February 1, 2013 By Jessica Mulholland
After five years as San Francisco’s CIO, Jon Walton left the city on Jan. 11 to take a new job as CIO of San Mateo County, Calif., and director of the county’s Information Services Department.
Under Walton’s leadership, San Francisco created a citywide IT training program in partnership with employee organizations; completed its first five-year Information and Communications Technology Plan; and received many awards for its mobile, Web and SFGovTV services. We asked Walton about his legacy in San Francisco and his plans for San Mateo.
I’m most proud of setting up a really good IT governance structure so all the departments felt like they had a voice; people were very involved and engaged; and we made some good progress internally on a shared version. Externally the thing I come back to most is we have this whole program about connecting the community to technology — like our Wi-Fi projects, mobile app project, our hackathons and our BTOP [Broadband Technology Opportunities Program], which is to put high-tech homework centers in youth centers. It is just all about connecting the community via technology and I think that’s been really important for San Francisco.
I like challenges and I like change — that’s just my personality. When I met with San Mateo and talked about what they wanted to accomplish, it really got me excited because there’s so much opportunity there.
From an operational standpoint, two things we were able to do in San Francisco: [One of them] was turn around the feelings of the customers about the quality of service they were getting from the IT department. Five years ago, our scores were fairly low in customer satisfaction, so we spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to turn that feeling around. One of the things I heard when I came down to San Mateo was the IT staff was working really hard, and even though they were doing their best, the customer satisfaction was just not as high as it should be. The other thing, quite frankly, is around cost saving. And here in San Mateo County, we still have a bunch of deficit we need to close. In San Francisco in the last five years, we reduced the IT spend by over $25 million. The gap is not that big in San Mateo, but I have a $1.1 million budget gap at least in my department over the next few years. So I am hoping to take some of those lessons learned from San Francisco to not only save money but to make things better through technology and save the county money.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.