Digital Transformation in Raleigh, North Carolina

Bigbelly Raleigh Streetscape

Raleigh, the capital city for North Carolina, is home to over 450,000 residents, thousands of students at the local universities, and businesses in proximity to the notable Research Triangle Park area. As a community on the forefront of innovation, Raleigh’s municipal leaders have prioritized adoption of a digital transformation with a multifaceted strategy. This city has been using Bigbelly smart waste management solutions to modernize their core city service of trash bin collections in public spaces – reaping significant benefits in resource savings and creating clear spaces, all while implementing the city’s first widespread recycling program.

The city’s CIO, Darnell Smith, recently spoke at the North Carolina Digital Government Summit. GovTech published a post-event recap in the article ‘Raleigh CIO: Strategy Helps Drive Digital Transformation‘ that describes how this city and its leadership is pursuing digitization of its city services and infrastructure for the betterment of community engagement and ease of delivery. Read on for some of our favorite highlights:

North Carolina’s burgeoning capital city is ahead of schedule on its digital transformation, which is guided by a multifaceted IT strategy, its technology leader said recently. So far [Raleigh’s] digital transformation has outstripped predictions, [CIO Darnell Smith] said. In 2016, the city’s percentage of business that was digital was 27 percent, predicted to rise to 33 percent by 2019. But, Raleigh has already taken 47 percent of its business digital and may reach 55 percent by next year — a bar initially set for 2021. […] Source

Raleigh’s ongoing IT modernization is empowered by a five-part strategy that begins with the idea of focused enterpriseboosting efficiency and automation through tech, engagement, measuring service and achieving a “clarity of demand,” the CIO said. […] The city’s IT strategy also includes engaged community, the idea that the incoming customer or resident has a good experience. […] Source

Understanding the data, understanding what metrics they need to build in the right dashboards, so that people can make decisions with real-time data, it’s a process, but everybody is fully engaged,” Smith said. “There is a need for data now like a person in the desert that needs water. And so, it is us making sure the data is there and available in a way with our VI [visual insight] tools,” he added in an interview, describing Raleigh’s efforts on integrating data as “early in the journey.” Source


The concept of a multi-faceted smart city strategy is critical in order to create a sustainable digital transformation. Look at the big picture and evaluate how all stakeholders across a municipality and community are impacted by a digital change – be it how citizens appreciate cleaner surroundings with a different trash bins and digitally report 311 complaints, how operation departments handle collections of those smart trash bins and digital tickets, and how city leadership leverages data and meaningful metrics in an enterprise city dashboard.

The meaningful adoption of smart city technologies is best implemented at this enterprise scale rather than departmental silos for the sake of real-time, data-backed decision making. It is clear that Raleigh has been a longtime advocate for technology that makes their operations smarter, automated, and more efficient. 

[CIO Darnell Smith] pointed out Raleigh’s [smart city] effort has been underway for years. It has examined Bigbelly smart, solar-powered trash cans that monitor refuse levels, Soofa solar cellphone charging stations downtown, and wireless Internet at its community centers through an AT&T partnership. The city is also building a mobile app to drill down on the downtown parking situation, and now has a live help ticket feed through its Cityworks back-end system, to push its pothole filling process in real-time. Source

Since 2016, Raleigh has been ‘eliminating wasted resources’ by using the Bigbelly smart waste system in their public spaces. After a successful pilot program that reduced the City’s cost for trash pickup in public areas and promoting a cleaner downtown, the city continued expanding their fleet. Their success experienced in their pilot program continued as the smart infrastructure scaled across the city’s busy downtown and less trafficked outlying parks. Over 100 smart components can be found throughout the city and have created a more efficient waste management operation in Raleigh’s public spaces – reducing collection frequency from an average of 12-13 pick ups per week down to only 1-2 pick-up per week.


“The Bigbelly units have helped the City save money and made Downtown much neater by eliminating a lot of wind-blown trash from the open-top cans,” said City of Raleigh Solid Waste Services Assistant Director Phillip White. “You can’t ask for much more than that.” (Source: City of Raleigh Website)


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