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Government Technology Featured Article

August 06, 2012

Do You Want Innovation in Government Technology? Don't Look to San Francisco

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

Considering San Francisco’s position as the hub of high-tech innovation, most people would expect the city to be a beacon of technological advancement. However, according to a story in the San Francisco Examiner, the technological disorganization of the San Francisco municipal government remains a source of constant embarrassment.

“The City is heavily invested in what currently exists, yet it faces duplication of services and equipment,” said a recently released report entitled, “Déjà Vu All Over Again: San Francisco’s City Technology Needs a Culture Shock.” “Recommendations for improvement abound, but there is little authority exercised for their implementation, continuing The City’s history of financial waste and inefficient technology operations.”

Some of the city’s woes are caused by having no citywide technology budget and no staffing plans. This conundrum means that the city government cannot attract highly qualified personnel away from more lucrative private sector jobs.

Additionally, the city has many duplicated systems that prevent operational streamlining, including nine data centers and seven e-mail systems. Government offices also use multiple wide area networks (WANs), and city agencies have resisted the consolidation of these disparate systems.

A lack of resources also hampers San Francisco’s technological infrastructure. The city currently only devotes 4 percent of its budget, or $250 million, to upgrading its fiscal technology.

The “Déjà Vu” report places the blame for the city’s technology challenges on San Francisco mayor Ed Lee.

“San Francisco’s citywide technology governing structure is ineffective and poorly organized, hampered by a hands-off mayor, a weak Committee on Information Technology, an unreliable Department of Technology and a departmentalized culture that only reinforces The City’s technological ineffectiveness,” the report said.

The San Francisco Chronicle has portrayed Lee as a mayor who is on a learning curve.

“One of the appealing traits about Mayor Ed Lee is that he truly is a nonpolitician in his lack of pretense, polish and ambition,” wrote John Diaz in a recent editorial for the Chronicle. “But the reality is, there are moments when a big-city mayor needs to think politically in anticipating and avoiding trouble.”

San Francisco’s private sector is setting the bar for high-tech advancement. The city government, however, has a lot of catching up to do.


Edited by Juliana Kenny

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