Tear down those walls
Despite technology’s role in helping governments provide services, I’ve noticed a few misconceptions about it among government officials.
First, technology changes quickly
If you consider how many decades we’ve been using computers at work, you realize how slowly technology has developed. While we keep thinking that technology changes quickly, every change isn’t revolutionary. So, despite the hype, the revolution has been more of an evolution. Worse, each government department has spent the last three decades creating its own technology mindset and infrastructure. That really didn’t seem to matter much until Sept. 11, 2001, unveiled a deadly flaw: a lack of interoperability.
Second, technology is only a tool
This is a simplification of technology’s abilities. An ax is a tool, too, but it doesn’t require much training to use. Technology is an information beast that will perform extraordinary feats, but many of its overarching problems have been created by a series of independently developed systems within government bodies.
Finally, technology decisions are IT’s job
This may be the most dangerous misconception because it implies that technology’s job is only to make one cog in the wheel run faster, smoother or more efficiently. However, technology will not be able to fulfill its true potential — to help governments efficiently and cost-effectively deliver services — until the policy set at the highest administrative and public works levels defines the technology’s purpose. Further, only the senior policy makers can coerce, cajole or otherwise demand their departments create a unified approach to a problem, such as a lack of interoperability.
In an upcoming Webinar, “Top 7 Trends that will Transform Local Government — Options for the Future,” Alan Shark, executive director of the Washington-based Public Technology Institute, will explore how governments are organized to understand technology. “CRM and 311 are good examples of the newest systems adopted by local leaders who have taken a broad view of technology,” he said to me recently. “A community needs a technology champion who has the clout to require cooperation to incorporate technology goals into the organizational structure.”
The Webinar will be held on Oct. 21 as part of our first Local Government Summit, a free, online series of Webinars and a live WebExpo. Other Webinars include How Green is Your Government?; Building a Service Oriented Government Organization; Improving Citizen Services through Technology; and Are you Ready? Disaster Planning and Preparedness.
Technology misconceptions have created barriers throughout every community’s infrastructure. We need to start tearing down those walls now as if someone’s life depended on it.
For more information about American City & County’s Local Government Summit, a free online series of live interactive Webinars and a WebExpo scheduled for Oct. 21, 2008, go to https://americancityandcounty.com/LGS2008.