On the doorstep of Silicon Valley, Oakland is in the midst of a technological renaissance, having launched a new open source records request system called RecordTrac and encouraged hackathons for kids in low-income communities. In the center of it all is CIO Bryan Sastokas.
The first official CIO of Oakland, Sastokas was hired more than a year ago to lead the city’s technology staff and mission. His immediate task wasn’t a specific project or initiative, however. It was determining how to walk a fine line between keeping the city’s IT infrastructure up and running, and taking steps to innovate.
When he took the job, Sastokas intended to provide some mature concepts and engage partners to take Oakland to the next level. Instead he found himself becoming an “operational guru,” making sure critical functions like the email system and data centers didn’t break down.
Getting his hands dirty in daily operations isn’t something Sastokas regrets — he enjoys balancing his duties as both an IT problem-solver and a collaborator who helps the city become a high-tech and forward-thinking powerhouse.
“When we become so focused on how we want to better things, we sometimes lose how to make them deliverable and actionable,” Sastokas said.
For example, Oakland has a citywide fiber master plan and is forming partnerships to expand its fiber network, including a program to light dark fiber in two blighted areas of the city. Sastokas also said the city is moving many “underpinning technologies” to the cloud to take advantage of the resource savings and efficiency gains.
“We’re doing large, Fortune 10 company-style projects that have been Herculean for us and we’re doing them slowly,” Sastokas added. “It’s not easy — it’s government. But you need to look beyond that and see how it betters Oakland. And that’s where I see these initiatives going for the city.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.