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CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
GovTech is running a piece that questions whether Facebook will end up killing the traditional city website. It looks at the story of San Francisco, which is moving most of its eGov services to its Facebook page. Chris Vein, the city’s CIO, seems to envision a day in which Facebook will be the dominant form of government communication and is making moves for San Fran to be on the forefront.

However I don’t think that this is really case. While Facebook and any other social media platform may represent new channels for information, they are by no means ubiquitous. Just like email hasn’t killed the telephone, there are always going to be folks who prefer to use the webpage, go directly to city hall, or just call over the phone. Also, its important to note that Facebook actually controls the data on the site and might raise privacy concerns over who has access to key city data. While city Facebook pages will certainly continue to grow, I find it hard to see how they could possibly kill off the traditional web portal.

Monday, February 22, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Interested in a trip to California? Governing is holding its annual Managing Technology conference in Sacramento from March 17-18. It’s a collection of state and local IT experts discussing best practices for employing technology at the government level. The IT industry moves at light speed so these kinds of conferences are great for continuing education and for staying on top of the latest trends in the IT space. Hit up this page for more information.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
One of the major initiatives of the Stimulus has been to get broadband out to rural areas to help realize the goal giving every American fast internet. This week there were a few announcements that kept the excitement up. First, Google announced that it was going to start building a 1GB high speed network at a test-bed of cities, just to see if it was feasible. Your city has a chance to get in on the action by submitting an RFI to Google. The video below describes the plan:

Then later this week Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, talked about the National Broadband Plan, how the project is going so far, and how America can lead other countries in internet connection speeds (right now it's way behind). If your city is thinking about broadband, both of these stories are a great read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
This story is a great example of why virus protection and good policies are absolutely important to running a city network. Last week the City of Norfolk, Va. lost almost 800 PCs to what can only be described as a virus time-bomb. At a certain preprogrammed time the virus went into action, destroying critical operating system files and rendering the computer useless. The city isn’t sure if the attack came from outside or a disgruntled employee but the lesson is the same: keeping anti-virus programs up to date and maintaining end user security are two absolutely essential elements to running a modern city, especially with the number of services and functions moving away from manual processes. Imagine what would happen if every single PC in your city suddenly went dead…
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Clint Nelms, Practice Manager: Network Infrastructure
We all know the importance of keeping a stable infrastructure - roads, bridges, utilities, and the equipment needed to maintain them all need to be in good working order to ensure a healthy city. However, there is another equally important yet often overlooked infrastructure: the network. As cities increasingly move from paper-based, labor intensive operations to automated electronic administration, having a stable and secure network infrastructure is crucial to keep operations running smoothly. 

Your network infrastructure is not unlike the physical infrastructure of roads and bridges that tie your city together, only it serves to move and protect data instead of transportation. Infrastructures in disrepair can negatively affect business and governance and lead to increased safety and security risks.   Network infrastructure includes items such as: 

  • Backup Strategy 
  • Security
  • Data Storage
  • Proactive Maintenance
  • Servers and Workstations
  • Internet Access and Usage Policies
  • Wireless

Pretend for a moment that your city is planning to use Microsoft Exchange to manage its communication needs. Now, ask yourself a few questions. Is our network reliable enough to ensure that city email will be up and available? Where is that data stored? Is it secure? Is the data being backed up? 

Starting an IT initiative without a good network infrastructure is like building an office complex in the middle of the woods with no road access, water or electricity. A good network should be proactively maintained, not the reactionary “as needed” task that it has been in the past. If you start with a stable network infrastructure, you can then implement IT projects on top of that foundation, giving your city a network that it can rely on and a road to future expansion.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Clint Nelms, Practice Manager: Network Infrastructure
More news out of California about how consolidation can save absolutely huge sums. How much? In California’s case a staggering $3 billion in 3 years. The project will reduce energy costs by 30% and data center square footage by 50% via projects that the Governator signed into law this week. We’ve spoken a number of times about the benefits of consolidating IT infrastructure but its always nice to get a reminder of just how much it can really do. I think the down economy has really helped cities see IT as a way to save money instead of a black hole.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
With many cities in a budget crunch curiosity about open source software is starting to peak. We often get asked by our customers whether they should consider an open source project and we always tell them the same thing: Do an assessment. Whether its standard software or open source whichever solution you choose needs to meet particular needs and an assessment will help you identify those needs. In some cases open source can work great, especially if it’s for a smaller job function. But more important applications require an in-depth analysis and open source applications still have difficulty meeting the rigorous support needs that many cities have. At the end of the day, it comes down to not just looking at pure cost, but rather: what is the best choice to meet our needs? If that means an open source software product then great just don’t skimp on the analysis because of the nice free price tag. As my grandpa always says, there’s no such thing as a free puppy.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
The Editor of Governing, Alan Ehrenhalt, is leaving the publication after 22 years and his final column is an elegant look at the locus of innovation at the state and local government level. Traditionally, he argues, innovation has taken place at the state level, where governors have made sweeping policy changes that lead to true change in their state. However, with many states currently facing massive budget shortfalls and crippling pension costs, the locus of innovation has shifted to city government, where many are using their budget problems as a reason for change instead of a detriment to it.
 
Ehrenhalt doesn’t delve too deeply into how the cities are doing this but I think it’s largely due to many of them embracing technology as a way out of the rabbit hole. Many are implementing open data initiatives, IT consolidation plans, and plans for crowdsourcing budgets. Sure, many cities are still facing budget problems, but they seem more willing to spend the money to overhaul their infrastructure than the states are. Like all things, the center of innovation will shift back and forth between state and local government over the next decade (and Ehrenhalt provides plenty of examples), but here at Sophicity we’re going to do what we can to make sure that the cities continue to innovate, cut costs, and modernize their operations. At any rate, the column is a great look into what drives innovation at the non-federal government level from a man who’s been keeping his astute eyes on it for some time.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
We’ve discussed a number of cities and states that are moving to open data initiatives, so this is nothing new, but now a number of cities in Colorado are jumping on board. What’s interesting here however, is that instead of an individual entity doing it, like a city or state, here we have a co-op of cities all working together to share data. Seeing as cities tend to be protective of their data, this is an interesting move and one that I hope we see more of. The benefits here are great, from more accurate GIS to integrated crime fighting databases, this should help cities look at themselves less as islands and more as part of a community at large, working for the better of the citizens. Let us know if your city is looking into an open data initiative, we’re all ways curious to see how they pan out.
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