NYC CIO Gives Status Report on Gotham's IT Programs

Paul Cosgrave talks IT with the Center for Digital Government.

by / August 29, 2008

In July, Commissioner and CIO of the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Paul Cosgrave held a teleconference with the Center for Digital Government to discuss the state of IT in New York City.

Cosgrave, who was appointed CIO by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2006, told Public CIO magazine, his focus for the remainder of the mayor's term would be to embed greater transparency, accountability and accessibility into the delivery of the city's government services. "We're structuring everything we do to align IT with those themes and to deliver a much more customer-oriented government," Cosgrave said.

Today, Cosgrave is implementing a number of high-profile IT projects while dealing with governance challenges and evaluating new technologies, such as Web 2.0. In the teleconference, Cosgrave outlined five major IT projects DoITT is planning or executing:

  • Emergency Communications Transformation Program -- This program will provide two new 911 call centers, allowing police and fire departments to communicate in the same facility. Costing approximately $1 billion total, the first center should be completed by the end of 2008.
  • New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) -- This is a wireless network throughout the city, consisting of 400 cell sites and much faster broadband communications. Public safety officials will have mobile access to blueprints, pictures, warrants, video and other data.
  • Health and Human Services Connect -- The program will allow a dozen health and human services agencies to share and manage clients and data centrally, utilizing a service-oriented architecture (SOA) program called DataShare.
  • Streamlining of Private Business Processes -- DoITT plans to create a simpler interface for businesses to access and submit information for the state.
  • Continued Development of the 311 Environment -- In place for five years now, the call center has processed 60 million calls, with daily traffic on the rise.

Cosgrave also mentioned various challenges facing the DoITT, like getting buy-in and cooperation from agencies. Although some projects are easier because of Bloomberg's support (such as the 311 project), many agencies fail to see the benefits of certain projects. The department also faces a long purchasing process -- it can take as long as a year to complete the RFP cycle. For this reason, DoITT often uses the Office of General Services contracts as a starting point for competitive bidding, thus speeding up the process.

During the teleconference, the CIO answered various vendor questions, some of which are listed below.

  • What is DoITT's position regarding software as a service (SaaS)? According to Cosgrave, the enormity of New York City makes it difficult to use SaaS in a cost-effective way, yet the department is open to any future ideas.
  • What is DoITT's plan regarding open source as an operating system or with the Java operating platform? DoITT is exploring the use of open source, although it has not done so in the past, often using Linux on the mainframe (which it will continue to do).
  • Do you have a master data management strategy for the city? DoITT uses an enterprise architecture approach -- capital planning alongside an oversight committee that reviews RFPs to ensure the observance of architecture standards.
  • What are your specifics regarding virtualization efforts? The department works with Wintel and UNIX, and has been using VMware, with server utilization of up to 50 percent to 60 percent.
  • Are there efforts to consolidate contracts after they have been awarded or to leverage them for other agencies? Cosgrave says that thus far, they have had success with BAE Systems, PeopleSoft, Seevo and Oracle.
  • What geospatial projects are being considered? DoITT faces certain challenges because the boroughs are in charge of some street naming. However, the department is active with the technologies, and plans on having the fire and inspection departments use the same systems.

Cosgrave also spoke about DoITT's use of Web 2.0 -- he doesn't yet see the benefits outweighing the legalities of posting comments on public sites -- as well as green initiatives, such as data center consolidation and possible paper reduction.