February 27, 2013 By Wayne Hanson
Pete Anderson got heavily involved in technology during his 25 years as a U.S. Navy officer, including four years as commander of the Defense Logistics Agency Systems Design Center, an organization with an annual budget of more than $130 million and a staff of 1,200 that develops, implements and maintains IT systems for the U.S. Department of Defense.
That was a great warm-up for Anderson’s current job in Fort Worth, Texas, where he leads a handful of major initiatives, including installation of a $52 million digital radio system for public safety. “We have 22 or 23 agencies using our radio system — including city departments, the local transit agency, county sheriffs and a number of other cities and towns around us,” said Anderson, who became city CIO in 2004.
Fort Worth also is overhauling key business applications. A PeopleSoft ERP system replaced legacy payroll software, and next up is an effort to modernize the city’s financial system. Anderson says the changes will let city departments meet demands despite shrinking revenue.
In addition, the city is boosting transparency and citizen engagement by breaking its budget into 20 categories covering topics like public safety and transportation, and asking citizens to help prioritize spending. Anderson said the city created an online tool that outlines the budget requests and how much the budget needs to be reduced to meet expected revenue. Citizens can use the tool to vote on the changes they would make.
The choices, he said, can include questions like, “Do you want to maintain or upgrade the swimming pool, or close it and build a new library?” As residents answer the questions, they get a running balance, and at the end they can say, “I balanced the budget, and here’s what I propose to do.”
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.