With the coronavirus pandemic forcing many people to work from home, Controller Ron Galperin released a report Wednesday that calls for Los Angeles to expand online and remote services.

Galperin’s report, titled “A Stronger Connection: Expanding Digital Government Services,” notes the city has already adapted by hosting virtual meetings to facilitate public hearings and a telemedicine pilot program to reduce ambulance dispatches. But much more can be done, he said.

“People expect high-quality services to be delivered with as much ease and efficiency as possible,” Galperin said. “This is especially true and necessary during a worldwide health crisis, and necessity is so often the mother of invention. In this unique moment, Los Angeles has the opportunity to step up and be a leader in providing high-quality digital government services, an effort that must be guided by a clear and comprehensive strategy that benefits all Angelenos.”

City services are traditionally delivered in person, a necessity for trash pick-up and street repair, but not in other areas, Galperin said.

The city controller said Los Angeles has substantial room to improve its digital service delivery, arguing that in-person services reliant on paper should be made digital to bolster efficiency, enhance the customer service experience and improve civic engagement.

Galperin said there is no overarching city strategy to enhance digital service delivery, which has resulted in a “disjointed approach across departments.”

For example, permits can be obtained online from the Department of Building and Safety, but many projects like commercial renovations require permits from up to seven additional departments, all of which have different permitting processes and payment schemes.

Also analyzed in the report is the city’s expanded telework program, which began with 30 employees before COVID-19 and swelled to more than 10,000 by March 19 due to pandemic safety concerns, the controller said.

Galperin cited a survey recently conducted by the city’s Personnel Department, which found that more than 90% of city employees and their supervisors believed that their productivity had either stayed the same or increased since they started working from home, which tracks with public and private sector experiences, including the federal government’s workforce.

Los Angeles would benefit from creating a digital services strategy that includes the city’s vision, objectives and plan for providing digital services to the public, which could be drafted by a working group or committee, the controller said.

The city could also benefit from adopting a framework to support telework as a viable city workforce strategy across all departments where possible, Galperin said.

The report and more can be found at lacontroller.com/digitalservices or lacontroller.org/audits-and-reports/digitalservices/.

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