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Customer Spotlight: Alabama Dept. of Transportation Reduces Travel Expenses with Video Solution

One of the biggest issues state governments face in their day-to-day governing is the sheer size of the state itself. Even in average sized states, it can take quite some time to get from place to another, and it’s particularly burdensome for state government workers who live and work in cities far from the state capital. It can be difficult to effectively communicate with other employees in the capital and in other cities, and employees spent precious time and money traveling all across the state.

One such state with this issue is Alabama. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) manages all forms of transportation in the state, including one of the longest navigable inland waterways in the nation, six commercial airports and a large seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. To ensure these multiple forms of transportation run smoothly, ALDOT has over 5,000 employees spread out across the state. Its large number of employees and their geographic sprawl, however, meant ALDOT was having trouble getting everyone to meet in one location for mandatory training sessions.

While training was the main issue, ALDOT generally needed a more sustainable way to host meetings with employees scattered across the state. Years ago, ALDOT division chiefs from distant corners of the state would have to drive to Montgomery, Alabama, every Monday to attend one meeting, which was not a productive use of time and incurred costly travel expenses. Clearly, it needed a cost-effective solution to make it easier for the department to host trainings and meetings for its far-flung department. Read More »

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Digital Public Safety in Action

Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp

A New Approach to Public Safety

Lately, constant news coverage has been shining a spotlight on the increasing amounts of pressure that public safety and justice agencies are enduring. Preventing crime is vital to developing vibrant and safe communities. The reality of shrinking budgets and resources in the midst of calls to modernize is creating a challenging paradox, and public safety officials are tasked to deliver mission value in new ways. For example, results from an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Major Cities Chiefs Association survey estimated 53 percent of counties in the United States are working with significantly fewer staff today compared to a decade ago. The fact is that law enforcement agencies can’t afford to put more officers on the street.

Public safety leaders are now are turning to digital technologies as force multipliers to compensate for recent reductions in staff, drastic budget cuts, and the evolving cyber and physical threat landscape. A number of emerging technology solutions are helping law enforcement, corrections departments, emergency responders, courts, and national security agencies modernize and cut government costs by streamlining operations while still producing mission-critical outcomes.

Technology on the Leading Edge

First, our digital citizen is honored to spend the week at the IACP annual conference. After attending this week’s sessions, the citizen has picked up on a few trending themes and important issues that our law enforcement officials face. Of particular importance throughout the conference was the focus on body-worn cameras in the forefront of today’s policing conversations. However, an officer cannot just simply slap on a body camera and call it a day. Secure and updated networks and the ability to move data storage to the cloud must first be in place if it isn’t already. One session in particular featured an estimate that body-worn cameras could result in about 1 terabyte of data per officer per year. Statistics seem to and will vary on a community-by-community basis, but it’s relatively easy to agree that with the vast amounts of video data, secure storage is a major technology issue that will need to be addressed. Here, cloud will be key. And not just for body-worn cameras, but for everything in the digital scope, from evidence management to video surveillance footage. Read More »

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: City Leaders Converge to Learn From Each Other

Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp

Changing our outlook for a changing world

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked the question ‘what is a smart city really?’ then I’d definitely have enough change to buy a round of drinks. When you hear about smarter, more connected communities, the definition has become varied and often self-serving. However, as someone who dedicates a significant amount of my personal and professional life to sustainable and equitable urban development, I believe in the true importance of the smart city concept. It’s imperative that each city and country define what it means to become smarter, each idea will be different, depending on unique goals and citizen needs.

The apparent common thread is and will continue to be the use of technology. Today, businesses are pivoting toward digital transformation on a massive scale. A trend that governments should take hold of as it’s pressed to find new ways to operate and modernize its services. Whether it is through collaboration initiatives, embracing cloud computing, or driving more informed decisions through data analytics, there are unprecedented opportunities ahead for the evolution of digital government. In the face of uncharted territory and guaranteed disruption in its wake, building deep and lasting best practice sharing alliances will be an essential platform. Through vast sharing and partnership, we can bring together the most brilliant minds of the public, private, non-profit, academic, and philanthropic sectors to identify innovations that can be scaled, replicated and transferred to make a lasting global impact.

Join the world’s most thoughtful industry leaders

This week our citizen has the unique opportunity to join the ranks of global innovators and leaders at the bleeding edge of urban sustainability and digital technology. Meeting of the Minds kicked off yesterday, and more than 400 executives from 25 countries hailing from public and private sector, philanthropy, and academia join our citizen in Richmond, California. The 3-day summit will focus on delivering smarter public services and building better city systems, enabled by forward-looking public policies, intelligent infrastructure, and digital technologies.

Our citizen has heard and will witness a wide range of topics. First on our digital citizen’s agenda is the discussion around urban transportation. There’s no doubt that global communities are rapidly seeing their growing need to develop and implement public transit options and solve the interface between people and mobility systems. Dubai’s initiatives are enticing more people toward using public transportation by offering all services 24/7 via handheld devices and by easing the traveler experience with uniform ticketing and easy payment options, no-stop tollgates, and smart parking meters. Although a one-size-fits-all fix is not the answer, looking at the modes that are successfully serving city dwellers can help your own path become clearer.

Up next, our citizen looks forward to a session on comprehensive and accessible healthcare, and its criticality in economic vitality of communities and nations. Despite increasing expenditures in health, our citizen knows that the US is falling in key indicators of health, underwhelming and under delivering in a variety of health outcomes. Pioneers in the health and wellness industry are focusing on how to improve health, particularly for those in underdeveloped and underserved parts of the world. Sichuan, China is a leading example of breaking new ground through innovative models of cross-industry collaboration. Through integration with upstream determinants of health such as education, economic development, and community organizing, Sichuan has significantly improved access to medical care.

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We’re now on to discussing environmental sustainability, a core pillar of the smart city concept. In our increasingly digital world, the quality of air and water, the movement of people and objects, the changes in weather, traffic congestion, CO2 levels, the production and consumption of energy, can be measured, tracked, and interconnected in real time. It is through this connection that we’re seeing smarter and more deliberate solutions for environmental and resource sustainability. This does not mean reinventing the wheel, but innovatively combining what is available with the advantages that technology affords to create high quality living environments. For example, Water for People works closely with local governments and private organizations to create and deliver an open-source smart device application that helps to provide clean water and basic sanitation services to people in disadvantaged communities around the world.

And finally, on to the much-anticipated topic of education and preparing the next generation workforce. Prior to the session, our citizen begins pondering how we can properly prepare a workforce for an ever changing and ever more competitive environment. Academic institutions like San Jose State University are bridging the gap between traditional and innovative methods, using digital technologies to promote anytime, anywhere learning. The very best schools must position themselves as a vital contributor to digital community initiative. Along with it, there is a celebrated movement toward including broader professional readiness, as well as personalized social and emotional learning.

Vigorous smart cities and digital government conversations are underway all over the world. Of the most important themes that have emerged on the Meeting of the Minds agenda, financing challenges are considered among the more profound roadblocks. This year’s Meeting has a pervasive track focused on financing mechanisms and strategies that are working for early adopters. Best practice sharing and idea swapping show that there are clear steps that can be taken, such as getting assistance in leading projects, improving planning, and achieving a better understanding of the cost and benefits of a smart city. As leaders undertake the steps recommended and learned at this forum, they can move beyond the current barriers and start to capitalize on the benefits of a smart, digital community.

Gatherings such as Meeting of the Minds are enabling cities and countries to respond to increasingly complex challenges. It’s important that leaders and innovative thinkers continue to showcase best practices developed inside these living labs, allowing for the proliferation of ideas to help grow a smarter, more sustainable world.

You can watch the full Meeting program, streaming live: http://cityminded.org/webcast. And make your voice heard at Meeting of the Minds via Twitter: #MOTM2015.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post to discover more information on keeping digital communities safer and more secure. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter.

For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Cisco.com. Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Stay Protected While Always Connected

Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp

Cybersecurity for all

October is #CyberAware month. This year marks the 12th anniversary of this national cybersecurity awareness campaign, with it bringing a hot topic of discussion. In the digital age, increasing amounts of data are being shared in new and often unanticipated ways. This ever-growing abundance of data, devices and connections brings a set of new security threats. And increasingly, governments are feeling the heat. In fact, cyber attacks on United States government agencies increased 782 percent from 2006 to 2012 (source: GAO-13-187).

Just like private businesses, governments want to take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies. However, the stakes do not just hold financial or competitive ramifications. Governments at each level hold large amounts of citizen information and sensitive intelligence. It has become more imperative, yet more difficult, to secure and protect critical information and infrastructure, government assets, and citizens. Recent data breaches and cyber attacks targeting companies and government services have not only fostered public fear, but have also dramatically changed the security landscape making personal digital protection as important as physical protection. Individual technology users are taking on greater responsibility for understanding potential threats, to self-educate, and take the proper steps toward protecting themselves online.

With this serious cybersecurity situation urgently requiring the attention of public sector leaders, network security intelligence—the ability to predict, identify and react to potential threats—is taking on a new importance.

Protect your community against cybercriminals

Today our citizen is a cybersecurity warrior both at work and at home. After a cup of coffee and a quick perusal of the local newspaper, it’s time for work, where our digital citizen is a government leader charged with protecting citizen data, critical infrastructure, and strategic government information.

First on the agenda is a summit meeting of local and national cybersecurity leaders. The venue’s network simply has to work. It has to be secure. And for a cost-effective implementation, it needs a set-up that can be re-used elsewhere for future gatherings. As the organizer, our digital citizen takes a page from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their successful hosting of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague.

Our citizen is now rushing to make a meeting with the community public service administrators. In the face of dwindling budgets, the group is set to discuss how to cost-effectively deliver secure, streamlined services to its widely dispersed population of more than two million residents. Like the government of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, our citizen recommends a robust web security solution that can also meet identity and access policy requirements. Our citizen also referenced Florida’s Pinellas County, which has seen great success in securely expanding and improving services and convenience for its residents and employees.

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After a quick lunch on the go, it’s time for the digital citizen to meet with the community’s Fire Chief. The fire service has over 100 branch offices, which presents a significant security challenge at the edge. End users also rely on a wide range of mobile devices—including smartphones, tablets, and laptops—and require different access levels. The Chief requests extreme reliability that their caliber of work demands, as well as improved security, scalability, and manageability. Like the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the community’s emergency services network has to be ready to respond to any circumstance, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Ordinary civilians, meanwhile, face new urban threats in the form of Internet fraud and identity theft. You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked, accept gifts from a stranger, or leave the keys to your car in the ignition. So why is a digital security solution less obvious?

The workday is over and our citizen is now at home. Recognizing that as the line between our digital and physical worlds become increasingly blurred, it’s more important for owning personal online presence. Our citizen has taken some preemptive steps to staying safe and secure online. Especially as a government employee, it is the citizen’s responsibility to implement best practices at home and the workplace.

First, the digital citizen takes time to understand the cyber players for consideration—both inside and out. Not only are hackers a threat to personal and professional information, but benign, insider activity can also expose vulnerabilities to malicious actors. That is why our citizen teaches their entire family about protecting themselves online. In fact, with the growing trend of youth cyber awareness and education programs, the digital citizen’s children are encouraged to learn about cybersecurity through camps, classes, and after-school programs. Finally, our citizen uses simple practices that can easily be implemented such as, changing passwords regularly, and avoiding using the same or simple passwords across personal and professional accounts. The citizen also makes a point to ensure Internet-connected devices, like laptops, phones and tablets, don’t fall victim to malware by keeping software of operating systems up-to-date. On the use of social media, our citizen recommends checking privacy settings, recognizing that hackers can take advantage of public information to draft targeted emails for phishing.

The concepts of smart cities and digital government are revolutionizing the way in which everything is managed and delivered in the public sector. At the same time, a growing dependence on digital technology to deliver everyday services brings with it new vulnerabilities. Our citizen displays an important takeaway. From the workplace to the home, everyone is responsible for cybersecurity and needs to be proactive in maintaining security standards in all aspects of our increasingly digital world.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post from #MOTM2015. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community. Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter. For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Cisco.com. Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!

 

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Digital Countries – Stories of Success

Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp

All aboard the digital express

Communities and countries of all sizes are in motion toward a digital future…and if not, they risk being left behind. This then begs the question, what does ‘digitize’ really mean? Certainly, there’s no instruction manual for the task. The roadmap features some identifiable landmarks—flagged by early pioneers—but there is still plenty of unchartered territory. In fact to navigate this rapidly changing landscape, we definitely have our work cut out for us, both in the developed and emerging parts of the world.

We frequently talk about all things becoming connected, but in reality, the majority of the global inhabitants are still faced with little to no Internet access, a disturbing fact when you consider the socio-economic benefits that technology affords. The digital divide is real. Despite the proliferation and rapid advancement of technology, many just are not receiving the benefits of the changes made in ICT.

However, an important tool in shedding light on the digital puzzle is the sharing of success stories and best practices. Sharing of experiences and expertise can open the discussion on how digital government can and should evolve. Using the power of the global community, the ever-increasing propagation of technology can begin to help digital countries develop faster and more efficiently through sharing and learning. And by bringing to light the stories of transformation, large and small, around the globe we hope to offer guidance and leadership to those embarked on the journey or planning a trip soon.

Where in the world is the digital citizen?

So how exactly do you separate fact from fiction and who is just presenting smoke and mirrors? Since the discussions concerning the digital shift began, there have been a number of myths and promises. With the growing numbers of examples to draw from, we are now in a much better position to assess the possible processes of digitization in a more realistic manner. And based on the experiences of the early-adopters, we can begin suggesting the steps that governments can take and/or avoid in planning their digital country strategy.

This week, our digital citizen is a jet setter. Think Carmen Sandiego circa 1990. First stop, the United Kingdom. The country is in its second phase of digitization planning, which includes efforts such as public sector development, accelerated cybersecurity innovation, and public-private initiatives like the British Innovation Gateway (BIG). Strategic investment to accelerate existing government goals for driving economic growth through high-tech innovation is helping the UK to becoming one of the top digitized countries in the world.

A quick trip over to the continent and our citizen is making the next stop in France. Drawing on a dynamic start-up culture, the reform-driven country plans to extract value from its efforts to enhance security, increase productivity, create jobs, and improve citizens’ lives through digitization. The Cisco Networking Academy program plans to open 1,500 additional academies and train upwards of 200,000 students in France, giving the French workforce the skills needed to accelerate the country’s digitization process. Not only is France expected to gain a GDP boost from 1-2 percent, this transformation will contribute to France’s overall global competitiveness by supporting job growth, education, cybersecurity, innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives.

We’re off again and on to India, where Smart City Bangalore is a prime example of a bottom-up digital country strategy, starting at the smart city level. Electronics City, in a newly developed area of Bangalore, is meant to be a model for smart cities, not just in India, but also around the world. Our citizen learns that for this, and for the 90+ other smart cities planned for India under the new government’s plan, its leaders are thinking about better ways to deliver citizen services and foster education initiatives to nurture the next-generation workforce. India is working toward a scalable blueprint on how to continue to be relevant in the rapidly evolving global environment.

Digital CIty_TW

And finally, we arrive in Singapore. While visiting, our citizen enjoys ubiquitous Internet connectivity—Singapore’s government has so far connected almost 99 percent of its residents to an ultra-high-speed network. Our citizen also can’t help but notice that Singapore is a bustling, world-class hub for modern business, enabled by the push for high technology adoption and by allowing innovation to flourish. In this year’s Global Information Technology Report, Singapore takes the top rank of the world’s most tech-savvy nations, recognizing the government’s successful promotion of innovative ICT and of providing online services to its citizens.

Well, we’re now approaching 2016, and while we might not have quite ended the traffic jam conundrum, the future of digital transformation in government is here and continues to build momentum. The answer is not a simple one, or a simple fix for technology alone. It is clear that digital transformation, at any level, will not happen overnight. However, it can be said that the future of digital success will rely on high collaboration and best practice sharing. Because amidst all the disruptive change that is due to come our way, governments must recognize they are not necessarily alone. Do’s and don’ts can and should be widely shared to point others on their digital journeys toward success.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post to discover more information about cybersecurity and staying safe online in honor of #CyberAware month. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.

Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter. For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Cisco.com. Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!

 

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