships to try new things,” says Mayta. “People talk about doing stuff they don't ever actually get around to doing. So, we're really trying to focus on putting these things in place. Let's see what happens, and then use the data we get back to make decisions. That's our big thing-actually doing it. And we’re going to work with partners like T-Mobile for Business who are actually doing it too."




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