February 28, 2006 By Government Technology
Deputy Commissioner, Office of the CIO
New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
Ron Bergmann -- who was raised in a family where civic duty was a calling, not just an idea -- expected to work in government for a year and then return to graduate school.
But the calling proved too strong. "I've been with the city for nearly 27 years now," he said with pride.
Bergmann has worked in various capacities for New York City, including the Department of Health during the West Nile virus outbreak, the bombing of the World Trade Center and the anthrax scares; but for the past three years, he has been deputy commissioner for the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) in the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT).
"I help the CIO define and implement cost-effective enterprise technology initiatives to meet the business needs of city agencies," he said. More concretely, he spearheaded efforts to use the city's IT buying power through citywide contracts, and by reducing overhead -- not a simple task given the size and scope of city government in New York.
Bergmann didn't stop there. He sits on the state's CIO Council in Albany where he confers with New York's leading IT executives about ways to improve collaboration among the different levels of government. What began as an informal alliance grew into a full-fledged partnership that led to the establishment of some groundbreaking enterprise IT contracts. One of those contracts already has saved the city nearly $9 million by aggregating government buying power.
Bergmann uses the same communications skills to make sure city agencies are aware of the services available to them from the OCIO, as well as helping to initiate new projects requested by the agencies. For example, he's working with the Department of Human Services to complete a daunting 12-agency data-sharing project.
Additionally Bergmann began overhauling the city's IT civil service titles, bringing them up to date for the first time in 25 years. It's not glamorous work, but reflects the kind of dedicated leadership Bergmann brings to DoITT as a career civil servant who understands -- and appreciates -- government, IT and New York City.
"Being civic minded is a big part of my life and it's in the DNA of city workers," he said. "That's what is so exciting. To improve how to deliver services for New Yorkers is both fun and humbling."
-- Tod Newcombe
Director of Technology Partnerships
Michigan Department of Information Technology
The Michigan Middleman
Serving as a middleman teaming private- and public-sector talent throughout Michigan, George Boersma, director of technology partnerships for the Michigan Department of Information Technology, is advancing IT development in the public square.
Several villages and townships couldn't afford to create Web pages and lacked the expertise to produce them. Boersma helped to create symbiotic relationships between those local municipalities and university students with the skills to create their Web pages.
"The experience the students received was invaluable -- they not only gained technical knowledge, but learned lessons in local governance," Boersma said. "Their resumés will also now list real-life experiences and skills, making them stronger candidates when they join the work force."
Michigan residents now have Wi-Fi connectivity at recreational areas like state parks, marinas, rest areas and welcome centers due to a partnership Boersma led called MiWiFi, which joined SBC Communications Inc. with Michigan's departments of Transportation and National Resources, and the federal government.
"We crossed the boundaries within state government, but also crossed boundaries using vendors to help us in that endeavor," he said.
Now Boersma is helping to build a health information network -- consisting of health-care providers and purchasers, employers, health plans, patient advocacy groups, technology vendors, labor unions and government officials -- that will create a statewide IT apparatus centralizing patient information. If a Michigan resident visits an emergency room while on vacation in another part of the state, hospital personnel could use the network to retrieve the patient's health information from a hometown doctor within seconds.
If senior citizens don't remember what kind of medications they have, the doctors can't really access what they can and can't take, because they don't know what's been taken in the past, he said.
Boersma acknowledged that promoting intergovernmental collaboration can be difficult due to turf battles and other concerns. The key to success, according to this middleman, is finding innovative ways to make IT partnerships beneficial for all players involved.
-- Andy Opsahl
Department of Information Technology
Unwiring the Future
When Los Angeles CIO Thera Bradshaw looks at the Van Nuys municipal complex, she sees the future. The facility -- one of seven satellite city halls scattered throughout Los Angeles -- offers wireless Internet access to visitors and links citizens to downtown city council meetings via live video teleconferencing technology.
Over the next few years, Bradshaw expects these technologies to become a common method for connecting city residents to their government and delivering economic opportunity to the region.
Los Angeles launched Wi-Fi service at the Van Nuys complex -- located in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley -- in 2005. Now other wireless initiatives are sprouting throughout the nation's second-largest municipality, including plans to unwire all city government buildings and 71 public libraries.
Remote city council testimony from the Van Nuys complex began in November 2005, and Bradshaw expects to deploy similar technology at other outlying facilities, giving residents of those areas an easier way to participate in city government.
"There are three reasons behind these initiatives: to help close the digital divide, to accelerate economic development, and to make our city government more accessible and efficient," said Bradshaw, who was appointed general manager of the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency in 2004.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti share Bradshaw's belief that Wi-Fi and other technologies can connect and empower communities, prompting the CIO to predict rapid progress on deploying wireless connectivity citywide.
"Our plan is to unwire L.A., all public facilities within the next three years, and the entire city within five years," Bradshaw said. "The mayor and the city council want to move forward quickly, and I certainly think that's the right thing to do."
Bradshaw has made progress on other issues as well, including a steadily evolving 311 system, which has been adding new functions ever since its launch in 2002. This year, for instance, Los Angeles is adding a service request system to its 311 application that will standardize how the city responds to citizen questions and complaints.
"It will change the way L.A. does business, so that's huge," said Bradshaw. "Citizens will see a service improvement and better accessibility, and we'll get valuable information about how well we're performing."
With strong support from Villaraigosa, who took office in July 2005, and other political leaders, Bradshaw said the city is poised to introduce new services that citizens demand.
"They want to participate in city government. They want government to be accessible," Bradshaw said. "So things like 311, unwiring L.A., and video teleconferencing are all in response to what we've heard from citizens. It's really exciting to be part of this."
-- Steve Towns
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