CitySmart Blog

Friday, December 18, 2009
Happy Holidays from the crew at Sophicity! We’ve been working hard all year to help cities and leagues with their IT needs, and we have to admit, we need a vacation. The Sophicity CitySmart blog is going to take a week off and then we’ll be back – rested and ready for 2010! Best wishes to everyone for a restful, fun, and safe holiday season!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
Another interesting trend we saw last year is municipal crowdsourcing. What’s that? Well, it’s pretty much a fancy word for “asking a bunch of people to help you make a decision” and its one of the best things to happen to local government in a long time. For instance, Duluth, Ga. Opened up its budgeting session to citizens and asked them to provide feedback on how the budget could be better spent. Or when Oakland County, Mi. faced budget cuts, it put up a website and solicited suggestions from its employees on how it could cut costs or make money, which resulted new ideas that cut the budget by tens of thousands of dollars. What we’re seeing here is technologies that enable cities to put more decision making power into the hands of citizens – a win-win for everyone. Check out this great GovTech rundown on crowdsourcing and let us know if your city is thinking of trying something new!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
Another story of data loss woe: Detroit has recently lost data that contained the social security numbers and other information of some 10,000 people. It didn’t come from a hacker, or a meltdown, or a virus, it came from classic, old school physical theft. This illustrates a great point: You can have the best network security in the world, but if you store the information locally on laptops or desktop computers which can be easily stolen, it does little to prevent data loss. In this case, now the city has to provide credit monitoring services for each of these people for a year, the cost of which might have put a serious dent in the cost of coming up with a good remote worker policy that prevented sensitive information from remaining on local devices.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Sophicity recently had our holiday party at the Sage Woodfire Tavern in Alpharetta. After working hard in our offices all year, it’s nice to get out once in a while and enjoy the finer things in life. We all had a great time and look forward to a prosperous 2010. Check out our Facebook page for photos of the event!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
As we look over the last year, there’s no doubt that the biggest news for local government was the emergence of cloud computing initiatives – from LA embracing Google’s Gmail to New York’s open data app contests, local governments everywhere have been looking to the cloud as a way to put more power into the hands of its citizens. GovTech is running a great “Year in Review” piece about how local governments have been embracing cloud computing. If your city is thinking about some of these initiatives, this is a good place to start.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Dave Mims, President
This is the first of a few posts we’ll be doing on some of the local government trends for 2009. Perhaps the biggest change over the last year from the vantage point of the citizenry is the open data initiatives that many cities are starting to implement. From NYC to LA, cities large and small are making municipal data available in ever-more accessible formats. When combined with pre-existing technologies like Google Maps, these data sets – everything from crime to traffic data – create what are known as “mashups”. Want to see when, where and what crimes were committed in your neighborhood? Pop open a map that uses the police department’s data and get the information you need. While much of this data has been available in the past, it’s always been very difficult to actually get a hold of. Now that cities are making it available online in standardized formats, all manner of exciting applications are starting to pop out. Check out this article from the New York Times for a great primer and what’s happened over the last year in the field of open government data.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
With recent fears of a flu epidemic and the lingering danger of terrorist attacks, many cities have been taking a serious look at their emergency broadcast capabilities. In many cases, they’re finding that these systems are woefully inadequate for the modern age. Systems that rely on land line phone calls or TV broadcasts have been hampered by changing customer tastes. Land line systems, for instance, are not nearly as effective because many people are dropping their land lines in favor of cell phones. And while a sizeable portion of the nation still watches TV, many have shifted to computers and video game consoles as a primary form of entertainment. Add these two up and you have the potential for a lot of missed people when a emergency notification goes out. After an E coli. scare over Thanksgiving weekend, Portland, Ore. is looking at a new emergency broadcast system that will use mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook, and other technologies to effectively and quickly get the message out. Meanwhile, New York is looking into using video game consoles like the Xbox to stream emergency broadcasts. Its really great to see government embracing emerging technologies in order to update operations, many of which have remain unchanged for 50 years.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Dave Mims, President
GovTech is reporting that electronic theft of government records has skyrocketed this year. In 2008, only(!) 3 million records were compromised but 2009 saw more than 79 million records in the hands of the bad guys. That’s a huge jump and it makes me wonder why. I’ll leave the statistics to the number crunchers but I’ve got to think that many of these records are do to poor data management policies for remote workers. In fact, the article points out that a sizeable portion of the records were lost because of stolen laptops, hard drives and other external storage devices. This highlights the need for a policy regarding the mobile workforce, one that can be easily enforced. As more offices move to a more remote set up, this problem is only going to increase. If you haven’t already grab your IT team or your favorite IT vendor and begin developing remote worker policies to protect sensitive information. No one wants to have to explain a huge data theft on their watch…
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The team at Sophicity wishes everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday, filled with food, drink and merriment all around!! (We sure could use a few days off as we've been real busy helping cities and municipal league prepare for 2010!)
Monday, November 23, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
The State of Virginia has had a rough year. After having medical records held for ransom, and numerous other IT woes, comes its ongoing tense relationship with Northrup Grumman over the State's outsourced IT contract. This time, it appears that many critical network services were left without backup connections, meaning that if the internet connection went down, so did all the services attached to it. In this case, the DMV system went down repeatedly causing havoc in DMV offices across the state. When folks dug into the contract, it appeared that the reason the backups were not in place is because it was not specified in the contract and so NG didn't build it out. While folks continue to argue over what is or is not included in the contract, Va.'s system continue to operate at risk. This is further proof that when implementing any It project, whether it be in or out sourced, planning is absolutely essential to make sure all of the bases are covered.
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