Mohammed Al Rawi is always telling people the same thing: IT isn’t just a service. It’s a vital part of the way people get things done.
“It’s not that when your computer is broken you need IT. No — IT should be at the table for all business decisions,” he said.
And Al Rawi has dedicated his government career to demonstrating why. When he was working for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the county virtualized 98 percent of its IT footprint in two years, paving the way to better data sharing and modernizing obsolete applications.
Then, at the end of 2016, he became CIO of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation and had to start demonstrating IT’s value all over again.
It hasn’t taken long. He’s in the midst of two major modernization projects — new systems for content management and enterprise asset management — and is digitizing 7 million paper records in the process.
He’s also brought innovation to the department. Under his leadership, they have set up augmented reality games to draw more young people to parks. A Wi-Fi network gives the department insights into who’s using the parks, as well as where and when, which helps them determine where to deploy resources.
“It’s becoming a tool that’s used daily,” Al Rawi said.
He also set up video analytics at public pools to help lifeguards identify drowning swimmers that might otherwise be hard to spot.
The CIO is experimenting with the Internet of Things. Sensors can deliver information about the health of trees to arborists and GPS trackers can help emergency responders find missing hikers. And as the county struggles to deal with massive fires, he’s evaluating sensors as a way to spot blazes faster.
The key to continual innovation? Paying attention to more than just his niche. The idea of tracking park users came from retail stores tracking customers, while the swimming pool cameras were already in use in Europe but unheard of in the U.S.
“You would miss a lot of innovation if you just look at the parks ecosystem in terms of technology,” he said.
Ben Miller is the business beat staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.