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CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
This article about San Francisco’s shift toward open data illustrates both sides of the argument. On one side: Open data can possibly enable economic development, increase civic engagement, and hold cities more accountable. On the other side: Open data requirements may burden IT departments too much and it may burden city staff who have the additional task of submitting data into the open data pool.
The goal of open data is summarized by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s policy adviser Jason Elliott:
“Departments would be required to submit data sets to an online landing pad where that data would be publicly accessible by anyone to develop applications, to see what The City is doing and generally just promote transparency and accountability and openness.”

What’s your take on open data for municipalities?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
The Public Technology Institute and INPUT recently released their annual State of City and County IT National Survey. Coalescing the responses of local government CIOs and IT executives across the United States, the report includes the following highlights:

- 91% of overall IT budgets are staying the same or decreasing. Only 9% are increasing in 2011.
- Public safety / interoperability was the only category in which a majority of respondents (57%) said it was a high IT priority.
- Other areas receiving significant attention in 2011 include public works / facilities infrastructure, green IT, and eGovernment services.
- An overwhelming majority of respondents were skeptical of outsourcing their IT.
- 2012 looks to be the year in which cities will begin collecting increased revenue and upping their spending again.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Dave Mims, President
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager for Sophicity, recently had his article (“Cheap Backup Solutions Aren’t Worth the Risk”) published in the September/October 2010 issue of Minnesota Cities: A Publication of the League of Minnesota Cities. The article covers differences between consumer-grade and business-class internet-based backup solutions, risks associated with consumer-grade backups, and expertise needed for consumer-grade backups. It was featured in the Tech Window section of the magazine.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
At municipal IT conferences and conventions this year, we’ve heard feedback from IT directors and managers that the burden of social media has been unfairly placed onto them. There is often an understandable assumption on the part of non-technical decision makers that social media is simply information technology. The press, Web 2.0 companies, and consumers help create this perception by focusing on social media tools and technologies, but what is often left out of the discussion are marketing, branding, media, and communications principles that form the core of any successful social media initiative. This presentation analyzes why the burden of social media is placed upon IT, why social media is not IT, why organizations need a social media strategy, and what IT’s social media role should be.

Download the presentation here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
Often, cities are so worried about spam, viruses, and hackers from the outside that they fail to realize the biggest threats are internal. A recent report by Forrester Research provides data and advice about IT security risks, including a reference to a 2010 Verizon report in which “nearly half of breaches were the result of users abusing their right to access sensitive data.” Good IT security policies will account for both internal IT security as well as external IT security, and we recommend that city administrators clarify these policies with IT staff and/or vendors.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
In case you are still figuring out ways to utilize Twitter for your city, check out the cities that Twitter the most. In May 2010, NetProspex analyzed social activity across corporate America and government, presenting their findings in this recent Fall 2010 report.

The top ten Twittering cities are:

1. New York City, N.Y.
2. San Francisco, Calif.
3. Washington D.C.
4. Sacramento, Calif.
5. Phoenix, Ariz.
6. Denver, Colo.
7. Las Vegas, Nev.
8. Los Angeles, Calif.
9. Cincinnati, Ohio
10. Wilmington, Del.
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
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