June 22, 2005 By Wayne Hanson
A little over two years ago, Abe Kani came to Atlanta from Memphis, eager to help Mayor Shirley Franklin build an "on demand" government IT infrastructure. What he found in Atlanta was an older MIS/Data-processing model, with no strategic plan and some core infrastructure that had exceeded its life expectancy.
Kani -- with over 16 years of IT background in manufacturing, healthcare, banking and government -- was ready for the challenge.
A three-tiered governance structure has been established comprised of public and private-sector participants, to ensure that what Kani terms the "IT contribution" to the city and its residents is built squarely on specific business benefits. The governance body supports implementation of initiatives that are aligned with the overall strategic direction of both the city government and IT. The city now has a 53-page 2004-2006 Information Technology Strategic Plan.
On his plate, Kani has enterprise initiatives for financial and procurement systems, Human Resources and grants. And upgrading infrastructure is also a priority.
The city is about to implement a converged data and voice network to upgrade its infrastructure while leveraging an MPLS-based network [ed note: MPLS or Multi-protocol Label Switching tags IP packets to help reassemble a voice or multimedia session at the receipt point] to allow access through Frame relay, DSL, wireless and other media. "After that, we will have the highway to push multimedia to the desktop," said Kani, "so we can create a collaborative environment to share information and knowledge in the most effective format."
Atlanta is also contemplating building a citywide wireless broadband infrastructure to provide improved city services, better economic development opportunities, and improved public safety. Offering affordable broadband access to low-income families as well as free access in certain public venues is also under consideration within the business model the city is reviewing. Kani has been following closely the municipal wireless controversy that erupted following Philadelphia's deployment, and is aware of the bill currently in Congress that would prohibit municipalities from rolling out telecommunications services unless private-sector vendors are unable or unwilling to provide the service.
Atlanta has a number of regional projects under way, which includes joint efforts to provide wireless coverage along Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) bus and train routes. Kani is also involved in Homeland Security interoperability projects with counties and the state of Georgia, and a regional GIS with multiple counties, MARTA and Georgia Tech.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.