March 8, 2006 By Jim McKay
New Orleans CIO Greg Meffert inherited an IT shop that was 100 percent mainframe, and a one-page Web site with a picture of the mayor on it -- the wrong mayor -- in a city that offered zero online services.
Today, New Orleans basks in the glow of having tied for first place in the Center for Digital Government's 2005 Best of the Web awards in the city portal category, after finishing dead last prior to Meffert's arrival. The city now offers 30 online services and a portal accessible to handicapped citizens.
Meffert also developed a surveillance camera system -- one of the few systems not felled by Hurricane Katrina, which helped the federal government during the evacuation process. The system consists of high-resolution cameras combined with motion detection software that works in conjunction with zoom capabilities.
Immediately after Katrina, the city's Web site developed into a source for New Orleans residents to get data on rebuilding efforts, including an interactive map that showed flood levels. After Mayor Ray Nagin expressed interest in a Web site to collect donations, Meffert and his staff constructed one in less than two days -- within 36 hours, credit card payments were being taken. The site has continued to morph into a source of data for rescue, recovery and restoration.
Meffert has said Hurricane Katrina changed the way he looks at disasters from an IT perspective. But the greatest reward thus far, he said, is the feeling he got when he personally hoisted drowning victims to safety and saw the look of relief on their faces.
-- Jim McKay
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