The innovative ways Wake County has continued to serve its 1.1 million residents during the COVID-19 pandemic are key reasons why the county earned top honors in this year’s Digital Counties Survey.
Out of all the counties across the nation with more than 1 million residents, Wake County placed in the top 10 for the ninth year in a row. The survey is conducted by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties.
Where having the latest technology previously made life easier for county staff and residents, this year, it proved essential.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly forced the world to go virtual this spring, the investments we’ve been making in technology for years paid major dividends,” said Vickie Adamson, vice chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “Through skill, hard work and innovative thinking, our Information Services Department kept the county running during this unprecedented time.”
Since moving to virtual work in mid-March, Wake County has about 2,500 employees working remotely. That transition went smoothly thanks, in part, to upgrades made last year to network storage, firewalls and internet bandwidth, which laid the foundation for employees to work securely from home over encrypted virtual private network connections.
Keeping Residents Connected with County Services
Wake County also hustled to create virtual versions of the services residents count on. The Register of Deeds Office eliminated the need for in-person visits, and Wake County Public Libraries added a Books on the Go program that provides contact-free access to library books.
To help residents pass the time at home, Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces launched a Parks from Home program, and the libraries have produced Storytime Anytime, which offers programs for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, families and bilingual audiences.
To keep the public up to date with the latest guidance and information about the coronavirus, Wake County built a dedicated website about the pandemic at wakegov.com/covid19. The site includes a dashboard tracking the spread of the virus, registration for free drive-thru testing, links to relief programs for businesses and residents, and more.
“COVID-19 forced us to re-envision the way we serve our residents,” said Bill Greeves, Wake County’s chief information and innovation officer. “I am so proud of the creativity and flexibility our staff has shown in developing virtual versions of the programs Wake County residents know and love.”
The Digital Counties Survey honors leading counties for programs that encourage government innovation and improved services to residents. Among counties with more than 1 million residents, Wake County ranked second only to Los Angeles County, Calif., the most populous county in the nation with more than 10 million residents.