The Smart City Architect
Steve Reneker
CIO, Riverside, Calif.

Few CIOs get the opportunity to influence their cities' growth like Steve Reneker has.

The Riverside, Calif., native took the city's top IT job in 2006, after a two-year stint working at Dell Inc., and has become an integral figure in a project called SmartRiverside.

"The goal is to make us more of a high-tech city," explained 47-year-old Reneker, who has been named SmartRiverside's executive director. The economic development aspect started as a portal to attract and retain business to the Southern California city of approximately 300,000, known as state's citrus industry birthplace. The effort grew into a task force providing high-tech companies with assistance, including tenant improvements, helping with company relocations and low-interest mortgages for employees.

Reneker is also leading an ambitious wireless broadband Internet access network project with AT&T, for which the city government is the anchor tenant. As of spring 2008, the network is 80 percent built and in testing, he said. Coinciding with the Wi-Fi project, Reneker is leading a digital-inclusion program to offer citizens refurbished PCs so they can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi access. "I thought if we're going to do this, we should make sure we're benefiting the entire community," he said. "We expect 20,000 to 25,000 households to take advantage."

Reneker, who previously served as Riverside County's CIO, said he took the city CIO post because he saw a "dream team" of talented people leading the city. "A lot of it comes down to being in the right place at the right time," he said. "We have the dynamics of an elected official base that is technology oriented as well as other leaders who understand its importance."

Besides his work on the SmartRiverside project, Reneker has made sweeping changes to how the city handles IT. He renegotiated some IT outsourcing contracts and established a project-management office and a new governance process. "Now all IT projects are prioritized by an executive technology committee," he said. "I think it's been very effective."

The city has a new data center and through virtualization, the city has reduced its number of servers from 225 to 75. Riverside is also working on a service-oriented architecture.

Priorities for the rest of 2008 include expanding the number of online services available to the public and focusing on how technology can better serve public safety officials.

Reneker is most proud of the digital inclusion project and hopes it can be replicated across the country. "In a way, it's part of a larger effort to make sure our citizens can compete with workers in Asia and Europe," he said. "We have to work to improve our standards of literacy and computer skills."