Obama Urged To Build Smart and Sustainable Communities

As an initiative of the Digital Communities' CIO Task Force, local government and IT industry partners have joined together to offer their advice and support to the Obama Administration.

by / December 18, 2008 0
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As an initiative of the Digital Communities' CIO Task Force, local government and IT industry partners have joined together to offer their advice and support to the Obama Administration.

The initiative seeks to expand and clarify thinking about what comprises a sustainable community in the 21st century. "While long associated with environmental issues, Digital Communities members believe sustainability is a more expansive idea that reaches across a community's and region's endeavors," the group writes. "Sustainability means meeting today's needs and provisioning for the future. It is a powerful framework for thinking and acting on a range of challenges facing towns, cities and counties, and it is one that will depend heavily on the appropriate implementation and application of information technology."

In the document submitted to the new Administration, the group argues that the definition of "infrastructure" as it is currently considered in Congress should be expanded to include information and communications technology (ICT): voice, video, data, hardware and software and other services supported by broadband infrastructure (wire line and wireless). They urge that a national broadband infrastructure plan should be developed and implemented consistent with President-elect Obama's promise to "get true broadband to every community in America."

Additionally, Digital Communities members made clear their support for President-elect Obama's plan to appoint a federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that government and its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for this new century. The CTO, they say, in addition to leading federal interagency efforts to improve electronic service delivery and information sharing, should also involve local government and industry in efforts to improve the security of public service and public safety networks and to further develop and implement the infrastructure and policy guidance to move electronic service delivery forward. As part of this, the new federal CTO should work with federal, state and local government, industry and the federal courts to develop uniform standards and guidelines for electronic transactions and reconcile existing nonconforming protocols.

The submission in full follows:

Building Smart and Sustainable Communities

Local Government and Information Technology Industry Partners
Offer Their Advice and Support to the Obama Administration

The Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of 28 of America's largest cities and counties - home to more than 40 million citizens - have joined together with information and communication technology industry representatives in a program called Digital Communities created by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology magazine. Together, they are working to help communities ensure a healthy and prosperous future by becoming smarter and more sustainable.

While long associated with environmental issues, Digital Communities members believe sustainability is a more expansive idea that reaches across a community's and region's endeavors. Sustainability means meeting today's needs and provisioning for the future. It is a powerful framework for thinking and acting on a range of challenges facing towns, cities and counties, and it is one that will depend heavily on the appropriate implementation and application of information technology.

In September 2008, the National League of Cities (NLC), along with the National Governors Association (NGA), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), joined to highlight the important roles state and local government leaders play in solving national issues and called on the next president to engage these leaders when determining national policy. Digital Communities members do not seek to duplicate the good work of the major associations but to add their support and perspective as information technology professionals in local government to the work already done. They want to make clear their support for key provisions of the Obama and Biden Science, Technology and Innovation for a New Generation platform.

Digital Communities members have identified the

following issues as critical to their ability to support and improve the local governance process and therefore suggest them as priority issues for the Obama Administration.

* The definition of "infrastructure" as it is currently considered in Congress should be expanded to include information and communications technology (ICT): voice, video, data, hardware and software and other services supported by broadband infrastructure (wire line and wireless). ICT has become integral to efficient, equitable, affordable and available health care, social services, public safety, education and job training, transportation and other lifeline services and should therefore be considered a key component of any economic stimulus bill. Investment in ready-to-go infrastructure projects - including funds for airports, housing, schools, highways, bridges, transit, clean water, sewer, energy, public safety and broadband infrastructure (wire line and wireless) - create jobs and stimulate the economy while allowing government agencies to become more effective, efficient and transparent.

* A national broadband infrastructure plan should be developed and implemented consistent with President-elect Obama's promise to "get true broadband to every community in America" and the provisions of the Conference of Mayors' Resolution #104. Digital Communities members support the USCM's call for development of a comprehensive national broadband policy that includes highspeed broadband deployment to cities and urban counties and that preserves the ability of local governments to provide broadband capability and services within their communities. Further, the Administration, Congress and the FCC should work with local governments to expand and focus resources to speed the development of competitive, affordable services to American communities.

* The federal-state-local partnership is vital to ensuring the welfare and well-being of our citizens and our nation. An important element of that partnership is represented through the federal grant process. Digital Communities members support the NLC's request that the incoming Administration and Congress work together with local government to encourage and create incentives for regional and inter-local cooperation and solutions. Federal grant programs, regulatory and reporting requirements, funding formulas and other practices should change to promote cooperation at the local and regional levels. The goal should be to simplify and speed up the process to enable localities to better leverage limited funds and more effectively carry out vital programs and services while supporting their regional economies. The grant process must be managed with a view to derive public value from available resources and avoid unnecessary duplication.

* Finally, Digital Communities members support President-elect Obama's plan to appoint a federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO, in addition to leading federal interagency efforts to improve electronic service delivery and information sharing, should also involve local government and industry in efforts to improve the security of public service and public safety networks and to further develop and implement the infrastructure and policy guidance to move electronic service delivery forward. For example, on June 30, 2000, Congress enacted the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, but acceptance, adoption and implementation and the associated benefits of electronic commerce and electronic government have been slow in coming to many communities. The new federal CTO should work with federal, state and local government, industry and the federal courts to develop uniform standards and guidelines for electronic transactions and reconcile existing nonconforming protocols.

Local government is the frontline of public service delivery, and it is, by definition, closest to the people it serves. Cities, counties and regions across the country have proven their ability to bring people together, experiment, innovate and identify viable and practical solutions to many of the challenges facing our nation. Digital Communities members are anxious to share their experience with the Obama Administration and to work together to support the President-elect's desire to expand the important and positive role technology can play to re-connect Americans with their democracy in new ways.

Digital Communities Participants:
Government CIOs
City of Baltimore, MD
City of Boston, MA
City of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, NC
City of Chicago, IL
City of Columbus, OH
City of Corpus Christi, TX
City of Fort Worth, TX
City of Los Angeles, CA
City of Miami, FL
City of Milwaukee, WI
City of New York, NY
City of Phoenix, AZ
City of Portland, OR
City of Seattle, WA
City of Tucson, AZ
City of Washington, D.C.
Alameda County, CA
City & County of Denver, CO
City & County of Honolulu, HI
City & County of San Francisco, CA
Clark County, NV
Contra Costa County, CA
Cook County, IL
El Paso County, TX
Franklin County, OH
Harris County, TX
King County, WA
Maricopa County, AZ
Oakland County, MI
Orange County, FL
Palm Beach County, FL
Yuma County, AZ

Industry Participants
Accela
Alcatel-Lucent
AT&T
BlackBerry
CDW-G
OnBase
Microsoft

Photo of President Elect Obama by BohPhoto. Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic

Blake Harris Contributing Editor