According to Keena M. Smith, executive officer of the Columbus, Ohio, Dept. of Technology, CIO Jesse Jones has a strong desire to make IT happen in Columbus. With this fervor, and an annual budget of almost $30 million, Jones has implemented a number of city services, including several digital divide initiatives designed to connect all citizens to government.
When Mayor Michael Coleman appointed you CIO, what was his message concerning technology in Columbus?
He felt technology was definitely one of the torches that he wanted to empower city government to bring about better service delivery and better decision-making. After a few months, we came up with a strategy. [This] gave us the ability to establish a single utility for local government and the alignment of technology to better business practices.
Where have you taken Columbus technology during your tenure?
What we've done for our communities is extend portions of the city's infrastructure into areas that have suffered from the digital divide. We now have a number of what we call "public access points" to help communities gain access to better health information [in] real time, more information about health conditions in their region and where they can obtain better health services. We've also moved some computing capacity into the mayor's Cap City Kids program, which is targeted at continuing education after the school day. We found that the alignment of technology tools there has enabled kids to improve their course curriculum and grades throughout the year. For city services, we have re-designed the city's Web presence. It is now very content-rich and intuitive by design.
What has been your biggest challenge?
We had to really demonstrate to the departments how the use of Virtual Columbus can improve service delivery. We had to show them how it could increase their productivity and lower their activity-based cost. That is an on-going process of empowering these departments. We moved for an enterprise data center or consolidation strategy, which says, "Bring in all these disparate systems under one level of control and one umbrella; bring in all these disparate contracts and initiatives under one guiding thing." We've been able to reduce the cost for information technology service in Columbus by over $1.3 million in 11 months.
Would you describe the structure of your department?
One of the things that we want to focus on is what our core competencies are -- what we can do and do well versus trying to do everything. So we've tried to compartmentalize that which was necessary in the beginning to stabilize and create confidence in our information technology system. We began with building a good customer-service framework: communicating with our constituents and doing the things necessary to stabilize what had been a very unstable information technology infrastructure. Once we built that confidence, we've been able to gain entr