CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Kevin howarth, Director of Business Development
Two seemingly unrelated articles: 

  1. Martin Kinney decries the potential loss of creative talent from the private to the public sector through Obama’s planned initiative of beefing up the U.S. government’s cybersecurity defenses.
  2. Jeff Carr warns of the risks of more open government through social media and social software, and ways those tools can be exploited.

Cities currently are wondering how to embrace blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools for enhancing their communication, collaboration, public relations, and general tech savviness. Any government entity needs to fully consider the implications of these tools, especially in terms of data security and privacy.

Friday, May 29, 2009
Dave Mims, President
Government Technology published a must-read article about managing the people side of data security. For anyone attempting to put systems and procedures around data security practices, this article outlines a few hard lessons experienced by some.

Modern best practices for network and data management are just one component of protecting and securing critical data. Having policies for data access, reviewing and approval of data before its published is a crucial “people” component that cannot be taken lightly. While it is difficult to completely eliminate human error in any process, it can be mitigated with proper planning, procedures, and review.

In short, the article is a great wakeup call for any city or league.

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Public CIO is running a wonderful analysis of the software solutions that are popping up as a result of the intense reporting demands created by accepting the stimulus money. I know a number of our city customers have stated they are wary to accept the money for this very reason – reporting may take up so much time that it might not be worth it for the organization to embark on a stimulus project. These programs might help take the load off some cities, allowing them to take advantage of the stimulus money and improve their infrastructure. Whatever folks can do to eliminate the number of strings attached to the money is a good thing, and this is an example of smart thinking and quick reaction to an actual need.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
The Federal Trade Commission will delay enforcement of the new “Red Flags Rule” until August 1, 2009, to give creditors and financial institutions more time to develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs. For entities that have a low risk of identity theft, such as businesses that know their customers personally, the Commission will soon release a template to help them comply with the law. Today’s announcement does not affect other federal agencies’ enforcement of the original November 1, 2008 compliance deadline for institutions subject to their oversight.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Last week, I attended the Georgia GMIS conference on St. Simon’s Island. The weather remained unusually stormy and windy during all four days of the conference, perhaps reflecting the economic storm currently overhanging cities and counties in Georgia.

During a session entitled “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” city and county IT directors shared insights about their current challenges and projects. Here were some of the overall trends:

1.   Budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts – Most cities and counties are continuing to cut budgets across the board as property taxes, sales taxes, and other revenue sources continue to shrink.

2.       Minimal, overburdened IT staff – It is not unusual to find one or two IT people supporting the needs of a city over 10,000 in population

3.       Pay freezes, but less staff cutting – Whereas last year there were many anticipated staff cuts, staff cutting seems to have bottomed out. Pay freezes are more common right now until the economy improves.

4.       IT needs to show demonstrable ROI – Decision makers gave many examples of saving hard dollars, which helped to justify many IT projects during the past year.

5.       Fiber projects connecting multiple locations – Many city and county fiber connectivity projects have been completed or are in progress in order to improve communication infrastructure, increase efficiency, and save money.

6.       Need for upgrading IT infrastructure – Despite budget cuts, cities and counties cannot deny the need to upgrade their servers, workstations, printers, and network infrastructure. Financial limitations are encouraging creative solutions utilizing virtualization, hardware-as-a-service, and software-as-a-service.

7.       Website woes – Cities and counties struggle to create, manage, and implement websites that are easy to use for both staff uploading content and citizens accessing information and services. A website’s investment must also be justified.

8.       Switching to new accounting software – Many cities and counties are transitioning from obsolete accounting systems to newer solutions that better serve their internal staff.

Overall, city and county IT decision makers are still moving ahead with projects despite budget cuts, and they feel at least that the recession has bottomed out and cannot get any worse.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Arketi Group
ATLANTA -- Arketi Group, a high-tech business-to-business public relations and marketing firm, announced it has been chosen by Sophicity, an IT services provider formerly known as Mimsware, as its agency of record to help launch the company’s new corporate brand.

Arketi’s initial assignment with the company was a comprehensive positioning and messaging engagement. This included a brand launch and renaming the company to Sophicity, which highlights the firm’s focus on providing IT services to cities and municipal leagues.

"Sophicity needed a sharply focused message and brand that would resonate with our prospects and clients - cities and municipal leagues," said Dave Mims, president Sophicity. "Arketi’s successful history with corporate positioning was a determining factor in why we initiated the partnership. Arketi’s expertise reshaped our company positioning and messaging in a way that is already moving our brand forward."

Sophicity has more than 10 years of experience working with cities and municipal leagues to help optimize their existing technology, assess their IT needs and operate their IT departments more efficiently.

In this extremely competitive environment, Sophicity needed positioning and a marketing effort designed to engage prospects," said Sami Jajeh, principal of Arketi Group. "Rooted in a deep understanding of Sophicity and its key targets, we were able to develop both."

About Sophicity
For more than 10 years, Sophicity’s expertise has unleashed the potential of government IT for municipal leagues and their member cities, meeting the needs of everyone from city hall to public safety. Our senior consultants help improve budget efficiency and increase employee productivity beginning with detailed assessments that identify risks, opportunities, and guidelines for planning. Sophicity makes any IT project worry-free by defining the requirements, managing the project and implementing the right solution. At Sophicity, we put the IT in city. For more information, visit sophicity.com.

About Arketi Group
Arketi Group is a public relations and marketing firm that helps business-to-business technology organizations accelerate growth through intelligent strategy, public relations, messaging, branding and demand generation. Consistently recognized by BtoB magazine as one of the nation's “Top BtoB Agencies,” Arketi’s core belief is that marketing generates revenue. Clients benefiting from this approach to BtoB marketing include Convergys, Flo Healthcare, Inovis, Sage Software, The Network and Xerox Mortgage Services. For more information, call 404-929-0091 ext. 202 or visit www.arketi.com.

 

Friday, May 22, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
I came across an interesting PCMag.com article today announcing the launch of Data.gov, a new online service from the Federal Government.  This service is interesting in that its goal is to make a wide variety of non-sensitive government data available to the general public in a variety of formats including CSV, XLS (Excel), XML, and ESRI (used by GIS applications).  In addition to the raw data, Data.gov also makes available a variety of tools for mining the various datasets available.  Data.gov is freely accessible requiring neither user registration nor a fee for access. 
 
While only a limited number of datasets are available at launch (around 40), the Obama Administration plans to offer a lot more from a variety of federal agencies.  Data.gov is one of many initiatives underway to improve the efficiency of the federal government. 
 
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing
Not even the FBI is immune to being attacked by viruses. The Associated Press is reporting that a virus has infected the FBI and U.S. Marshall’s offices, forcing them to disconnect their networks from the internet. While I'm sure that the FBI gets attacked much more than most networks, it is still alarming that the department responsible for investigation hacking, viruses and other computer fraud is still alarmingly underequipped to deal with the problem internally. This is further evidence that a well-designed IT security plan is a necessary component to any network's stability. The FBI should be a model for this kind of thing, instead of a "How Not To" example. Hopefully the renewed interest in transforming government IT will lead to better fail safes in place to prevent this kind of thing.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
Government Technology magazine wrote an article highlighting a new service the city of New Lenox, Illinois is using called Zumbox. This technology ties e-mail to a physical geographic location, such as your office or home address. Because of that association, e-mail can be geographically focused, allowing targeted (or isolated) communication. The City cited the example of notifying residents of road work in the subdivision in which they live. They knew the street addresses, but didn’t have everyone’s e-mail address, so they used Zumbox to contact the appropriate residents.

The concept is a little hard to digest—it took me a while to understand the real value over current methods. The service virtually mimics the USPS, so think of it in those terms and it starts to make sense. In fact, it becomes clear that the service combines the best of e-mail and the Postal Service and eliminates their drawbacks. For example:

  • You don’t need to know someone’s e-mail address to electronically contact them. Users are identified by their mailing address, so it’s just like sending a letter through the Postal Service. However, like an email account, the recipient can access messages from anywhere they have Internet access.
  • You have the ability to stop all paper mailings from companies on the service, eliminating junk mail from your real mailbox. While it’s true that it becomes junk mail in electronic form, you can block the electronic version quickly and permanently from these same senders as well.
  • Spam is virtually eliminated, which is reason enough to use this service, since spam makes up a good deal of e-mail traffic today.

Zumbox does this two ways:
  1. Marketers and advertisers are charged similar to the way bulk mailing is charged today. Spammers count on the delivery of messages to occur free of charge.
  2. Once you block a sender, the only way they can send you anything again is by establishing a new physical address. This means getting a new PO Box, moving to a new office building or, in the case of spammers, crawling under a new rock—all of which cost money. With e-mail, spammers are back in business within minutes after opening a new e-mail account.
The service uses state of the art security technology and is free to businesses, residents and government entities. This is crucial for adoption since it still competes with e-mail—an essentially free service--for your attention. However, I see two obstacles for this technology to overcome, which interestingly, are the same obstacles the telephone (and e-mail, for that matter) had to overcome in those early days:

First, the benefit is only realized if most or all of your desired contacts are on the service. A telephone wasn’t worth the price when only one or two of your friends had them—everyone had to have them to make it worthwhile.

Second, it’s best if there’s only one service of this type. In the same way that no one would have purchased multiple telephones, it would be cumbersome if you had to sign up for multiple services to receive all your mail. I have to admit, though—I have several e-mail accounts and I’m used to that situation, so it might not be that big of a deal.

If this technology does take hold, it’ll finally give people what they’ve always wanted with electronic correspondence—complete control of incoming e-mail as well as the means to allow legitimate users private correspondence with one another.

Monday, May 18, 2009
Dave Mims, President
The April/May 2009 issue of Public CIO has an article explaining why Georgia outsourced its IT services to private industry. Writing: "Georgia's decision to outsource IT infrastructure is part of a larger effort by the Perdue administration to bring private-sector practices to state government services."

Governor Perdue "stressed the principles of efficiency, transparency, accountability, and customer service."

Jim Lientz, Chief Operating Officer of Georgia, said "We realized that delivering certain types of services is not a core competency of government and that we were putting ourselves at risk by our inability to manage them well."

Patrick Moore, Chief Information Officer of Georgia, explained "Issues such as security and backup that once troubled the agency [GTA] become components built into the solutions they are buying."

While this isn't guaranteed to get the State's IT infrastructure in place, its definitely a bold step in the right direction. It's taken years to assess the true needs of our own state government after watching the experiences of other states and agencies as they struggle with IT. Technology evolves very fast and can be complex to adopt, maintain, and leverage for non-IT related folks. The government reaching out to the private sector to take advantage of the IT expertise found there is a smart step to make. Now, finding the right private sector IT company to help is the challenge...
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