Former CIO, Norfolk, Va.
Norfolk, Va., has ranked as a top city in the Center for Digital Government’s* Digital Cities Survey every year for the past four years, reaching No. 1 in its size category in 2019. A little over four years ago, Steven DeBerry, a 40-year resident of Norfolk, became its chief information officer.
As CIO, DeBerry settled on three points of focus: rebuilding aging infrastructure, improving enterprise business applications and enhancing cybersecurity without sacrificing transparency. To start, he oversaw the construction of a 37-mile city-owned fiber network to connect critical facilities with high-speed Internet.
That done, his department was able to make other investments. They rebuilt some of the city’s public-safety infrastructure, such as police and fire radios and CAD systems. They upgraded citizen-facing business applications, installed prototype sensors in anticipation of sea-level rise, and reinforced the city’s cybersecurity posture through technology and training. With a What Works Cities grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, they built a new app-driven customer-service portal and an open data portal.
DeBerry said one of his proudest accomplishments was his involvement with a regional initiative that’s still ongoing: a fiber ring over 100 miles long, connecting five south-side cities in the Tidewater area.
“This ring, when it’s completed, is going to connect to the transatlantic undersea cables in Virginia Beach,” he said. “It will bring unprecedented Internet speed to the region that I think will help foster economic growth, facilitate regional collaboration and help reduce the digital divide within the city.”
DeBerry retired in January, but when reflecting on his work as CIO, he did a rare thing for this sort of interview: He talked about what he really enjoyed, and that was the teamwork. From regional fiber projects and his work on a cybersecurity committee to work with city business partners, collaboration was a theme of DeBerry’s job. And it gives him optimism about Norfolk’s future.
“There’s power in unity, and with the regional cities coming together, instead of having five economies, you start to leverage that,” he said. “Each city is their own entity and always will be, but there is some power in [cooperation].”
*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.