CitySmart Blog

Friday, June 18, 2010
Dave Mims, President
We’ve discussed IT outsourcing before and even given a few examples of how it can go horribly wrong. But it doesn’t always have to end badly. Gov Tech looks into how San Diego took its IT outsourcing woes and turned them around into a model of a hybrid approach.

After things started to go poorly on the service contract, the city worked closely with its vendor to better define communications, ensured that the contract was clear in its divisions of power, and put staff in place to act as liaisons between the city and the vendor.

In the end service dramatically improved and now other cities are looking to San Diego as a model example of how to do it right. This is something we’re very serious about: the hybrid approach to IT outsourcing is the best way to ensure that both parties have the tools to do a top notch job. If the vendor has no buy in from the city or if the city gives the vendor free reign, that’s when problem arise. The solution is to strike a happy medium between decision making and service delivery.

Friday, June 18, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
As many cities search for ways to trim their budgets one area that getting a lot of attention is energy savings. This week in Omaha, city officials from all of the country met to discuss ways that city’s can reduce their energy consumption. Topics ranged from updating buildings to swapping out street lights and, of course, IT energy use.

One of the best ways for cities to cut their IT costs for energy is simple: reduce the number of active physical servers. Servers consume a lot of energy and produce a lot of heat which require AC to work harder to cool the server room. By looking into consolidation and virtualization technologies cites can dramatically reduce their energy consumption both via the servers themselves and in cooling costs. For larger cities with 10s or even hundreds of servers, these projects can save millions off the energy bill and will more than pay for the cost of implementation. When it comes to energy efficiency, you’ve got to spend money to save money.

Friday, June 11, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing
If you need further evidence that governments the world over are leveraging Twitter to communicate with their citizens, look no further than Twitter itself. The company announced this week that it is hiring its first government liaison. The position will be based in D.C. and the company is looking for someone that can help them better understand the needs of government and how they might better use Twitter to communicate with citizens. This is an important move for Twitter as it signifies that they are serious about tackling the needs of the government space and moving beyond their traditional sweet spots.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing
If you live in the Tallahassee area you might want to check out the “Getting it Right: Customer Service and Citizen Engagement” event being put on by Governing magazine and Adobe. Speakers John Miri (Center for Digital Government) and Josh Van Tonder (Adobe) will discuss what governments are doing to increase citizen engagement while reducing the costs of communication. The event is on Tuesday, July 13 at 8:00 am.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing
Is your city grappling with issues of social media policies and do’s and don’ts? Check out this great website put together by April Edmonds of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She is responsible for the agency’s use of Twitter and Facebook to communicate with hunters, fishers, and other people interested in Florida’s wildlife and game. She’s learned a few lessons along the way and she’s opened up for any government agency to share and collaborate. If you need a primer on proper Twitter etiquette and Facebook rules, this is the website for you.
Friday, June 04, 2010
Dave Mims, President
Lately we’ve been looking at how mobile apps are making the jump into the mobile space but a new Bloomberg piece suggests that it might just be the next internet boom. From open data initiatives to app contests and 311 improvements, private sector companies are lining up to help transition government entities into the modern business world and perhaps even give them an industry of their own. It might a bit early yet to call this the next internet boom but its certainly going spark a lot of innovation and improvement in the sector. I happen to know a company that might be able to help. ;)
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
While backing up your data is an important first step forwards data security what is possible more important is how that data is backed up. It might seem like a simple cost effective solution to back up data on a CD or a thumbdrive and store it in a safe. However, anytime your putting data on a physical object it is subject to the limitations of physical world, namely being lost or destroyed.

This is a lesson that Charlotte, NC recently learned when its vendor lost a year’s worth of employee health insurance data containing social security numbers due to misplaced DVD. To further the damage, the information on the discs was not even encrypted. This represents a huge danger to data security.

The Lesson? If you are backing up data, make sure it is backed up to multiple secure places (offsite and onsite) and that it is encrypted so even in the event of theft the data is nearly useless.

Friday, May 28, 2010
Dave Mims, President
Governing is running a great article about the black eyes that outsourced government IT has received over the past few years, especially in Virginia and Texas. Its great read because it espouses and important fact that we are committed to here at Sophicity: a hybrid approach is the best method for outsourcing your IT. In places where a vendor had complete control, the projects did not often go well. The key is having both government departments and the vendor working in lock step to create an IT infrastructure that efficiency supports the city. We’d much rather be in touch with city staff on the ground then trying to run the whole thing ourselves. To trot out a platitude, it’s a real team effort. Check out the article if you’re thinking of completely outsourcing the IT at your city.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
This month we wrote about government mobile apps and Governing has a great companion piece on what DC is doing for the Government App Explosion. They’ve held an app contest, but that’s nothing new. What they want to do now is expose more of their operations to the public in hopes that app developers will come up with ways to actually improve the operating efficiency of the government. Releasing pubic data is one thing, but releasing operational data will be a whole new era of transparency. I’ll be very interested to see what they come up with as this is a challenge we at Sophicity face every day – how to make our government clients more efficient.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Dave Mims, President
Google recently commissioned a study to look at citizen opinion on how government should be spending on technology. With the economic downturn, many cities might be thinking to cutting back on their technology spending, but Google’s data shows that a choice like that might not ring too well with the constituency. The study found that 70 percent believed that the government should use ‘the computer power and expertise of private companies to improve information technology departments in government agencies’ and 75 percent said they support spending on "quicker and more efficient e-mail systems" to increase productivity. That represents a significant portion of the voting population and it shows that most people understand that while technology can be expensive, it can save governments far more money than it costs.
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