February 14, 2003 By Government Technology
These same attributes help Decker as president of the National Association of State Telecommunications Directors (NASTD) during a time of transition and upheaval. No longer an association dealing with just phone issues, NASTD recast itself as a technology organization aimed at working more closely with state CIOs and the private sector, renaming itself The Association for Telecommunications & Technology Professionals Serving State Government. During this transition, Decker has been at the helm, encouraging members to embrace the future.
"Nobody lives in a vacuum anymore," she said. "The world of telecommunications has gone global. If I've got an issue going on in the state of Nebraska and I'm looking for a solution, I first turn to the people dealing with this in other states because somebody, somewhere has run into the same problem." More than likely, other NASTD members turn to Brenda for help as well.
Like other state telecom directors, Decker is trying to enable Nebraska's operations with new technologies, such as wireless and enterprise applications, while at the same time grappling with today's fiscal realities. Despite limitations, Decker refuses to see the glass as half-empty. "Quite frankly, tight budget times are an opportunity to do things differently," she said. "It's an opportunity to say, 'Are there ways to look for new efficiencies, rather than throw our hands up and ask what do we do next?'"
--Tod Newcombe, Features Editor
Assistant City Manager
San Carlos, Calif.
Taking a college computer course in the 1970s meant students couldn't take their work home; mainframes didn't move so students only programmed in computer labs.
But Brian Moura knew there was another way. Living in the San Francisco Bay area, he heard of people creating computers small enough to sit on a desk, called personal computers, or PCs. Before long, Moura had one at home helping compile programs.
Finding new solutions to intractable problems has driven Moura throughout his public-service career, principally for San Carlos, Calif., where he is the assistant city manager. Moura once talked his way into a demonstration of the first laser printer and immediately grasped the machine's significance.
He also understood the significance of the graphical user interface well before its widespread acceptance. Convinced of its importance for government, Moura volunteered as a Windows beta tester during its infancy. He attended a Microsoft meeting where all software users met in a single hotel room; Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft, poured drinks and someone remarked that one day Windows would be so big, the next all-user meeting would fill the hotel. Brian's response was that it would be bigger, and so it was.
But Moura's biggest impact is in city government. Despite its 25,000 population, San Carlos was the second city in the country to operate its own Web site. Moura leveraged partnerships with technology firms to wire city schools with computer networks before most officials thought to install stand-alone PCs. He built up online services and was instrumental in getting software firms to design permitting applications with Web-based features. The city received many awards for its innovative use of technology under Moura's direction; although Moura credits the mayor's support in fostering an open attitude toward San Carlos' use of technology.
Even with tight budgets, Moura sees no problem starting new technology projects. "You can't sell technology on how it's going to save money or jobs," he said. "You've got to convince government leaders that it's worth investing in for better service and greater productivity."
It also helps if, like Moura, you refuse to take no for an answer.
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