March 1, 2004 By Government Technology
Lots of successful businessmen enter politics using their records as private-sector leaders to gain public office. Few of them also understand what technology can bring to an organization. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is one. Another is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Many know of Bloomberg's success with the financial information-services firm he named after himself, but not everyone realizes the mayor of the country's largest city understands how IT can empower government too. To appreciate this fact, look no further than New York's signature IT project launched during Bloomberg's administration.
Frustrated by the seemingly endless pages of phone numbers for city services, the mayor decided to build the country's largest hotline -- a 311 call center that handles as many as 30,000 complaints and queries daily. Callers always talk with a live operator, but behind the scenes, the system relies on sophisticated telephony, customer relationship management and GIS software that not only pulls up information operators use to answer questions, but also tracks, sorts and analyzes data about call types and times.
As a result, New York is building a database of customer service needs that will have a major impact on how the city spends tax dollars on services.
"There hasn't been anything done on this scale," Gino Menchini, commissioner of the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, told Government Technology when the call center was launched in summer 2003. "The mayor wants to change the city's identity in terms of customer service."
And Bloomberg has.
Menchini jokes that the mayor not only gets technology, "he gives it." The truth is 311 is transforming government services in the city. The New York Times reported that the mayor is beginning to use data captured by 311 in much the same way New York's Police Department used its highly praised CompStat system to reduce crime to record low levels. The mayor now holds department commissioners accountable for increased complaints about their respective services.
When the 311 idea was proposed, the city faced a multibillion-dollar deficit. Budgets were slashed in every department except IT. Despite criticism, Bloomberg stuck to his decision to fund the $21 million call center, which costs the city $27 million annually to operate. He understood the payoff of using technology to give the public better service and city government better information on which to run its operations. It was money well invested by a savvy businessman.
-- Tod Newcombe, editor, Public CIO
Director, Research and Development Operations
Science and Technology Directorate
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
David Boyd, appointed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2003, has the awesome task of fulfilling the DHS' goal of achieving interoperability among all elements of the national public-safety/first responder community. He also serves on the president's National Task Force on Spectrum Management.
His current assignment with the DHS, he said, continues his tradition of "contributing to the security of my fellow citizens by helping to develop and deploy technologies to help law enforcement personnel be safer and more effective."
Boyd is responsible for creating the Office of Science and Technology and the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center in the Department of Justice.
He served as director of science and technology for the National Institute of Justice from 1992 until his appointment to the DHS. In 1997, he was appointed deputy director of the entire National Institute of Justice.
Under Boyd's direction, the Office of Science and Technology grew from a $2 million budget and staff of four to the nation's largest
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to