It’s possible, but it won’t be easy, say some members of the consortium of seven big-city CIOs. “A logical next step is to become almost one governmental entity in some respects, and that entity then enters into contracts, or negotiations, or discussions with vendors as a group,” said Chris Vein, CIO of San Francisco.

Members have discussed this concept, said Chicago CIO Hardik Bhatt. To make it work, though, someone would have to review each city’s unique procurement regulations and then create a template that passes muster with all the cities’ procurement and legal departments.

“It needs a lot of attention, time and energy,” Bhatt said. “I think with all the budget pressures that we have right now, we won’t be able to find that time.”

Los Angeles CTO Randi Levin agrees that the G7 cities would need to overcome many practical hurdles to collaborate on procurement. “But at a minimum, we could share pricing and vendor experiences. That alone is very valuable. And if there are contracts that we could all piggyback on, fine,” she said. “If we can cut down on the amount of time it takes to do procurement, that would be a great benefit.”

Web 2.0 Help

Code for America is a nonprofit organization created earlier this year to help local governments launch innovative Web 2.0 solutions. The organization, which is backed by technology guru Tim O’Reilly, matches top Web developers to cities seeking Web 2.0 solutions for improving transparency, efficiency and citizen participation.

Code for America — which describes itself as a collection of “Web geeks, city experts and technology industry leaders” — is funded by donations from the Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, Sunlight Foundation, Case Foundation and others. Developers and participating cities are chosen through a competitive application process. Cities selected for the program are matched with a five-person development team, and the developers receive a stipend from the cities.

Five Code for America cities were chosen in 2010:

  • Boston
  • Seattle   
  • Philadelphia           
  • Boulder, Colo.
  • Washington, D.C.      


Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer