On Friday, May 3, one of New York City’s top IT officials departed, and is heading for the Commonwealth of Kentucky; on June 1, Jim Fowler, deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), will begin as the CIO for Kentucky.
“Why Kentucky? Other than I love horses and bourbon?” Fowler asked. “It’s pretty exciting times in Kentucky right now."
There are some major initiatives to move IT forward in terms of pulling up efficiency and effectiveness, he added, noting that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear really understands and believes in the value that IT can bring. "He has set a vision and a pretty aggressive agenda for IT throughout the commonwealth," Fowler said. "I think his passion and his vision and his value of IT is evidenced by the fact the CIO will be a member of his executive cabinet.”
Fowler brings with him more than 30 years of IT experience, including his time helping New York City through the recent Hurricane Sandy response and assisting a culture shift in DoITT.
“Everything in the planning for contingencies came into play on those 10 days [after Hurricane Sandy],” he said. “Basically everything in Manhattan below Canal Street lost power and telecom, and there are a lot of city agencies there. The power came back within a few days.”
Enabling the city’s IT consolidation efforts and improving collaboration was another major accomplishment, Fowler said. “There’s 45 mayoral agencies in the city. To get the agencies to work with the information technology organization in a cooperative and a collaborative mode rather than always going off on their own, that’s been a big success for us in terms of being able to change that culture."
After he leaves, the city’s IT officials must prepare for a change in regime, Fowler said. “Mayor Bloomberg is in his final months, and who knows what kind of a philosophy and a vision of IT the next mayor will have,” he said, adding that the IT department should get enough momentum and support behind their projects before a new mayor arrives to ensure their work is continued.
As for Fowler, he said he's excited to take on new projects in Kentucky, where officials are gearing up for a major IT consolidation project, in which Fowler will play a key role in the transformation.
“That’s what I’ve been doing here [in New York] for the past two and a half years. I think a lot of the lessons learned will translate well into that initiative,” he said. “One of the things I think the governor has done to make that a more successful process is he’s stepped up to the plate and taken all the infrastructured employees at each agency, and re-badged them so they’re employees of the Commonwealth Office of Technology. Having that behind you is going to be a big plus for the success of the project. We didn’t do that in New York, and we are suffering every day from the resource constraints imposed on us.”
Fowler said once he gets to Kentucky, he plans to look into getting better tools for government workers to be more effective at their jobs, particularly workers in the field, and he plans for an increased focus on social media, mobile technology and reaching out to the public on the public’s terms.
“We’re going to make sure we have the tools and technology in place to engage the citizens on those fronts,” he said.