OpenCities: The Digital Gateway to a Better Citizen Experience

Cynthia Francis, COO
Digital transformation in the public sector should not just be about technology; it must include process improvements that focus on effective citizen engagement and deliver a better user experience for everyone. Historically, government website redesigns have focused exclusively on technology or cosmetic homepage improvements for the site, rather than considering critical citizen engagement and feedback in the process. The result was government pushing information from the city to the community via a website that was often difficult to update and maintain, and not easily searchable, mobile responsive, or transactional. One such example among many cities and counties was the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan. City residents expected to walk in to City Hall or talk to a customer service person on the telephone to resolve their issues or to request services from the city. The transactions they needed to complete; like starting water service, reserving a venue; paying parking tickets and property tax were limited on their city website and often required printing out a form and then mailing or faxing it back to the city. City staff was on the lookout for a solution that would help them reduce these costly walk-ins and telephone calls in favor of providing these same services via their website.

This is when OpenCities, Inc—a company that empowers local governments to deliver exceptional digital services through a feature-rich Citizen Engagement platform—entered the picture. OpenCities helped Grand Rapids reduce the number of walk-ins on key services by nearly 79 percent within the first 11 weeks of launching their website.

Governments can be hesitant to use new technologies as they take a long time to implement and the effort required to maintain and train staff is arduous. “The OpenCities solution and tools are all user tested and intuitive, helping governments during the adoption as well as after launch,” says Cynthia Francis, COO at OpenCities.

OpenCities’ SaaS-based Citizen Engagement Solution consists of three elements that can be procured individually or as an integrated solution.

OpenCities delivers transactional websites that help people achieve the outcomes they want and need from their local government

First, OpenCities CMS is a solution that powers websites for local governments and state-level departments. The platform draws on over 10 years of experience building local government websites, and provides a best-practices approach to creating and maintaining municipal websites. This includes data driven features such as predictive search and prioritized top tasks, and structured content pages for common government assets such as parks, news and events, elected officials and meetings.

OpenForms is the company’s digital forms builder, with a feature-rich UI complete with drag-and-drop building blocks to add sections or features and build responsive forms with complex logic, calculations, digital signatures, and payments. “Our websites are focused on creating digital service pages that are descriptive and help people understand how to get the outcomes they want in a step-by-step manner,” says Francis. "By coupling these pages with clear yet powerful digital forms, a government can guide users through complex processes and help them complete the entire transaction online in a fraction of the time.”

The company also provides an Intranet solution for government staff. Digital Workplace is a secure intranet solution, and like all OpenCities products it is hosted on Microsoft AzureGov.

The company was founded in Australia in 2008, and opened the US offices in San Francisco in 2016 and Kansas City in 2018. For OpenCities, the future looks promising as they continue growing in the U.S. by helping government clients deliver exceptional engagement and digital services to their residents.


San Francisco, CA

Cynthia Francis, COO

As a citizen engagement platform, OpenCities empowers local governments to create better web, intranet, and online service experiences that last. Opencities mission is to help governments of all shapes and sizes transform how they serve their communities, and make it easy for every citizen—no matter their situation or ability—to connect with their city. The enterprise offers websites, intranets, and forms. With the website solution, the clients can launch modern, easy-to-use websites that always evolve to put the needs of their community at the center. The enterprise’s intranet offering delivers a useful, up-to-date intranet that brings together the internal content, teams, and processes. Furthermore, the forms solution offers transforming static PDFs into simple, interactive online forms & services anyone can complete within minutes