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

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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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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Public Safety Series: EOCs Harness Video to Improve Emergency Response

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with PoliceOne about how Cisco solutions are helping to improve public safety in an area most people aren’t aware of: emergency operations centers. Emergency operations centers, or EOCs, are the center of disaster response efforts, helping to coordinate the first responders and distribute information to decision-makers in a chaotic emergency situation. EOCs facilitate communication across agencies to allow for coordinated efforts. And in an emergency situation, which is hectic and can be confusing, the clear communication and up-to-date information an EOC providers is vital to helping mitigate the disaster.

Since speed, accuracy and collaboration are all crucial to an EOC’s mission, the centers are constantly investing in new technologies to help them improve in these areas. In more recent years, one of the most effective collaboration technologies EOCs have harnesses is video. Why video? Video improves data gathering, which leads to more increased situational awareness, which ultimately allows for a more coordinated response.

The types of video systems vary. Digital signage, for one example, can be used to display information such as television streams, maps or graphs on a large screen visible by all in the EOC. This type of video system also can function as a display for group videoconference that allows agencies on the local, state and federal level to coordinate quickly and clearly.

A video collaboration tool like Cisco WebEx enables users to share the information on their computer screen while engaging in desktop-quality video chat, and Cisco TelePresence allows for high-quality online face-to-face conferencing. Using these technologies helps build relationships and ensure communication is clearer, as body language can be interpreted and expressions shared.

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Public Safety Series: How the City of McAllen Transformed their Judicial Process with Video Solutions

In my last blog post in the Public Safety Series, I discussed how police forces could use video technologies to improve their training programs. In addition to training, there are numerous other ways that law enforcement agencies can utilize video solutions to both operate more efficiently as a department and improve officers’ ability to protect their community. Today, I want to share with you a real-life example of how one government agency is using video solutions to make tangible changes in how the judicial process in their city works.

The City of McAllen, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, is increasingly turning to innovative technology solutions to improve the city’s operations. As a smaller city with limited personnel and resource, McAllen realized that technology can help them operate at a high level and continue to provide excellent service to its residents. Previously, the city had deployed Cisco Call Manager as a solution to its formerly fragmented phone system, which helped simplify and management of its phone system and save money.

Next, the city turned its sights to exploring more efficient ways to connect court activities with police departments and officers in the field. It had always been difficult to obtain warrants from off-duty judges, wasting time and adding unnecessary roadblocks in the judicial process. McAllen hoped that with video solutions, police officers could connect with the city’s judges and receive paperwork for a warrant immediately.

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