Category Archives: NATOA

– A Tech Thanksgiving

A Technology Thanksgiving Feast

As many of us sit down to the average American Thanksgiving 3000 calorie meal tomorrow, we’ll be in uncertain and frightening times. But I’m also counting my technology blessings, and here are a few:

1.  I’m thankful for the generosity of the people of Seattle. We’ve asked a lot of them over the years, and they have consistently voted to tax themselves to give our city and region an improved quality of life, for examples:

•   A completely re-built and remodeled Seattle Public Library system, a beautiful central library and 26 branches, including wi-fi in every branch and 1000 computers for public use, all financed with a $196 million levy. This week we have a wonderful new City Librarian in Susan Hildreth, coming to us from the California State Library.

•   A new light-rail line from downtown to the airport, set to open in 2009,  and a just-passed bond $17.9 billion measure to extend that line by 34 miles over the next 20 years

•   A $167 million fire facility levy which, although strapped for cash in times of rising costs, has already seen us build a new state-of-the-high-tech-art emergency operations center and fire alarm center  , a new fireboat and a joint training facility. The technology systems supporting Seattle Fire help them achieve an average four minute response time to calls, and you can even see those calls in real-time on our website.

•   Note: although I’ve highlighted the investments above, Seattle voters also have approved housing levies, parks levies and funding for other projects to improve our quality of life.

2.  I’m thankful for wonderful, dedicated, employees in the City of Seattle and especially those 600 folks who run our information technology across multiple departments. Throw out your old ideas about clock-watching government bureaucrats pushing paper from the in-box to the out-box. These high-tech folks run the electronic mail systems and internal phone network and electronic payment systems and customer service systems which make our City government a truly 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week business. And we have some unique twists such as an online directory of almost all employees to help customers cut through the organization – not many other companies or governments have that: . I’ve blogged before about how diligently and competently these folks respond to disasters large and small, e.g. the 108 degree data center, , Dial Tone comes from God , and Nervous System of a City Government .

3.  I’m thankful for an award-winning City of Seattle web portal http://www.seattle.gov , twice winning the top city web portal from the Center for Digital government . And also for the Seattle Channel, winner of both Emmys and back-to-back 2007 and 2008 excellence in government programming awards from NATOA

4.  Finally, I’m thankful for great and supportive leadership such as Mayor Greg Nickels who recognizes the efficiency and effectiveness which technology brings to City government by proposing significant technology improvements even in the upcoming lean budget years. And Seattle’s City Council supported that vision by passing the technology portions of his 2009-10 budget with few changes – and those changes were improvements such as a Technology Matching Fund increase and a Citizen Engagement Portal.

Of course this sounds self-serving, because Greg’s my boss and the Council holds the purse strings. But there are hard, solid, initiatives in this budget: a new customer relationship management system, an Outlook/Exchange replacement for an aging e-mail system, an electronic parking guidance system, outage and asset management systems for Seattle City Light, and much more.

5. And, in terms of leadership, we techies can also turn to the federal government and see a new President who knows the importance of broadband and technology to the economy and to making the Federal Government more effective and in touch with people. Everyone in the United States can rejoice and give thanks for that.

You may think I’m a bit Pollyannaish in this blog, and I am, because it is a time to give thanks. But I promise my next blog will be a bit different, as I give you my Recipe for making Technology Turkeys.

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Filed under budget, government operations, NATOA, seattle channel, Seattle City Light, Seattle Fire Dept

– MIXing Cities, Counties, Web 2.0

A Group of Local Government CIOs

MIX: A Group of Local Government CIOs

The Metropolitan Information Exchange (MIX), an association of City and County
CIOs, met in Seattle this week. MIX is a select group of 55 forward-thinking technology leaders. Their discussions about the future uses of technology in government have been quite enlightening.

For the most part, these are mid-sized cities and counties, almost all with populations of 100,000 or more. These Chief Information Officers (CIOs) share at least one passion: making information technology work in service to the government and people of their communities.

Many of these jurisdictions have award winning government websites – Las Vegas, Riverside, Wake County (North Carolina), King County (Washington) and Yuma County (Arizona) each were among the five top web portals in eRepublic’s 2008 competition. Others – such as Seattle and Tucson – have top municipal television channels.  Still others have cutting edge implementations of a wide variety of technologies, ranging from the 35,000-public-safety-radio network operated by Harris County (Texas) to the Second Life experiments of Nevada County (California) to the City-wide Wi-Fi network operated by Corpus Christi.

Web 2.0 was the subject of this conference. All of us working in government technology know Web 2.0 is leading edge. But Web 2.0 is really “icing” on our government technology “cakes”.

The core, first layer of IT in government is infrastructure – networks, computers, data centers. That infrastructure has to be rock solid and operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week because local government delivers service all day, every day.

The second layer of our “cake” is the applications, built upon the infrastructure, which provide efficiency and effectiveness for government. These applications include mapping, utility billing systems, financial management, computer-aided dispatch and many others.

The third layer of our IT “cake” is a wide variety of ways government employees and constituents use the technology to request and render services or provide information. These methods include interactive voice response systems, television channels and the websites of our jurisdictions.

Web 2.0 is the “icing” in one sense, because it is so leading edge (for government). In another sense, web 2.0 technologies are the essence of government. Web 2.0 is about collaboration. It is about social networks.  It is about building community.  And that – building community – is what government is all about – collaboration and making our communities stronger.

How are governments using Web 2.0 technology? I have a detailed set of examples here (and welcome feedback with more samples).  Some highlights:

  • Some elected officials are blogging, but only a few regularly write – Tim Burgess of Seattle and Walter Neary of Lakewood (Washington) are two examples.
  • Chicago Police is doing a great mashup and display of detailed crime statistics by address or ward, around schools and parks.
  • Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, is making extensive use of wikis to improve information sharing among county departments.
  • The Seattle Channel is doing podcasting and interactive television with its Ask-the-Mayor program for Mayor Greg Nickels – viewers can call or e-mail real-time and there are video-taped questions.
  • A very few governments have YouTube channels, e.g. Mountain View/Los
    Altos California, although constituent video of local government
    meetings appears to be a more popular use of YouTube, such as Somervell
    County, Texas.
  • Some cities and counties have Facebook or Myspace pages, e.g. Prince William County, Virginia, which uses MySpace for recruiting. MIX, itself, has a LinkedIn group.
  • But I’ve not seen local government effectively use social networking yet. Fertile ground for innovation!

In short, we in MIX – and other local government CIOs – are concentrating on keeping the core of information technology networks and systems running well in our governments.  And we are experimenting with a wide variety of Web 2.0 and similar technologies which we know will make government more collaborative and interactive.

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Filed under egovernment, eRepublic, future of technology, MIX, NATOA, seattle channel, web 2.0

– Emmys for Government TV?

A "Northwest" Emmy

A "Northwest" Emmy

Tonight (Sept. 14th) I watched The Daily Show receive an Emmy for Outstanding TV Series. Last night (Sept. 13th) I watched – in person – the Seattle Channel – Seattle City Government’s own Channel 21-  receive the national award for Excellence in Government Programming – essentially being named “Best Government TV Channel” for a large city.

Even more amazing, the Seattle Channel also consistently wins Emmy Awards.  What’s the catch here?  How can a broadcast of the Seattle City Council’s Finance and Budget Committee compete with Desperate Housewives or The Daily Show for an Emmy Award?

Well, unfortunately, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences doesn’t recognize government television stations as members or the Seattle City Council when making those awards for Outstanding Drama Series (or maybe it would be “Comedy” series).

View the Seattle Channel

View the Seattle Channel

But almost every City and County government has a television station or at least television programming. And many are members of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA – pronounced nah-toe-ah).  NATOA conducts a juried competition for city/county television programming each year in 63 categories.  NATOA’s annual conference just ended in Atlanta with its gala awards banquet Saturday night, September 13th.  The Seattle Channel (www.seattlechannel.org) took home six “first place” awards in those 63 categories, including that overall “Excellence in Government Programming” for stations with an operating budget over $500,000.  Remarkably, the Seattle Channel now has won this honor two years in a row, 2007 and 2008.

TV programming in many other outstanding cities such as Tucson, Carlsbad California, Aurora, Colorado, and Prince William County Virginia was also recognized. A complete list of the categories and nominations are on NATOA’s website here  and the list of the winners will be posted later this week on the NATOA website.

While the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences doesn’t recognize government programming, local chapters of the Academy do give their own Emmys each year. Government and public television stations do participate, and the Seattle Channel consistently brings back two or more Emmy awards from the Northwest Chapter each year.

Many smaller cities and counties only have the budget to broadcast meetings (“all meetings, all the time”)  But innovative governments find ways to budget for creative programming which highlights the issues in their communities.

The Seattle Channel has an outstanding news magazine, City Inside/Out, hosted by C. R. Douglas (won two first place 2008 NATOA awards).  C. R. drills down into the issues, and occasionally “grills” elected officials about their positions.  And the Seattle Channel has a whole series of programming – ArtZone – which highlights the music, visual and literary arts scene in Seattle.

And the coolest thing?   Not only is it all free, but it is all free online.   Anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can watch any of the Seattle Channel’s programming at any time.  Just go to www.seattlechannel.org and … well … “click”.

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Filed under NATOA, seattle channel, video