CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
The open source battle wages on into the 2010s as city administrators and IT directors argue for and against its use in government. Some recent developments, including an initiative called Civic Commons, are spurring continued discussion about open source as an option for cash-strapped cities. The arguments are certainly compelling: greater sharing of data between municipalities, greater access to mission-critical technologies and applications, and reducing the costs of proprietary technology. This article from the Huffington Post summarizes some of open source’s and open government’s best attributes.

However, why has open source not caught on to the extent predicted in the early 2000s? Is it really “free”? One problem with an open source approach is that it’s easy to be a consumer where a city can leverage what someone else has written. It’s harder to be a producer of open source. How does a city or company justify the costs of creating something that is then shared freely with others?

Cities, organizations, or companies can save money by using open source because they won’t have to pay for software licensing fees. However, custom integration work may still be needed between the open source applications and the cities’ existing systems. Open source sounds good in theory, but any cost savings depends on the quality of the open source application and how well it meets the city’s requirements. Free doesn’t always mean free.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Dave Mims, President
GMA Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade Golf Tournament
 
Sophicity was a sponsor for the 3rd Annual Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade Golf Tournament held September 13, 2010 in Dublin at the beautiful Riverview Park Golf Course. The proceeds from the tournament will go toward the Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade charity event in December.
 
Despite the help of more seasoned golfers Ken Sakmar (Budget and Accounting Manager, City of Duluth) and Patrick Dale (Director of Information Technology, City of Roswell), and improving our score by 15 strokes over last year (and 41 strokes over the year before!), the Sophicity team of Dave Mims and Kevin Howarth still weighed down our foursome which finished last again! However, even with our slow trek and erratic path through the eighteen holes, it was a beautiful day, we left the course with all of our clubs intact, and all of the teams were sponsoring a great cause.
 
Every year, the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade provides gifts during the holidays for patients at Georgia's mental health and retardation hospitals. The golf tournament is essential for raising money for the Motorcade, and Sophicity proudly supports GMA’s efforts to help Georgia’s less fortunate during the holiday season.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
It's been quite clear for some time that cities are hurting. Revenues from income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and other sources are down. If business (especially small business) is hurting, then cities are hurting. That means cutting budgets, staff, and even the essentials of city operations is commonplace.

This article from PM Magazine is astute in its crystal clear analysis of the difficult times in which municipalities find themselves, but there are opportunities to leverage IT for particular needs going into the 2010s. Certain technologies are maturing (e.g. cloud computing), costs have lowered and become predictable, and needs have arisen (e.g. social media) that have created the perfect storm to revolutionize three areas in particular: citizen engagement, location-specific services, and software and hardware of local government.
 
While Sophicity will continue reaching out to municipalities to share our ideas about these particular areas, it is hopeful to note that hard times sometimes become the best times for reevaluating needs, challenging current ways of doing business, and exploring new ways of better servicing citizens.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

To imagine the future of cities, it might seem like a pipe dream to simply build a test city as a lab experiment. That's exactly what Kitson & Partners is doing in Florida by building the “world's most sustainable city.” All major city services are connected via cloud technology, and city administrators will be able to oversee all of their job functions from an easy-to-use dashboard. The city also harnesses solar energy and a smart grid to keep costs low and increase energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, this future is not so futuristic in the city of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada. They are implementing two broadband networks and improving the communications infrastructure for public safety. As the article states, “[The city] has requests out for proposals to create a pair of broadband networks, one of which will serve the public by giving it anytime, anywhere access to public services and information wirelessly. The other will be dedicated to public safety. Everything from hand-held police radios to cameras in traffic lights will be connected wirelessly.”

While these examples represent where cities are headed in the next 10-30 years, there are a few items city administrators can be thinking about now:
  1. Harnessing cloud computing to increase efficiency
  2. Modernizing IT infrastructure to increase the capabilities and options of servicing citizens in (cost-)efficient ways
  3. Reducing IT energy costs by use of a few simple tips
 
Friday, September 10, 2010
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
Cities everywhere are understanding the urgent need to have websites that help economic development initiatives in attracting businesses and residents to their communities. As cities evaluate features and options, it sometimes helps to learn from the best. The recent e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government's 2010 Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards honored ten cities in its city portal category, including first place (Boston, Mass.), second place (Louisville Metro Government, Ky.), third place (Fort Collins, Colo.), fourth place (Castle Rock, Colo.), fifth place (Coralville, Iowa), and finalists Chicago, Ill., Corpus Christi, Texas, Riverside, Calif., Rochester, N.Y., and San Diego, Calif.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
During the past few years, we've seen a trend in cities exploring more robust citizen relationship management (CRM) solutions. Due to pressure from the federal government and increasing citizen demands for transparency in an Internet and social media driven world, cities are taking steps to evaluate and implement CRM solutions that meet these demands. As this article from American City and County argues, cities may be unnecessarily limiting their view of how CRM can assist their operations. The article includes 5 ways that CRM can be utilized beyond just managing citizen requests.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastrucutre Practice Manager
Started last year, Power IT Down Day is a program to drive awareness of energy conservation in the Government IT sector. The premise is simple: at the end of the day, turn of unneeded workstations, monitors, printers and other devices. The energy savings can add up quick, especially if left on over an entire weekend. So if you’re leaving the office to enjoy the weekend, make sure you turn off all of your IT equipment and save your city a bit of money. In fact, if everyone at your city did it, it could end up saving the city a lot of money. Just make sure you leave your servers on!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastrucutre Practice Manager
As a follow up to my last post about Nashville's IT woes, I want to point you to another GovTech article that walks government folks through creating an IT security plan. This is exactly the kind of thing that we work on with our customers – creating a citywide, comprehensive IT security plan that covers all areas of the IT infrastructure from laptop policies to theft prevention. City’s store a lot of sensitive data and do a tremendous amount of business with money, yet often they lack the kind of policies needed to adequately protect these areas. GovTech gives you a great place to start if you’re looking to implement such policies at your city.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastrucutre Practice Manager
GovTech is running an interview with Nashville’s Technology Chief Keith Durbin about how the city has learned from the mistakes of its numerous security breaches. Durbin primarily focuses his thoughts around how the lack of robust IT security policies led to most of the breaches. Whether it’s a misplaced thumb drive or a stolen laptop, without encryption and security policies in place, vast amounts of citizen data can be leaked. Unfortunately for Nashville, they had to learn the hard way and suffer the negative media attention. But you don’t have to. Read over the article, learn from it, and begin putting IT security policies in place right now to prevent this sort of thing from happening at your city.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
The conventions keep on coming. Join Tim and I at the Florida League of Cities Annual Conference in Hollywood, FL next week! If you are planning to attend, drop by Booth 24 and let us know what’s on your mind. Conventions are fun but staying at an awesome hotel on the beach makes them even better!
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