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Voting for America’s Success: How the Next President Should Change U.S. Tech Policy

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2016 is a big year for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that it is the year where we will elect the 45th President of the United States. Currently, there are many different candidates running on many different platforms, all with varying ideas of which policy issues are the most important. However, some of my peers and I thought that there was something missing from these policy conversations: technology.

Technology is expanding at a rapid pace, and government seems to be having trouble keeping up. Instead of just trying to prevent or shore up the potentially destabilizing effects technology can have on government and other traditional civic structures, government should be embracing and taking advantage of the global network. It can be used to keep U.S. leadership strong and support social, political, and economic advancement around the world. But how should government balance the positively transformative with the potentially negatively disruptive? How should it address the complex policy issues that arise due to the new social globalism technology has created?

To help them out, MeriTalk – a public-private partnership focusing on improving the outcomes of government IT – is releasing a paper with technology policy recommendations for the next president. The paper, “Tech Iconoclasts – Voting for America’s Success in a Network World,” was written by a group of former government CIOs and senior industry executives, including myself, who think that technology should be a bigger policy focus for the next president than it currently is. To help him or her out, we provided a roadmap of technology policies so that the next administration can harness technology to maintain America’s global advantage.

The report focuses on five specific areas, each of which contain multiple concrete policy recommendations. The five areas are:

  1. Advancing America’s Competitive Edge
  2. Rebuilding Trust in Government and Institutions
  3. Simplifying and Enhancing People’s Lives
  4. Reinventing Government Technology
  5. Evolving the Workforce

Whether it’s changing patent law to encourage innovation, using emerging technology to solve healthcare challenges like Alzheimer’s, investing in MOOCs to help the workforce learn new technological skills, or increasing security measures to ensure all Americans feel safe about their information online, there are numerous steps a leader can take to improve technology policy.

We wrote this report as an open letter so that all candidates understand the importance of these issues to the American public, and to start a dialogue on the need for increased focus on technology policy. We believe that our country’s technology policy must change in order to empower our government now and prepare us for success the future – I hope that this paper helps you believe that too.

I invite you to comment below and share what you believe is the most important technology policy recommendation for the next president. Also, join us for the launch of the paper on February 11 at 8am at the National Press Club to continue the discussion in person.

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Customer Spotlight: Idaho Transportation Department Creates Cohesive Communications Environment

While Idaho isn’t a very populous state, with only 1.5 million people, it stretches across 83,000 million square miles. The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is responsible for all transportation-related efforts in that area, from highway construction to the Department of Motor Vehicles. But with only 1,800 employees, that can be a real challenge! As ITD employees crisscross the state to ensure all transportation is running smoothly, they rely on a host of communications tools to stay connected with the department headquarters in Boise and other workers on the road.

Despite the amount the customer relied on communications tools to function, the department didn’t actually have a unified communications environment. Instead, employees just used whatever communications tools were available, purchasing and deploying new tools as they needed them. The result was a hodgepodge of tools that didn’t all fit together well and made for both inefficient communication and negative financial repercussions.

To control costs and create an easy and cohesive communications infrastructure, ITD went looking for a unified communications (UC) environment to address the challenge. After an internal audit and careful research, ITD chose to deploy a suite of Cisco collaboration tools, which included voice, video, data communications, IP phones, a call management system, Cisco WebEx, and Cisco Jabber.

Now, all of ITD’s employees have a suite of communications tools that work together seamlessly, are user-friendly, and expand the opportunities for employees to collaborate. The UC environment has also reduced long-term IT costs for the department and given them a successful model of how to quickly and successfully roll-out new communications in the future.

To read more about how Idaho Transportation Department is reaping the rewards of their new UC environment, check out the full case study. You can also go here to learn more about how Cisco collaboration tools can help your agency.

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Schenectady Gets Smarter: Mayor Announces New Smart City Commission

The City of Schenectady, New York has long been on the forefront of the Smart Cities movement, utilizing new technology to help improve its municipal services and government operations. The city’s goal is to become a fully integrated, connected city by implementing a wireless network that takes advantage of the Internet of Everything (IoE), the networked connection of people, process, data, and things.

To work towards this goal, the city has rolled out numerous IoE-based projects designed to improve city life in a variety of areas based on an outdoor City-owned Wi-Fi network that can perform multiple simultaneous tasks. For example, the city has installed a smart LED lighting system in the downtown area, which will allow them to automatically brighten or dim the lights to help save on energy costs. The smart lighting system will automatically report on broken lights so they can be fixed faster, ensuring citizens feel safe downtown. The city is also testing out a smart parking system, which uses cameras to monitor open parking spots. The same cameras can help police fight crime and give citizens a live view of their streets to feel safer at night. These projects have allowed Schenectady to both save taxpayer money and increase the quality of services it is providing to its citizens, and the city continues to look to the future using technology to attract new business and startups.

This past week, Mayor Gary R. McCarthy announced the appointment of a Smart City commission, designed to help Schenectady further take advantage of new technology to improve the quality of life for its residents. The commission will work on a variety of technology and sustainability initiatives, focusing on the next generation of wireless communications and product development. This new commission will allow Schenectady to continue to grow and expand as a connected city, and will only bring more benefits to its citizens. As the new commission chairman Mark Little put it: “It’s all about making Schenectady the best place it can be to live and to work.”

Learn more about how Cisco’s Connected+Smart Cities solutions can help your city!

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New Year’s Resolutions for CIOs

As 2016 begins, people all around the world are making resolutions to improve themselves in the coming year. While you might be dedicating yourself exercising more and eating healthier, I encourage everyone in government IT to think about resolutions you can make to help your organizations better embrace digital transformation.

In no role is this more necessary than the Chief Information Officer (CIO), a position that has changed in recent years and continues to evolve. Instead of just overseeing technical assistance across a department or agency, many government CIOs now serve as a partners who help leadership develop the strategies and processes to accomplish the organization’s mission. And in 2016, the CIOs’ role in decision-making processes will only get larger as government agencies at all levels—federal, state and local—look to better integrate technology to enhance the mission, whether it’s improving citizen services at home or enhancing operations for our defense and intelligence agencies.

In order to fully embrace that responsibility, CIOs should consider making some resolutions for themselves and their job so they can keep up with the latest trends and ensure their organization is reaping the benefits of new technology.

Our own distinguished engineer Kapil Bakshi recently wrote an article on Nextgov about this topic, outlining four main resolutions that government CIOs should consider making in 2016. These resolutions are:

  1. Embrace hybrid
  2. Take Analytics to the next level
  3. Invest in advanced threat detection
  4. Unleash “Fast IT”

Check out the article here to learn more about the details of each resolution and why they are so critical for a CIO to consider in the coming year. By embracing these and other resolutions, CIOs and the larger government IT community will be able to harness the best technology solutions and increase the efficiency, security and agility of their organizations.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

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Customer Spotlight: Aurora, Illinois is now the City of Light Speed

Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois, and its municipal government employees are spread across 52 different buildings. This means that the ability to collaborate with these dispersed locations is extremely important – our goal is to ensure that city employees can provide the highest level of service to our residents.

Our problem, historically, was that the city was using a mix of networking equipment from a host of different providers, making our infrastructure difficult to manage and use. This weak network prevented us from using distance-bridging technologies such as video conferencing, and it limited employee access to computer applications such as email, payroll and purchasing

To tackle these network inefficiencies, my team and I began to look at ways to use advanced fiber optics to replace our aging copper network. But we were relatively new to fiber optic technology, and our city needed a partner that could provide expertise.

Enter Cisco. Not only did the Cisco team have the fiber optic capability and know-how we needed, but we were also able to collaborate on a cutting-edge approach to network systems. Together, we decided to leverage fiber networks using an advanced color optic system, which increases network reliability and performance.

By installing Cisco technologies that optimize fiber based on light color, our city was able to run multiple networks over the same strands. To our satisfaction, we were then able to stretch the network for more coverage while still retaining high availability.

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