February 28, 2006 By Government Technology
California Department of General Services
Thanks to Terese Butler, California finally is taking advantage of its massive purchasing power. Butler, project director for the state Department of General Services, led California's Strategic Sourcing Initiative, which is expected to generate savings of $170 million over the next three years.
A balance of strength and humility helped Butler convince California's fiercely independent departments to agree on uniform computer hardware configurations. This enabled consolidation of technology purchases into bulk orders from select vendors and manufacturers. The state will use this purchasing strategy to buy commodities at lowest market prices. Previously California departments bought desktops, printers, servers and other assets from any provider they wanted.
In negotiations, Butler staunchly advocated strategic purchasing virtues while making prudent adjustments when various players gave persuasive advice. "You have to be a good listener, because you have to hear what people don't like," she said.
The assignment, the hardest of Butler's career, dropped her in an intense clash of competing agendas. "There was a lot of pushback from the industry, because they didn't want to see their margins decrease as much as they did," Butler said, noting her surprise at how passionately some in government and the private sector defended the status quo.
Many agreed the state's purchasing process wasn't perfect, but as it stood, they all had firm grasps on their own pieces of the pie, said Butler.
She also faced opposition from disabled veterans enterprises fearing large companies would steal their business. Butler said her team specifically arranged the new purchasing process to avoid that, and actually gave more business to disabled veterans enterprises in some areas.
A state famously plagued with budget migraines saved $170 million from changing its procurement. The Golden State's latest deviant is a budget cutter with results.
-- Andy Opsahl
Jane L. Campbell
Reviving a City
When Cleveland hosted the International Children's Games in 2004, Mayor Jane Campbell ensured each visiting child received a cell phone equipped with GPS so no one would get lost. That's just one example of how the city applied technology in inventive and widely successful ways under Campbell's stewardship.
In Cleveland, information technology has come a long way, and has, in a few short years, modernized the city, Campbell said. "You have to understand where we started. When I came in, my office had no external e-mail. Only 150 of some 10,000 city employees had e-mail accounts." Also, the Northeast power outage in 2003 demonstrated a desperate need for better communication between agencies. "We had to run outside to talk to different officials in their vans and get questions answered."
The city's technology programs have a human face, and make a difference in social programs. In late 2004, after Cleveland was named the poorest large city in the nation, Campbell wanted to use technology to benefit the city's poorer residents, targeting lower-income communities with intensive job-related technology training and international certification. One such initiative was Computer Learning in my Backyard, which started in May 2005 with the goal of replication in all city wards.
In August 2005, Cleveland became an Intel Worldwide Digital Community when it adopted a common database and wireless technology in all key departments, "providing citizen access to government services, and empowering inspectors with tools to access information in the field," Campbell said. A citywide fiber-optic cable helps facilitate the wireless inspection and permit system, which uses handheld computing devices. Cleveland is now in the process of implementing a citywide voice over Internet protocol system.
Campbell's OneCleveland program, in partnership with Intel, is a nonprofit network that serves city agencies, other public-sector institutions and universities. "We have the opportunity to build on this program to help Cleveland's base of traditional manufacturing companies to become more technologically oriented in today's world," observed Campbell. An innovation center for technology is in the works in the city's theater district.
Having concluded her tenure as mayor in January, Campbell continues her work to attract IT investment and international companies to the Cleveland area. She will spend spring 2006 at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as a visiting fellow.
-- Alison Lake
World Foundation for Smart Communities
Joining the Creative Economy
To pore over John Eger's resumé requires a day's work. Familiarizing oneself with the knowledge he has shared worldwide provides a reader with an absolute library of writings on developing smart communities through technology.
Eger is president of the World Foundation for Smart Communities and the founding director of the California Institute for Smart Communities.
Eger insists that smart communities -- those using IT as a catalyst for transforming life and work to meet the challenge of the new millennium -- become such by fervently embracing broadband infrastructure. Communities that ignore these advancements risk becoming "ghost towns" that lack creative work forces and cannot meet looming global challenges.
"The biggest challenge our leaders face is understanding just how important and pervasive the creative economy is to our success and survival in a global arena, and then understanding much more about what makes our work force creative by acknowledging that a broadband wireless and wired infrastructure for every community is essential," he said. "Further, seeing technology as a tool of transformation needs desperately to be on every community's agenda. If creativity and innovation are the benchmarks of success, how do we get art and music back into the classroom? How do we get our citizens to take back their government in a very new and different digital age? How do we get our corporations to attract, retain and help our communities nurture creativity in all its forms? These are all roadblocks to our future and require the very best and brightest thinking."
-- Jim McKay
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