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Thursday, March 11, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
As smartphones become more prevalent in the municipal government space the rules and regulations around how they are used are just now being written. One of the interesting sticking points is what to do with the information that comes through these phones. Is it all publically available data? Only some of it? Are personal calls/txt’s subject to FOIA requests? Once such case comes to us from Boulder, Co. where city officials have been given iPhones, causing some to question the reason behind the move. While handing over email logs is easy for cities, handing over phone records, conversations, and even texts is hard because the city does not operate the mobile network. These questions will likely need to be hammered out through a combination of laws and court cases, but since smartphones are not going away, I think it would be premature to simply say that they have no place in city government. How does your city handle smartphone use?
Friday, March 5, 2010
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been a busy man since he first entered office. While his main push has been for transparency, he’s also been really looking at how the federal government uses IT, or perhaps better yet, how it doesn't . In this interview, he details some of the inefficiencies he’s discovered at various Federal departments and how it affects their service delivery. While this is at the Federal level, cities face many of the same problems and could benefit from such an analysis. If your city is still doing things manually, it might be time to start looking into a assessment to uncover some of those unsightly inefficiencies.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Looking to bring more features into your municipal Twitter and/or Facebook profile? The ever forward thinking San Francisco, in conjunction with a number of other cities, has just released an new API called Open311 that will allow any city to link up its 311 system with various social media sites. As an open platform it will be available for free but will likely require customization in order to work directly with a specific 311 system. This is a great example of how cities can work together to create an application that better helps them stay connected with their citizens. This isn’t likely to replace existing eGov services but it is a great additional channel. We’ll be watching this one closely to see how it evolves.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Last week we wrote about Google’s new municipal broadband plan and cities appear to be very excited about the prospect. Topeka was so excited that it actually renamed itself to Google, Kansas for the month of March. The act has caused a lot of buzz (and given Google loads of free advertising) and it’s nice to see that Topeka’s city government has a sense of humor. I’m sure that will get Google’s attention but only time will tell.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
Here’s a novel idea for internet access: why not use some of the unused space between the TV frequencies to provide internet access. That’s exactly what a few companies are doing and the first test cities are going live as we speak. Engadget has a write up on how the technology, called White Space Internet, works and details how Wilmington, NC is the first major city in the nation to adopt the technology. What does it mean? It means free wifi in city parks, increased traffic camera monitoring, and various infrastructure uses for the city (probably for public safety.) This could be an interesting technology to watch.
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.
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