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2010 Year in Review: Mobile Technology and Sustainability Are Among Government Issues

A look at the trends and people that influenced government IT in 2010.

In your hands (or on your monitor, or even on your smartphone screen) is the 2010 edition of Government Technology’s Year in Review. Putting together this feature is always daunting. How best to encapsulate an entire year in state and local technology and present it in a compelling fashion? There’s also the challenge of deciding which stories warrant another go-round.

This year, members of our editorial staff took a crack at analyzing individual technology subsets — from IT security and mobile technology to broadband and sustainability — and the important roles each played in 2010. You’ll also find top 10 lists, a roundup of popular smartphone apps, a timeline highlighting career moves, technology milestones and more.

Without a doubt, 2010 will be remembered as the year the Web was truly liberated from the confines of the desktop. This year, more people accessed the Web from non-PC devices than ever before. Most would agree the era of the desktop as the preferred on-ramp to cyber-space is rapidly ending. More powerful smartphones, iPads and their competitors, and even our game consoles, are ushering in a new age of ubiquitous connectivity.

This fundamental societal shift will undoubtedly bring challenges and opportunities in every realm imaginable — health, work, love, environment, energy, governance and virtually every other aspect of our lives. This change will set the course for our shared future and will demand that public-sector technology leaders radically redefine their priorities. The time of the CIO as a glorified MIS administrator is officially behind us.

Technology leadership will be in increasingly high demand and perhaps a revisit to 2010 will offer some glimmers of insight for how you should prepare.


Even before 2010 began, research organizations and vendors forecast trouble on the cyber-security front. In December 2009, Kaspersky Lab predicted that 2010 would see more sophisticated malware attacks that would reach more places, like phones and social networking platforms. Fast-forward to July, and another research firm claimed that more complex cyber-attacks were occurring than before.

Mark Weatherford, California’s then-chief information security officer (CISO), wrote in January that such reports highlighted how susceptible U.S. infrastructure is to cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism. And at a March symposium on protecting the global supply chain, government, academic, nonprofit and corporate attendees agreed that cyber-dangers even threaten America’s stream of goods. Since technology touches everything now — even how people get food — these supply chains are vulnerable.

The federal government moved to shore up protection of the nation’s digital infrastructure, but those efforts took awhile to get moving. Months after the Obama administration completed a 90-day review of the nation’s digital infrastructure in December 2009, the president appointed Howard Schmidt to be the first White House cyber-security coordinator. Then in May 2010, four-star Army Gen. Keith Alexander was named commander of the newly created U.S. Cyber Command, a subdivision of the U.S. Strategic Command.

This federal activity impacted state and local government efforts. Maryland officials, for example, recommended in January that the state align its cyber-security initiatives with those of the Obama administration. In a summer IBM-sponsored survey about state cyber-security management, CISOs viewed their relationships with the federal government differently. It was recommended that individual CISOs sit down with federal counterparts to work out unique cyber-security strategies.

Although the federal government took significant steps toward strengthening leadership and coordination on national cyber-security issues, more work remained as 2010 drew to a close. In August, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report calling for greater public-private cooperation on cyber-security matters. The authors noted the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, which is designed to coordinate information sharing between government and corporate entities. But the report stressed that the public and private sectors must work closely together to fight cyber-crime.
—    Hilton Collins


Throughout 2010 many government officials derided the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) disbursal of $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects. People lamented the extra time the NTIA needed to evaluate applications. Applicants typically found the requirements onerous and sometimes contradictory. Also, the first round of winners represented a small portion of the $7.2 billion, prompting many to dismiss broadband’s near-term relevance to stimulating the economy. While the complaints were valid, the agency didn’t get enough credit for putting good stewardship of tax dollars ahead of shoveling stimulus money out the door.
In a move that was unpopular with governments, the NTIA gave most of its first-round broadband infrastructure grants to proposals driven by telecommunications companies, not state and local agencies. Many government CIOs were crushed after having run themselves ragged meeting tight application deadlines, said Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute. “Any idealistic hope that we may have had has been evaporated by what they funded,” he said.

But Gartner analyst Alex Winogradoff, who helped the NTIA judge grant applications, said the agency had no choice but to reject many government-driven applications. Government submissions often lacked the expertise and preparedness of private-sector applications, he said. If the administration was going to spend billions in tax dollars on broadband, the money needed to go to proposals with the best expertise available. With a small staff, the NTIA made numerous efforts during 2010 to help government applicants revise their proposals. The agency allowed for resubmissions and held workshops across the country to give pointers on revisions. As more grants were announced in 2010, a reasonably even amount of broadband money ultimately went to both vendor and government applications.  — Andy Opsahl


What does it mean to “go green?” Not much anymore, as public and private organizations seemingly moved beyond that catchall phrase in 2010. In government, hardly anyone is going green — they’re practicing sustainability instead. Usually such buzzword bingo has little bearing on the issues being discussed. In this case, however, there really is a difference: Going green usually describes doing something simply because it’s environmentally friendly. Being sustainable, on the other hand, is not only environmentally friendly, but also makes an organization better in terms of cost, productivity and efficiency.

This year, there was no shortage of sustainability efforts at the local, state and federal levels. In November, one of the federal government’s premier examples of sustainability can be found at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. NREL’s new Research Support Facility is a testament to how thoughtful construction, locally sourced materials and innovation can be combined to create a supremely energy-efficient structure, the cost of which rivals that of traditional buildings.

Meanwhile governors and state CIOs joined forces in 2010 to find ways to attract, invest in and leverage sustainable technology that will drive down the cost of doing business. In Sacramento, Calif., the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is investing $128 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for smart meters, dynamic pricing, electric vehicle charging stations and home energy management systems.

But not all sustainability efforts need to be as large scale as NREL’s or as expensive as SMUD’s. Reno, Nev., is a perfect example. In June, two 1.5 kilowatt wind turbines were put into operation atop the 17-story City Hall. Sustainability solutions like these, together with big-ticket projects, helped define 2010 — and will continue to do so in the future.
—    Chad Vander Veen

Mobile Devices

This year — like the last several — governments struggled with strict budgets, and officials sought ways to work smarter or risked getting left behind. In 2010, mobile devices became the go-to gadgets to boost efficiency, and governments couldn’t keep their hands off them.

With mobile technology, cash-strapped agencies had a way to save paper and time, interact with the public, and send and receive critical data in the field. This year, handheld tools — laptops, smartphones, PDAs — helped improve workflow management for agencies countrywide, from public safety to human services departments.

In law enforcement, mobile technology continued to drive the e-ticketing trend, streamline data delivery and enhance biometric operations. Building inspectors used the tools to remotely access information on permits, licenses and properties. In the spring, Florida’s Department of Children and Families distributed smartphones and laptops equipped with built-in cameras and a software program, enabling foster care caseworkers to take digital images and immediately upload information to the state’s child welfare data system.

Handheld devices have been on the market for years, but the game changed in April when Apple released its tablet computer: the iPad. To save time and reduce paper use, Williamsburg, Va., and Redwood City, Calif., used the tablet to eliminate printed materials for city council meetings and potentially save thousands of dollars.

But with mobile technology still new and spreading fast, cities and states are trying to keep up. Governments must determine where e-mail, text messages and chats on mobile devices fit in the transparency conversation so as not to undermine open records requirements.

In any case, as mobile devices evolve, the public sector will adapt to portable technologies to keep moving forward in the most efficient manner. — Russell Nichols

Public Safety

2010 was another year of doing more with less — and public safety agencies took this to heart. Throughout the year, Government Technology covered law enforcement agencies using technology deployments to promote public safety and smarter ways to use equipment.

San Jose, Calif., took President Barack Obama’s call for transparency to a level beyond tracking spending. The Police Department tested cameras that rest on an officer’s ear to record video footage of his or her encounters. The cameras provide a way for police officers and their superiors to see incidents from the officer’s point of view. The video data also can be used in court and allows police to turn the cameras on the public, which has been known to use technology to record officers’ actions.

License-plate readers were another growing piece of technology in the field. While recording license plates near a crime scene, cameras attached to police cars automatically scan and track vehicles’ license plates to see if they’re associated with people on the FBI’s most wanted list. License-plate readers also helped the Greenwich, Conn., Police Department recoup roughly $5,000 in outstanding parking fines by connecting the system to its parking violations database. When officers pass a vehicle that has outstanding tickets, the system alerts officers so they can contact parking violations personnel who then put a boot on the vehicle.

These are two examples of public safety departments using technology to aid officers in the field while implementing smarter uses that provide additional benefits to the government as a whole. One can only imagine how this trend will continue in 2011 and beyond. — Elaine Pittman

Emergency Management

Since 9/11, billions of federal dollars have been spent to fix the public safety communications interoperability problem, most of it on hardware. Although there has been much progress, frustrations continue.

A common refrain years ago was that agency or jurisdiction A couldn’t communicate with agency or jurisdiction B. For the most part, “couldn’t” has been made obsolete, because technology upgrades allow for communication. But the willingness may still be lacking — or there may be a language (codes) barrier. It’s now becoming common knowledge that the interoperability problem is a people problem. Only continued communication among agencies and jurisdictions in the form of exercises, roundtables, etc., that lead to collaboration will solve the problem in most places.

In 10 years, will we still write about interoperability as we do today — that it’s something that’s desired but still must be attained? Or will agencies and local governments move outside their comfort zones and take advantage of the technology that’s readily available, opening the dialog with their neighbors and making interoperability yesterday’s news? We hope it’s the latter. — Jim McKay

Education Technology

Over the past year, school districts and universities nationwide switched to hosted applications, beefed up their wireless infrastructure and experimented with digital content.

For e-mail and documents, institutions moved to Google Apps for Education. In April, Oregon was the first state to sign an agreement with Google that its school districts could take advantage of, with Iowa and Colorado following suit in June. In the California State University system, more than half of the campuses switched to Google’s hosted service, along with major research universities. While some campuses tested Microsoft Live@edu, they made up a small minority.

On the wireless front, more school districts provided wireless access and mobile devices to educators and students. A smaller but growing number of districts allow students to access the wireless network with their own technology.

In the classroom, educators increasingly gave students assignments to blog, talk with classes nationwide and search for learning resources via online applications. These tools let students get excited about learning and use their book smarts in the real world.

As content moved online and became interactive, California led the way in affordable digital learning initiatives. On the K-12 level, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continued his free digital textbook initiative, and a pilot project with iPad apps in four districts is testing the impact of interactive digital content on student learning. At the college level, the university systems provided open source content and other digital material. Texas also is working on a portal for educators and students that combines professional development, portfolios, digital content, e-books and online courses.

These tools allow students to communicate, interact and engage with the knowledge they’re learning — and that’s what education is all about. — Tanya Roscorla

Chief Information Officers

In early 2009 when President Barack Obama created the federal CIO and CTO positions — and then filled the new posts with former Washington, D.C. CTO Vivek Kundra and former Virginia CTO Aneesh Chopra, respectively — states and localities had new hope that their opinions would be heard and their ideas shared by the federal government. The belief was that putting Kundra and Chopra in charge of the administration’s technology agenda would spur collaboration across all levels of government.

Two years later, that initial optimism developed into real-world results, although much work remains to ensure that the cooperation doesn’t fizzle. In some cases, the federal government has led by example, such as its push to make government data public by publishing it online — an approach many states and localities quickly expanded upon.

Other times, the federal government cribbed ideas that started in local government, such as apps development contests for citizens.

Sharing was one motivator for the Gang of Seven, an informal group of big-city CIOs who pool resources and ideas for application development, such as for 311 customer service systems. In July, a new consortium of CIOs at public transit agencies was started with the intent of sharing IT best practices. And a few states are in discussions to share Medicaid management information systems.

CIOs’ prevailing thought in 2010 was why build alone when you can build together? For the first time in a while, state and local CIOs say the federal government wants to work with them. The challenge for 2011 will be pushing collaboration forward despite continued budget pressures and the large number of CIOs who’ll leave after new governors take office.

There’s no shortage of projects that must be addressed. Broadband infrastructure, public safety radio, smart grid and intelligent transportation are all ripe for cooperative approaches. The trick will be actually doing it. — Matt Williams

Web 2.0

Governments have come a long way since RSS feeds and internal wikis. Throughout the year, Government Technology featured jurisdictions that pioneered or expanded the scope of Web 2.0 technologies in the public sector. For example, Boston’s revamped website lets residents sign up for text or e-mail alerts in case their car gets towed, and Miami-Dade County, Fla., created an online foreclosure auction site.

Web 2.0 also continued to make its mark on politics. During the 2010 gubernatorial elections, citizens all over the U.S. could “like,” “friend” and “follow” government hopefuls by using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

In an effort to reach out to the voting public, electoral candidates posted updates, videos and links to campaign information on social media sites. Receiving snippets of the campaigns was a perfect solution for anyone wanting daily doses of election coverage or looking to kill time on a smartphone.

But Tweeters and Facebookers risked following fake accounts, especially if the account was supposedly for a high-profile political figure. Outgoing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a slew of social media imposters making it difficult to determine which tweets and Facebook posts really belonged to him. Although some legal action is being taken to prevent social media fraud, most states don’t have a comprehensive social media policy.

This year, Maryland led the way on social media regulations. As of Aug. 3, the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review passed a law requiring political candidates in Maryland to provide an “authority line,” declaration of approval and the name of their campaign treasurer for their social media sites.

At the local level, mayors used social media to connect with their communities. For instance, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett used Twitter to update citizens on the city’s weight loss total for This City is Going on a Diet, an effort to help Oklahoma City residents collectively lose 1 million pounds.

Meanwhile, Wichita, Kan., Mayor Carl Brewer used Facebook to encourage residents to give feedback to the City Council on specific issues. And in July, New York City sought to hire a chief digital officer — a job born from the Web’s evolution — with social media and Web 2.0 expertise to communicate with citizens online.

But while many social media activities increased, 2010 also saw the end of one of the Web 2.0 era’s signature initiatives: Washington D.C.’s Apps for Democracy contest.

District CTO Bryan Sivak ended the contest — conceived by former district CTO Vivek Kundra — citing concerns over the sustainability and relevance of the resulting applications. Still, Apps for Democracy served as an inspiration for many jurisdictions, like San Francisco and Portland, Ore., hoping to engage citizen developers to use government data in innovative ways.

Web 2.0 technologies broadened two-way communication between government and citizens, and improved transparency — another heavily discussed topic in 2010. The full benefits of Web 2.0 are yet to be realized, but already there’s talk of Web 3.0. Much like Web 2.0 before it, many are uncertain what this new iteration will entail, but no doubt 2011 will be a year many endeavor to find out.
—    Karen Stewartson and Sarah Rich

Your Favorite Stories

The most popular stories on for 2010

Your Favorite Videos

Most-watched videos on for 2010

  • New Kind of Vending Machine
  • Fire Department Leverages Smartphones
  • Meet Colorado’s Chief Data Officer
  • Warning to Vendors
  • The Next Push from Motorola
  • Virtual Beverly Hills
  • Cities Launch Open Source 311
  • How San Diego Makes Outsourcing Work
  • Inside Manor Labs


Your Oddest Searches

The most unusual searches on in 2010:

  • flying windmill generators
  • grass fed cattle
  • hericanes
  • moose photography 
  • nude pizza dare
  • old people
  • scharzennagar 
  • teachers viagra
  • who’s in jail


New Government Smartphone Apps for 2010

  • California’s Office of Traffic Safety’s Taxi Magic (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm)
  • New York City’s NYCMate Transit App (iPhone, Android)
  • CivicPlus’ Citizen Request Tracker (iPhone)
  • King County, Wash.’s OneBusAway Real-Time Bus Tracking app (iPhone, Android)
  • San Ramon, Calif.’s 911 dispatch app, (iPhone)
  • Transportation Security Administration’s MyTSA app (iPhone)
  • California Department of Motor Vehicles’ DMV NOW app (iPhone)
  • U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission’s app (Android)
  • Montana’s Driver Test app (iPhone)

What’s Next?

Public- and private-sector experts predict top trends for 2011

The Hybrid Cloud

A potential business model that could develop in 2011 is the creation of a hybrid cloud where the private sector operates a cloud within the government’s infrastructure. This hybrid model would assist government in limiting concerns such as security. We believe this model to be sustainable and are preparing to provide cloud technologies to numerous governments in Michigan within the next 12 months. My prediction is that the private sector will partner with government in 2011 to create the necessary offerings to make the cloud a beneficial reality for us all.
Phil Bertolini, CIO, Oakland County, Mich.

Next-Gen Communications

Public safety agencies countrywide are rallying toward early stage deployments of 4G long term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. The alignment and timing coinciding with commercial LTE networks will offer a great step forward in the introduction and cooperation of public and private networks. The next generation of public safety communications systems will have the opportunity to supplement their critical voice and data services with enhanced multimedia applications.
Paul Steinberg, CTO, Motorola Solutions

Right App + Right Worker

2011 will be the “year of the device,” including notebook and tablet PCs, and smartphones. It’s a myth that government workers won’t be using these devices. What I see among our customers is a desire to focus less on which device a worker is using and more on providing a strong enterprise system behind each worker, allowing all staff to access what they need in a streamlined, manageable way. That means we’ll see more tailoring of apps for specific roles.  The immediate future will be about getting the right information via the right device into the hands of the right worker.
Maury Blackman, president and CEO, Accela Inc.  

Patient-Centric Care

We must implement new technologies that enable better prevention, improved self-care and quality chronic disease management. We have the opportunity to connect people and information in new ways that put patients’ wellness at the center, while also scaling to the increasing population of people in need of health care. It’s time to move beyond the hospital-centric model of health care and start using technology to create home- and community-based health-care environments.
Louis Burns, vice president and general manager, Intel Digital Health Group

Controlling Technology Cost

The rising cost of power and resources coupled with desire to consolidate data centers will accelerate interest in virtualization, cloud computing and a closer examination of the cost of operating IT equipment. The growth of cyber-security and social networking will be fueled by a combination of ever-increasing bandwidth and a desire to do more with mobile computing. The need for timely, accurate information to make informed decisions will fuel an increase in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies to benefit all sectors of society — ­from national defense to disease control, to more accurate weather prediction.
Greg Hanson, chief operating officer, Criterion Systems, and former CIO of the U.S. Senate

Building Tomorrow’s Workplace

We have taken our fair share of budget cuts but are still expected to deliver on ever-increasing demands — truly doing more with less. To address this issue, we are putting into effect a radical set of cultural, process and organizational changes designed to create the work environment of the future. Once in place, we expect a significant increase in employee productivity, collaboration and morale that will lead directly to our ability to provide our customers — residents and government agencies alike — with more exciting and effective products and services.
Bryan Sivak, CTO, Washington, D.C.

More Biometrics

The use of biometrics will increase in the public sector. Citizens are becoming more comfortable with allowing collection of private data, but they will demand better protection. Government must respond by offering multifactor authentication capabilities and encryption technologies.
Patricia Titus, global chief information security officer, Unisys


 Menu Planning

Our challenge is going to be to make sure people understand our service management philosophy. We want to be an online, shopping-cart-type of experience where people can come to a simple menu and see what services we provide, they can see what services they’re consuming and how much they’re paying for them.
Anand Dubey, director, Alaska Enterprise Technology Services


An Open Future

Regardless of vendor, the future trend is away from proprietary hardware and software — and moving toward open-ended systems and data that allow government agencies to control their destinies. This future flexibility will allow for a deeper integration across departments (for example, emergency services) and will no longer be contingent upon types of equipment used or data retention policies.
Michael J. Bostic, West Coast director of civil communications, Raytheon Network Centric Systems


Digging Out of Recession

From a challenge perspective it will be a difficult year because we’re not quite dug out of that recessionary period, though Arkansas has fared better than much of the nation. At the same time, we’ve got to be able to deliver more and more services while keeping our budgets tight. I think the challenge for everyone will be how do we move forward and still stay cost-effective? How do we make sure we’re surviving with the economy the way it is? We need to get out there and help get our economy back in shape, keep America at work and try to bring jobs into Arkansas.
Claire Bailey, CTO, Arkansas

Consolidation Continues

IT infrastructure consolidation/optimization will be the biggest trend as governments seek to reduce costs by consolidating data centers and eliminating duplicative applications and services. Cloud computing will see substantial uptake as government organizations explore its potential business benefit and begin to migrate a wide range of applications and services to the cloud.
Thom Rubel, vice president, IDC Government Insights

Cutting Red Tape

We’re very excited about creating a business one-stop and automating the licensing system for all the boards and commissions in the state. When we look at our processes, and many times it’s not so much automating a bad process but looking at a process and understanding if we could be doing this better. Some of that might be statutory, some that might be a culture change. But we’re looking at this process for fees and registration as an opportunity to reduce the regulatory burden in Arizona.
Chad Kirkpatrick, CIO, Arizona


Cash-Flow is King

If I were still in the private sector, we would be spending on infrastructure and building the baselines for newer product and service offerings and delivery improvements — the cost of capital and buying conditions for those with the cash has never been better to swiftly move ahead of any competitors. But here, cash flow is king and there is very little of it. Efficiencies and maintaining a safe and constant course are major efforts.

Our greatest challenge going forward is to change our baseline of data and information management to one that’s consolidated, shared and standardized for those elements that would lend themselves to it. Without movement in this direction — reusable and modular — more rapid to market and less costly applications are not possible, and our service provision to the business and citizens who depend on us remains disconnected.
Phil Baughn, CIO, Kentucky

Serving Struggling Citizens

I think it’s really focused on opportunities. We’ve implemented an infrastructure that will enable us to deliver more cloud services, and I think that will enable us to give new productivity tools to our work force. We’re going to have challenges in terms of social services to unemployed citizens. We’re going to continue to focus on those issues that will impact the part of our citizenry that is struggling.
David Fletcher, CTO, Utah

Multistate Collaboration

We believe state and local agencies will invest in a statewide shared services model where agencies can implement virtualization to benefit from a centralized, hosted IT function — and in a few years, agencies will be able to share costs across multiple states. With more than 20 or 30 different agencies across any given state, the ability to dynamically allocate resources to support peak data demands that differ from agency to agency will keep costs down.
Sean Rhody, CTO, Capgemini Government Solutions

 Measuring Resiliency

2011 will be the year that government agencies and contractors begin to scientifically measure resiliency: recognized as the optimal performance, security and stability of a network or data center infrastructure. A mantra will erupt calling for continuous resiliency measurement because it’s critical if government agencies and contractors are to harden their network and data center to withstand a high-stress application load and cyber-attacks.
Des Wilson, CEO, BreakingPoint Systems