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Government Talks Cloud and Data at Dreamforce

At the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, many government IT leaders spelled out why cloud technology is a must.

As Dreamforce hit its third day, it could be said that San Francisco is now well aware of the conference's attendees.

Sponsored by data management company Salesforce, Dreamforce 2013 saw notable speakers like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and on Wednesday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

And if those headliners weren’t attention-grabbers, Dreamforce’s more than 135,000 registered visitors couldn't be ignored, strolling through downtown San Francisco with their conference IDs and compact, tightly fitted gray Salesforce backpacks (subtly comic when strapped over a business suit).

Here is a sampling of the conference’s more notable happenings on Wednesday:

Easy as 1-2-3

Salesforce Vice President Tim McCormick hosted a Q&A session with San Francisco CIO Marc Touitou, U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesperson Anjali Kataria, and Department of Energy Director of Survey Systems and Applications Management James Ellis. All three had used Salesforce to some degree to manage and communicate data, calling the process as easy as it could be considering typical government regulations and politics.
The primary task of the Salesforce platform is to act as an online dashboard for data management, including record keeping, communication tracking and monitoring and publishing on social media. Touitou focused on the platform’s ability to help connect citizens through social media. When an Asiana Boeing 777 crashed in July at San Francisco International Airport, for instance, the city was able to reach out to distressed residents about the accident through its Salesforce social media feed, Touitou said.

Cloud: Good for Your Health

A health and social services session showed how health-care organizations can benefit from cloud-based data management. David Sayen, a regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said the cloud has helped his agency geographically map the uninsured as employees use Salesforce to enter location data on uninsured citizens. The CMS hopes to use the cloud to help more effectively analyze this and other data sources. Tim Pletcher, executive director of the Michigan Health Information Network, has used Salesforce's data management tools to help his organization create a better directory of health-care providers, something it has struggled with for years.

Governing that Engages

Another government session focused on cloud technology's role in citizen engagement. Speakers included Sergio Zwi of the Inter-American Development Bank, whose organization provides funding for humanitarian projects in Central and South America. Zwi said Salesforce's cloud data technologies help the bank secure funding and support from donors, and therefore deliver real results.

Philadelphia Chief Customer Service Officer Rosetta Carrington was on hand to tell attendees how cloud data management helped staff from different departments develop a coordinated view of city projects and resident 311 requests by allowing them to log onto Salesforce's dashboard for real-time data.

Leaning In with Facebook's Sandberg

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg ended the day by talking not about IT, but about equality in the workplace. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff interviewed Sandberg about her book Lean In. Sandberg contends that today's workplace has many double standards that are never addressed and as a result, never remedied. The origins of these double standards can be traced all the way back to the playground.

“When a boy leads, we don’t call him bossy, we expect him to lead,” Sandberg said. “But when a little girl leads on a playground, we call her bossy.”

Sandberg called for discussion and openness inside and outside the workplace about these issues.

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.