Quick: What's the most watched sporting event in the world? Sorry, the Super Bowl or World Series don't cut it. The correct answer is the World Cup. More than 600 million viewers watched some part of the soccer match between France and Italy in 2006, according to the Initiative Worldwide, an advertising firm.

Like the Olympics, World Cup games are played over several weeks in a host country at various venues. Beginning in June 2010, South Africa will host the World Cup, and the country's preparation and infrastructure transformation tell a remarkable story. Five new stadiums were built and five others are undergoing major renovations.

This started with a $56 billion allocation in 2007 for infrastructure improvements for roads, airports, railway, city cleanup, hotels, telecommunications and much more.

What does any of this have to do with technology? Quite a bit, I think. I visited South Africa in September to speak at their GovTech 2009 conference in Durban (not affiliated with Government Technology magazine). I definitely was impressed. I've been to conferences in the United States and Europe over the past 25 years, but this was my favorite -- offering wonderful hospitality and global technology perspectives.

I expected to see a lack of hope in a country with 23 percent unemployment. Despite the country's problems, there was undeniable excitement in the air. Our hosts thoughtfully interacted with technology experts from around the world. They also demonstrated how they're implementing disruptive technologies with a sense of urgency. Wherever I traveled, people displayed a remarkable optimism about the future.

One topic discussed in detail at the conference was broadband connectivity in South Africa. Similar to the United States, expanding high-speed Internet access to rural and underserved areas is a major initiative. New fiber and wireless capacity is being deployed across the country. Communications support to the World Cup stadiums will include a network backbone to support at least 40 Gbps to provide voice, data and high-definition TV. New high-capacity bandwidth connecting Africa to the world also is being added via undersea projects, such as SEACOM, which will provide African retail carriers with equal and open access to inexpensive bandwidth.

Another topic was redundancy and disaster recovery. In a country traditionally known for leisurely running on "African time," the World Cup organizers made it clear that "the show must go on -- on time." With fans expecting precise game-time logistics, technology and communications experts are focused on the importance of being prepared and asking "what-if" questions.

So what lessons did I take away that can help government professionals?

  1. Attitude is everything. If a country that has experienced so many struggles for decades can be optimistic, we certainly have no excuses for being pessimistic. South Africa has emerged from apartheid and developed a positive outlook for a new tomorrow. Positive morale within our technology teams is essential to long-term success, and we must regain that can-do momentum. Our strategic plans start with our people.
  2. Leverage national, state and local events to invest in the future. While your region may never host a World Cup, there are always unique opportunities that emerge. Even negative situations can be turned into positive projects if we engage the right stakeholders. We need to revisit infrastructure areas, such as broadband expansion and health IT stimulus dollars, to create new cross-boundary relationships.
  3. Listen, plan and execute. The South Africans have gone the extra mile to turn a (very big) sporting event into a transformational moment for their country. They're reinventing government by truly listening to global experts. More than that, they're building plans and implementing technology in inspiring ways.

One South African technology leader closed his remarks with stories of how government can positively impact the lives of ordinary citizens: "The business of business is to do business for benefit." We can learn from how South Africa has taken "its game" to a whole new level.

 

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Contributing Writer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.


He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Michigan.gov Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.


NOTE: The columns here are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006