Civic News

Ahead of this week’s budget hearings, here’s what DC earmarked for tech

On tap for DC: $100 million for broadband, $2.6 million for a business portal and an all-new DC.gov.

Lindsey Parker, DC government's CTO.

(Technical.ly photo)

With federal funding on the brain and a plan to execute, it’s no surprise that tech had some pretty big pull in the draft budget Mayor Muriel Bowser dropped last week.

Budget hearings don’t start until this week, though, so everything in the 2023 fiscal year’s funding plan is largely prospective for now. But there’s still a lot to take note of in tech, according to the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO).

According to DC CTO Lindsey Parker, this is a big year for budgeting in tech. The office, she noted, will be focused on five main goals: reliability, value, customer satisfaction, cybersecurity and organizational health. At a Friday overview meeting for the department’s budget goals, Parker described this moment as the first time since the pandemic that the city has room to get serious about tech investments.

“Three years ago, we pulled together a strategic plan, and then COVID hit,” Parker said in the meeting. “We basically had the budget of our dreams that the mayor was about to introduce, and then we had to reconsider it because we had to focus on the pandemic.”

Now, Parker said, OCTO is getting the chance to go back toward some of the process- and performance-oriented planning it had thought of in 2020. Here’s the quick and dirty overview for the city’s 2023 fiscal year, which begins in October:

  • $100 million for broadband funding across the district
  • $15 million for cybersecurity
    • This includes some funds to protect DC Public Schools
  • $4 million for a “tech enablement team” that will help government agencies with their tech needs
  • $2.6 million for a “one-stop” business portal
    • With this, the city wants to make DC the best place in the US to launch a business
  • $12.6 million to boost the city’s digital services
    • Plus, $1 million for a redesigned DC.gov
  • $8.5 million for people and procurement investments — this means HR and employee delivery, as well as a refresh to the city’s Procurement Automated Support System
  • $8 million for core infrastructure upgrades

All in all, that’s a $151.7 million investment from the city into tech and tech-affiliated programs.

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Broadband

The largest portion of this investment lies in broadband, which OCTO said it hopes to make accessible for all residents from school, home, work and in-between. Earmarked within the funding is the expansion of the city’s district-owned network and the creation of a State Broadband and Digital Equity Office to close the digital divide.

As of right now, the entirety of the broadband funding is from the national bipartisan infrastructure bill, which promised $65 billion to broadband. But Parker said that since it’s starting off with the national funding, there’s room to add other funds later on.

“There are at least $100 million dollars in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that we will get as a jurisdiction, but there’s even more out there in various pockets of funding,” Parker said. “So we’re super excited to understand, and we’re continuing to keep in touch with federal agencies as they come up with how they’re going to get that money out the door.”

Cybersecurity

The cybersecurity measures in the new budget include a few goals for the protection of the city’s digital presence. The $15 million will be put toward implementing a risk mitigation framework for the city’s “cyber hygiene,” along with 24/7 remote system monitoring. It’ll also be replacing some outdated equipment to get the city primed and ready.

Suneel Cherukuri, chief information security officer, said that the cyber funding will principally focus on risk management and risk mitigation.

“Cybersecurity has been forefront in thought for this administration over the past few years. Every year, there has been an investment and thought towards cybersecurity, and this year is no different,” Cherukuri said. “We are continuing investment into securing our infrastructure.”

DC.gov

Alongside cyber and broadband, the city is also putting a good chunk of change toward its digital and online services. The goal for the new digital experience with the city, according to OCTO, is to make more modern, streamlined and secure platforms.

This includes a makeover for DC.gov. On the new site, the city hopes to offer better search functions, improve user experience on desktop and mobile and be fully compliant with accessibility guidelines. This will include giving users a single ID for all city agencies and being able to track where you are in the process of filling out an application, as well as similar processes.

Hearings for the city’s budget start next week, and OCTO will be testifying at noon on Tuesday, March 29. You can tune in here to see what makes the final cut.

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