February 20, 2008 By Steve Towns
Editor's note: This interview was completed before Norm Jacknis announced that he was leaving his CIO position on February 14 to work as technology adviser at Cisco Systems.
Norm Jacknis became Westchester County's CIO in 1998 and was named one of Government Technology's "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers" in 2005 for his long-standing leadership on information technology issues.
Westchester routinely ranks among the top 10 in the Center for Digital Government's Digital Counties Survey.
GT: What challenges face your organization in 2008?
Jacknis: One is mobility. We're working on making sure there's a wireless data network all over - not for the public, but for government itself. We also need applications that will work in that environment because a lot of people who work for the county are doing things in the field and need to be supported by technology there.
Next, there's a younger generation of people who have 20 years of experience with PCs, and they've outgrown us. We need to make sure our offerings are effective for them. Some new technology has come along as part of that generational movement: social networking software, Second Life and 3-D virtualization. We can use them to present our ideas for county planning. We can also use them to involve people more formally in the policy-making process.
GT: Are you under pressure to provide wireless connectivity for public access?
Jacknis: We're under less pressure than most because several years ago we made a big effort to ensure broadband capability in the wired network. We made sure every nook and cranny of the county was covered. It's not like we're looking at wireless as a solution to cover areas that don't have broadband, which is what a lot of other people are doing. They thought it was going to be a cheap solution, and there isn't such a thing, unfortunately.
GT: What other issues do you consider critical?
Jacknis: We have automated many government operations, and now everybody is sitting on a lot of data. One of our responsibilities is to help the departments figure out what they can learn from that data. So we've already initiated a statistical analysis unit.
GT: Can you point to results from that effort?
Jacknis: We helped our public safety department figure out how to deploy police cars to minimize accidents. In the same study, we helped public works figure out how to engineer roadways - again, to reduce accidents. We've done the same thing in our parks department, which is a little bit more like traditional marketing. How do we fill up the golf courses? How do we get more people coming to our amusement park? It's been a real benefit.
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