Government technology leaders at the local, state and federal levels are constantly looking for new approaches that make positive impacts on citizens’ lives. I found one initiative in Washtenaw County, Mich., that seems to be doing the job.
The Washtenaw County Cyber Citizenship Coalition (WC4) is different than typical “technology projects.” For one, it started from a grass-roots effort. Second, participants range from government and university leaders to elderly grandmothers. Third, the coalition’s leader is talented County Commissioner Kristin Judge, who got involved because she’s passionate about solving serious Internet problems in her community and helping families online.
I had the opportunity to interview Judge at a recent WC4 meeting — a coalition that demonstrates cross-boundary collaboration with real results.
What is WC4?
WC4 is a group of local, state and federal partners working to ensure that the residents of our county are using technology in a safe and secure manner.
Why was the group formed, and why did you feel the need to get involved?
Three students from our local high school were victims of cyber-attacks by child predators in 2009. As a member of the first generation of parents with kids “connected” to multiple technologies, I felt a need to help educate our community and my family.
At a National Association of Counties meeting, I sat next to Kelvin Coleman, director of state, local and tribal government for the National Cyber Security Division of the [U.S. Department of Homeland Security]. He offered to help when he heard our story.
What problems are you solving?
The coalition’s mission is to empower community members through awareness and education to use the Internet and related technology safely and securely. We want to give residents the tools they need to embrace technology without negative consequences.
Who’s involved locally and nationally?
Locally we have community members who have been working in cyber-security and education for years. These members come from neighborhood watch groups, nonprofits, businesses, government, education (K-12 and higher ed), law enforcement, legal profession, teens, seniors and the media.
Nationally some of our partners are the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division, National Initiative on Cyber Education, National Cyber Security Alliance, and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. All the groups support the new national message of “Stop. Think. Connect.”
Our private partners so far include Google, AT&T and Dell.
What have you accomplished so far?
We have established five workgroups that focus on awareness, education, public policy, law enforcement and public-private partnerships.
The biggest achievement has been getting the dedicated experts from Washtenaw County and Washington, D.C., to come together with one purpose. Now the groups are picking a tangible project to work on. For example, the Law Enforcement Workgroup will be starting an education campaign with small businesses to prevent cyber-crime.
We are in the process of doing a baseline survey of residents to measure the success of our work. Our website launched in October 2010, and we hosted a breakfast to commemorate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Currently we are in the planning stages for a Cyber Day at Eastern Michigan University for area teens and a statewide cyber-summit in October 2011.
With our sheriff, we are working on a first responder program for county residents. Who do you call when you have been a victim of a cyber-crime? Calling 911 is usually not the answer, so we are looking into alternatives.
Where do you see this going over the next year?
I would like to see even broader participation from the public and private sectors. Grant funding and private investment in this issue will be needed. We hope to have measurable outcomes to show that our efforts have helped residents navigate this new frontier.
How can other state and local governments get involved?
Bringing together local stakeholders is the first step. We are working with our federal partners to create a toolkit to help our work be duplicated. We look forward to working with other communities to share resources and best practices around this issue.
To learn more, visit http://washtenawcybercoalition.org
Dan Lohrmann is Michigan’s CTO and previously served as the state’s first chief information security officer. He has 25 years of worldwide security experience, and has won numerous awards for his leadership in the information security field.