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White House Issues Recommendations for Detroit to Improve Outdated Technology

The suggestions were among the efforts the White House said it could offer, short of a politically impossible bailout of the largest American city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

by Matt Helms, McClatchy News Service / April 30, 2014

The White House today issued recommendations to Detroit to help the city transform its antiquated computing and information technology systems, a move the Obama administration said will help the city improve basic services and grow economic opportunity.

The report that the Obama administration’s tech team — a group of five top-level municipal government technology officials from around the country — released to Detroit appears to be a broad list of initial observations about the strategy the city should adopt to modernize its technologies.

It was among the efforts the White House said it could offer to help Detroit, short of a politically impossible bailout of the largest American city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

The report urges the city to:

  • Find ways to streamline processes and reduce costs through standardized software, consolidated data centers and computer servers.
  • Promote civic innovation by tapping the city’s social and civic entrepreneurs, foundations, and business owners in the effort.
  • Make more government data open and freely available online.
  • Create a 311 system — a number residents can call for nonemergency service requests from the city, reducing pressure on emergency 911 lines.
  • Develop online ways for residents and businesses to apply and pay for business, safety, building and other permits.
  • Hire a chief information officer — a step that Mayor Mike Duggan has already completed with his appointment of Beth Niblock as Detroit’s top tech official. She had previously held the same role in Louisville, Ky., and served on the White House team evaluating Detroit.

“Ultimately, the city of Detroit and its leadership will know best how to interpret and apply the observations and recommendations, but we are confident that collaborative efforts such as this one can complement and amplify the important work already under way by the city and local stakeholders,” Obama administration advisers Brian Forde and Don Graves said in releasing the report.

Duggan said that the White House recommendations “will help light a path toward improved efficiency and customer service across every city department. They also will help us establish greater transparency in our local government.”

The tech team met in Detroit in November to assess Detroit’s technology challenges, a trip funded by the Troy-based Kresge Foundation. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures pledged $500,000 toward implementing the report through efforts such as hiring innovation fellows, supporting technology upgrades and local training and mentoring in technology fields.

©2014 the Detroit Free Press

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