September 30, 2012 By Bill Schrier
We usually think of champions in the context of the Olympics or boxing (“heavyweight champion of the world”) or others who are victorious after a hard-fought competition. CIOs are not usually considered to be competing or fighting, although, really, they do a lot of both).
This past week the White House honored 13 people for being “Local Innovators” of Change in their communities. I’m proud that eight of those folks are CIOs or Information Technology leaders in their communities: Phil Bertolini, Adel Ebeid, Carolyn Hogg, Michele Hovet, Nigel Jacob, Jay Nath, Chris Osgood and John Tolva. Every one of these eight has been acknowledged here in the pages of Government Technology or Public CIO magazine for the great work they’ve been doing in places ranging from Boston to Fresno, and San Francisco to Chicago to Philadelphia, with a stopover in Oakland County, Michigan.
Coincidentally this week, the Ash Institute at Harvard named 111 “Bright Ideas” for innovation in government. These range from tracking government departments’ performance online (TrackDC) to Allegheny County’s Music Festival fund to “Blightstat” in New Orleans.
We talk a lot about “change”. We hear a lot about “change” from every manner of political candidate from far right to far left to far bizarre.
But, frankly, “some” change is good, but most of us want and need a stable, unchanging, base of government and life. In other words, we need to be “grounded” and have a safety net. With that, we can make selective, and sometimes radical changes using information technology in our governments thereby improving our quality of life and the quality of life for the citizens we serve.
Take cloud computing as an example - we could ignore it, or actively oppose running software and services in externally hosted data centers. Phil Bertolini of Oakland County took a different approach - the County is building its own cloud, partnering with its city governments and the state of Michigan, thereby saving money and embracing this new trend.
Think of web content management systems (CMS) - which allow dozens or hundreds of non-technical government employees to share responsibility for a website. Such software can be expensive and hard to manage. Michele Hovet of Arvada County, Colorado (the second best County website in the Center for Digital Government's annual "Best of the Web" contest) took a different approach. She adopted open source software, supported by a community of developers around the world, and adapted it for Arvada. Then she went further and enlisted other governments in the project, starting with Boulder. She also caused it to be adapted for Digital Education in Colorado Schools. See the story of XPRESS CMS here.
That’s why I’m so proud of this crop of eight local government leaders (as well as the other five, who I don’t know personally). They make wise but bold changes happen. They help bring broadband to California's rural farming area breadbasket (Carolyn Hogg), give citizens tools to tackle crime and other quality of life issues in their own neighborhoods ("Philly Rising" and Adel Ebeid), establish civic innovation incubators, partnerships with technology startups, and much more.
They know the capacity of their employees and elected officials and constituents to tolerate change, and they push that bubble a bit. Sometimes quite a bit.
And I’m really really proud and happy that the Obama Administration – and specifically its Office of Science and Technology Policy – recognize these champions, these heros, and hold them up as examples for the rest of us to follow (thank you Todd Park and Chris Vein).
Read more about these “Champions of Change” and their specific accomplishments on the White House blog here.
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.