San Antonio Generates 206% ROI while Empowering Residents with Bilingual Self-Service Utility Assistance App

Highlights / Exec Summary:

  • City Managers' leadership fostered strategic partnerships, driving initiatives like the CivTech SA for civic improvement.
  • Kinetech's swift response to the city's challenge led to the development of a secure, mobile-first application within six weeks.
  • The utility assistance application introduced self-service functionality, eliminating manual paper processes.
  • Bilingual accessibility was ensured with the application available in both English and Spanish.
  • By removing barriers to apply, such as travel costs and lost wages, the city saw a significant increase in submissions.
  • The city processed over 13,000 applications in the first year alone, reflecting the impact of streamlined processes.
  • Processed 30% more applications with the same staff size
  • Citizens gained anytime, anywhere access to support services, enhancing accessibility and efficiency.
  • Kinetech continues to solve challenges with the City of San Antonio, building on the success of this transformative project.

About The City of San Antonio

Located in the heart of Texas, San Antonio is a vibrant city known for its rich cultural heritage, historic landmarks, and diverse community. As the second-largest city in the state home to nearly 1.5 million people, San Antonio has a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional charm. 

With a median age of 33.9 and a median household income of $55,084, San Antonio is a young and diverse city. Home to iconic sites such as the Alamo and the River Walk, the city attracts visitors from around the world.

CivTech SA - A Public Call for Local Technology Solutions for Problems Plaguing the City 

As City Manager of San Antonio (2005 - 2019), Sheryl Sculley spearheaded initiatives that significantly impacted the city's fiscal health, operational efficiency, and educational landscape. 

Notably, she played a pivotal role in bolstering the city's credit rating to a triple-A investment grade, resulting in substantial savings for San Antonians (via the interest the city has to pay when borrowing money). Moreover, Sculley championed public-private partnerships, particularly in STEM education and technology job creation, laying the groundwork for programs like CivTech SA. 

This innovative initiative, launched to address civic challenges using technology, has been instrumental in streamlining processes and improving lives. For instance, in its inaugural year, CivTech SA successfully tackled the inefficiencies of paper-based applications, enhancing the efficiency of the Department of Human Services in processing utility assistance requests for residents.

The Challenge:

To promote innovation within the city, Sheryl Sculley supported the CivTech San Antonio program aimed at leveraging technology to address municipal challenges. Kinetech seized the opportunity and applied for the challenges posed by the Solid Waste Management and Department of Human Services (DHS). Ultimately, Kinetech was selected by DHS.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP)

LiHEAP is a federally funded program targeted for individuals at or below the federal poverty line and it aims to provide financial relief in the form of utility payment assistance. 

The city faced a pressing need to streamline the support services, particularly for individuals in urgent situations such as utility disconnection threats. At the time, the process involved cumbersome paper applications and manual document review, often resulting in delays and communication hurdles. 

The introduction of technology aimed to alleviate these issues while adhering to budgetary constraints and legal requirements. Led by Edward Gonzales, the initiative sought innovative solutions from startups like Kinetech to modernize service delivery without introducing additional complications or delays.

The Solution: 

Kinetech knew this was a challenge that our expert team could solve. Agreeing to work with the team for a mere six weeks on a tight budget, the Kinetech team stood up a functional application that eliminated the manual paper processes of the past. Ultimately, Kinetech deployed a securely integrated mobile-first application dedicated to giving citizens access to electricity and water “utility” support. 

Applicants can securely authenticate, apply for support, and submit all necessary documentation, as well as view their application status. The application also includes automated notifications (when the status changes) plus the ability to use photos to upload documentation.  To support the widest population possible in their native language, the assistance solution is available in both English and Spanish. In a matter of weeks, The portal became entirely self-service, and significantly more accessible! 

Measuring the Cost to Apply:

At the time of deployment, the team did a little math to estimate the barrier to even applying. With the original processes citizens seeking support had to download the application from the website, print it, find their supporting documentation, and bring those documents to a physical location during work hours. To take bus fare, make copies, or simply get the gas to travel to the location, it might cost someone $20 just to do the application. This does not include the potential lost wages if someone needs to leave work early or miss a shift to make it to the office during work hours. When applying for assistance with utilities it is safe to assume that $20 could be better spent elsewhere. Should something be missing, the process would repeat. 

With the application Kinetech built, citizens can apply anytime, any day, and from anywhere. This eliminated time and costs for the person seeking assistance, allowing the City of San Antonio to help more people. The prior year, DHS had processed less than 7500 applications.  Initial estimates by staff were about 8000  submissions.  In the first year, the city did over 13,000. With the same staff size. 

This story is not only a tribute to the dedication of the City of San Antonio to its people, the expert GovCloud / low-code skills of the Kinetech team, and the scalability of the Mendix platform. But it goes beyond technology. It is a textbook Kinetech GovCloud case of working within constraints to do the right thing to help the most vulnerable. 

Kinetech is proud to have worked on this project and continues to solve challenges with the City of San Antonio from the roots this project sowed. 


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