March 16, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
In July 2009, Government Technology singled out the OpenCape Corporation, a nonprofit applicant for broadband stimulus money as a likely grant winner to watch. Earlier this month, OpenCape did indeed win the $32 million it requested to deploy a 350-mile fiber backhaul to connect government agencies, hospitals, research organizations and other anchor institutions, both public and private sector, to high-speed broadband. Massachusetts contributed $8 million in matching funds.
Town IT officials see the forthcoming network as a vehicle for finally sharing IT platforms with other towns, according to Teresa Martin, vice chair of OpenCape. Having struggled for years with spotty connectivity and small budgets, many towns on the cape have been without technologies other areas take for granted, like online permit application functionality. Using the forthcoming fiber backhaul, set to include a regional data center, local Cape Cod towns will be able to share such applications. The regional data center, owned by OpenCape, will house whatever servers are necessary for the shared applications. The fiber will deliver them to the various local government offices. A central GIS repository is among the first projects Martin expects to see towns share.
"There might be a time when you want sharing of GIS systems for a certain regional application. Maybe there is a fire at the border of two towns, and they want to be able to instantaneously trade documents from those two towns," Martin said.
A vendor partnered with OpenCape called RCN Metro Optical Networks would perform the daily maintenance of any applications housed at the regional data centers. Both public and private sector organizations on the cape will be permitted to use the data center to host their applications.
OpenCape expects to have most of the networked deployed by late 2011.
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.