March 10, 2008 By Todd Sander
Do you know what you're doing? Of course you do ... right? That certainly must be the presumption anyway after the scrutiny and sometimes convoluted hiring procedures most public officials endure.
It's a question that I, too, have received from a few of you since I became director of our Digital Communities program. I know where it's coming from. It comes from the pressure many of you feel to deliver obvious and tangible results that justify the significant investments your jurisdictions are making in IT applications and infrastructure.
So why are we putting a special focus on digital communities? After all, doesn't a digital community simply seek to provide wireless Internet for everyone? Who has time to think about something so seemingly esoteric when the pressure is on to support the day-to-day business of government? Public safety communication systems must be improved and made more interoperable. Financial systems must be updated to provide better, more useful data. Through changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the courts brought new focus and urgency to the challenges of data management and digital public records retention and production. Everyone wants his or her organization to be more "green," but the financial situation in many jurisdictions means the green needed to make the investment is harder to come by.
Well, 2008 is off and running, and now is exactly the time to think about what it means to be a digital community. In fact, if you aren't thinking about it, you're falling behind. CIOs from some of the country's largest jurisdictions convened with us during a December snowstorm in Chicago to discuss that very topic. It's no surprise that the substance of their interaction is reflected in the polling and survey data collected by many publications and associations (ours and others) that seek to identify the CIO agenda for 2008. And while wireless infrastructure is an important digital community component for many, there's certainly much more to it than that.
Based on what most of you are saying, the 2008 CIO agenda seeks to enable innovation, align IT and business goals, and integrate and consolidate existing systems, services, processes and infrastructures. But what does that mean?
We created our Digital Communities program to help provide specific answers to that question. We think the first step is to organize like-minded people who care, and we believe we're uniquely positioned to do that.
Our annual Center for Digital Government Digital Cities and Digital Counties surveys identify and recognize the most innovative work being done in local government. Conducted and presented in partnership with the National League of Cities and National Association of Counties, these surveys highlight the best community building work being done nationwide. Starting this year, we'll make more of that information available to you. Knowing what your peers are doing is interesting, but we think you'll agree that knowing more specifically about how they do it is even more valuable.
To support that sort of job-critical information exchange, we'll write more about local government in our publications. We're also creating some special events and Internet seminars showcasing award winners that are tailored to meet local government needs. That way you and your staff get more of the details behind the story or award and get to fully examine programs and solutions that are up and working in other jurisdictions.
At a time when things change so quickly, it's especially important to know what others are doing. Very often, it seems like public service presents problems or issues that have no easily identifiable solution. But maybe someone else has already found a solution.
Because of this, our Digital Communities program is creating a series of task forces that will come together virtually and face-to-face to explore and examine these issues. The task forces are being