Randi Levin, chief technology officer, Los Angeles/Photo by Terence Brown Randi Levin, chief technology officer, Los Angeles Photo by Terence Brown

The cloud computing era could come sooner to the public sector than most observers expect, if Los Angeles Chief Technology Officer Randi Levin's phone bill rings true.

In a recent sit-down interview with Government Technology in the City Hall offices of the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency (ITA), Levin revealed that her department has received 27 or 28 inquiries from California governments that are interested in Los Angeles' decision to transition all city employees to Google Apps -- the company's "hosted" productivity suite that includes Gmail.

Levin said the ITA also has participated in numerous conference calls on the same topic with city and state governments across the U.S., Levin said, and also one South American government. She declined to name them.

"They ask about security; that's definitely always a big concern," Levin said. "And I always encourage them to do their own due diligence on the process. Then they often wonder how is it we were able to migrate through the process to get to a decision and what were the concerns raised along the way."

Interest has been so great, according to ITA Assistant General Manager Kevin Crawford, that the company is in talks to launch a blog that would track the progress of L.A.'s implementation. It would be written by ITA staff, he said. City employees have been similarly enthusiastic, Crawford added, as evidenced by the fact that more than 8,000 of the city's 30,000 employees have signed up to participate in a Google Apps pilot. The number far exceeds what's required.

In October, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the ITA's plan to switch from Novell GroupWise to Google Apps, via a $7.5 million implementation that will be managed by Computer Sciences Corp. When the plan was announced in July, some officials from the city's fire and police departments expressed their concern that moving the city's e-mail and potentially sensitive data to the company's servers located offsite would pose a security threat. But Levin said she has achieved complete buy-in and that the ITA has worked to ensure Gmail will comply with U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and California DOJ requirements.

During the past few months, Crawford said an internal working group at ITA has been formulating policies for Gmail's unique features, such as skin customization and records retention for the built-in Google Chat -- for example, when it can be turned off and on.

Conventional wisdom has held that Los Angeles is out on a limb as the only U.S. government adopting Google Apps for enterprisewide use. Of course, a few governments have jumped aboard, like Orlando, Fla., and the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. And Washington, D.C., previously used it in a limited form.

But Levin's comments about the interest in California alone could mean that Los Angeles soon will have lots of company.

 

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor