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CIO Marc Touitou Discusses San Francisco's IT Priorities

July 30, 2013 By ,

In April, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed Marc Touitou as CIO. Touitou has more than 30 years of experience in the private sector. The multilingual IT chief was previously the senior vice president and CIO of Netherlands-based semiconductor developer ASML. During his first 30 days as CIO, Touitou created a project management office for IT. Government Technology spoke with Touitou about various technology topics.

What are your IT priorities?

Priorities for fiscal 2014, which started July 1, are to complete the email migration and consolidate our data centers so that we can provide business continuity and disaster recovery. Also, free Wi-Fi in San Francisco is not just a myth — we can do that. I think there are ways to accelerate this dramatically, so I’m working on that very aggressively. We already have some opportunities to partner with vendors. My ambition is to have San Francisco in a grid that we are able to offer Wi-Fi to citizens in the next few years.  

What’s your take on the Internet as a basic human right? Do you agree with it?

Of course I do. It might sound extreme when you say it like that, but think about it: If you want to look for a job, you need the Internet. You are at a total competitive disadvantage if you do not have access to the Net. So we should all care about that very much. And it’s not only the connectivity through Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi in the parks and the squares, in the bus, in the metro is one thing — but [residents] also should have easier connectivity at home because they can’t have their children go to the park to do their homework. From your childhood to your adulthood, you need the Net. Without it, you’re excluded.    

What has been your toughest challenge so far?

Alignment. San Francisco is very decentralized. If you compare San Francisco to Philadelphia, where I spent 10 years of my life, Philadelphia is much less distributed, it’s more centralized. So when the CIO says, “Let’s consolidate our data centers or standardize on this platform,” it just happens … same thing in New York. Here, alignment is an issue, because there’s a tremendous amount of autonomy in the different agencies throughout the city, so it requires much more discussion. You need to visit all the stakeholders and explain why a new direction is more compelling or better.

What was the last story you read from your Twitter feed?

The announcement on Apple that they’ll be able to lock your phone when it’s lost or stolen. I loved it because before I read that, I was in a meeting with the district attorney and the chief of police and they told me that the No. 1 problem on staff is cellphones, so if we could influence the phone operators to put what you have in Europe, the SIM locks, so that when somebody steals your phone, they can’t use it.

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