phones and thousands of data terminals that controlled city operations. "In the wake of all that carnage, my agency was shouldered with the responsibility of restoring communication as quickly as possible to high priority buildings," he reported. While Verizon focused on enabling emergency services, Duvdevani's office looked for options and found some in place.
The city's Mutual Assistance and Restoration Consortium was a group formed in the early 1990s to provide voice and data alternatives in case of critical data disruptions. Under the agreement, broadband telecommunications providers were required to offer mutual assistance in critical circumstances. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, appropriate carriers were called upon to bring key sites back up. "We restored City Hall and the Municipal Building in three days with alternative fiber, wireless and other esoteric solutions," said Duvdevani. One of the most unique solutions included the city going to court to get permission for a bankrupt company to provide Internet wireless devices during the disaster recovery.
GIS in the Spotlight
Underscoring the important role of GIS in disaster recovery, Al Leidner, New York City's GIS manager, supported the restoration of services. Duvdevani said police helicopters took professional photographers aloft, where they took aerial shots of the destruction. The photography was overlaid on utility, water and power outages.
"The task ahead of us now is to strategically develop an approach [to] how we can leverage this investment we have made into a more strategic solution," Duvdevani said, adding that the city had already planned redundancies into its system. Nonetheless, like most government entities, he admitted New York agencies often resisted internal communication. The September disaster highlighted just how important cross-agency communication is in disaster response.
Although the city had an aggressive security stance and had implemented intrusion detection, Duvdevani added that his first move after the attacks was to take the city's site down. He was concerned that too much information, such as traffic patterns and detailed maps of city sites, might aid the terrorists in some way.
There was consensus among call participants that the events of Sept. 11 did not sound the death knell for electronic government. On the contrary, they speculated that access to information and services from government will become increasingly important. "There will be no slow down in our e-government initiative," Duvdevani said. "In fact, it's accelerated." He suggested alternative technologies, such as increased deployment of wireless services, will be employed to create even more avenues of communication.
Interagency and intergovernmental cooperation are key to this vision of the digital future. According to the OMB's Frater, the appointment of Mark Forman to the federal e-government office sets a national IT agenda that includes enterprise systems. The OMB's focus is on government-to-government data integration. "We started scrubbing the base and looking at agency IT requirements. We saw the same type of requests coming from multiple agencies," Frater said. "Now, we are thinking a little more broadly and thinking this is the same system we're using in 10 different agencies. Let's build it once and replicate it and that frees up other money that we can use in new ways."
This new federal mindset includes state and local governments. Frater said many non-federal entities have contacted his agency for guidance and to offer assistance. Consequently, the OMB reached out to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, the National Association of Counties and other state and local groups, as well as GIS associations. The OMB will focus on several data integration initiatives with state and local governments, Frater said, including GIS, vital information from the Social Security Administration, disaster information and tax and wage reporting.
In addition, Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has announced his focus on coordination of activities and agencies. "It is critical to him to have enterprise tools to make data more effective, and the president has also cited working with state and local government as one of his main priorities," Frater observed.
Conversations with leaders in digital government support the observations made by panel participants. Security has been a constant concern in the deployment of information systems. Enterprise-wide thinking and interagency communication have long been regarded as necessary elements in electronic government.
Digital signatures, shared PKI, systems integration and intergovernmental collaboration are being discussed at the highest levels. Federal officials who now acknowledge the interdependency of information systems needed to create true national security are inviting state government leaders to the table. Local governments, long relegated to the outfield of technology, have suddenly become valued team members. From the challenging aftermath of Sept. 11 emerges an opportunity to develop truly integrated electronic government without boundaries.