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CitySmart Blog

Thursday, June 11, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
David Eaves posted this short piece on the Creative Class blog about the use of open data to help citizens decide on best places to live within a city. While cutting edge, this application might give cities some ideas on how data might be creatively harnessed to market cities in more user-friendly ways for citizens, utilizing both existing city data along with user-generated data (photos, reviews, etc.).

“This is the potential open data can unleash. Because MySociety can access transit and train schedules as well as real estate prices, they are able to mash up this data and create this map. Still more interesting is how they crowd-sourced the collection of a new data set. Those who watched the video may have noticed how the “scenicness” of an area came from people voting on how nice photos of different neighborhoods looked.”
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Dave Mims, President
Georgia Municipal Association’s 2009 annual convention is upon us. As cities gather in Savannah, Georgia Saturday June 20th through Tuesday June 23rd, it will be during a year that has brought significant challenges. Many cities have reacted to this serious economic recession by cutting budgets, laying off staff, freezing pay, and delaying projects, making your job more difficult and forcing you to do even more with less.

We’ve heard your concerns. Our company may be able to help you cut your budgets by decreasing your technology costs in a difficult economy. By taking the unique approach of beginning with the budget, we utilize our experience in working with cities to address ways of cutting your IT budget – and thus, your overall city budget.

At the Georgia Municipal Association’s annual convention, here are some ways we’d like to help you:

  • Stop by booth #100 to say hi and chat with Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development here at Sophicity, and myself.
  • Pick up a copy of our IT Budget Planning Guide. It is a free self-assessment to help you understand if you are over spending, under spending, or hitting the mark with your IT spending.
  • Drop off a business card to enter a drawing for a free CitySmart Network Health and Security Assessment for up to a 7-server environment valued at $3,975. This assessment will:
              - Compile your city's existing technology concerns, initiatives, and goals.
              - Provide a detailed inventory of your city’s existing network infrastructure.
              - Identify risks spanning security, data, software and hardware.
              - Outline recommendations to address all identified risks.

Kevin and I look forward to meeting you at the GMA Annual Convention.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Communications
We're seeing a number of innovative cities and leagues start thier own twitter feeds to better stay in touch with thier citizens and membership. And now we've got one too! Keep in touch and follow us at twitter.com/Sophicity!
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. 
 
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