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City of Philadelphia could soon stop buying computers: CIO Adel Ebeid

City Council held a hearing last week for the city's Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT)'s proposed $166.3 million budget. Here's what caught our attention.

CIO Adel Ebeid at his department's City Council budget hearing.
Updated 4/8/13 4:31 p.m.: A previous version of this story had the headline "The City of Philadelphia will soon stop buying computers." It now reads "The City of Philadelphia could soon stop buying computers" to reflect that CIO Adel Ebeid was referring to the trend of governments buying more tablets rather than desktops. His comments reflected the possibility of a change like this rather than a certainty.

The City of Philadelphia might purchase its very last computer this year.

Councilman Curtis Jones was concerned about the cost and effectiveness of city computers at last week’s City Council hearing for the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT)‘s proposed $166.3 million budget. City Council holds hearings on the city’s proposed budget before voting to approve it.

“What’s the average age of a city computer?” he asked, along with “Does the city lease or buy computers?” And, Jones wondered, is that really the most cost-effective process?

While the city’s Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid answered each of Jones’ questions (5-8 years old, if you were curious, and the city buys computers because it holds onto them for more than three years, making it more cost-effective to buy rather than lease), he told the Councilman that with new devices like tablets, cities are moving away from buying desktops.

By the end of this year, Ebeid said, the city could buy its last computer.

Here are some other points that caught our attention during the hearing.

  • City Councilmembers turn to OIT for maps that they use during neighborhood meetings. The one question that Council President Darrell Clarke asked centered around these maps. At community meetings, visuals are often more effective than words, Clarke said. He asked Ebeid to make sure that Council could have access to the maps they need.
  • The city spends about $11 million a year on phone bills, and it has about 20,000 to 22,000 landlines.
  • Last February, the city upgraded the Revenue Department website so people can pay their taxes using all browsers, instead of just Internet Explorer, Ebeid said. The city has been working on making its websites more accessible: check out Big Ideas PHL, the new site for city tech contracts under $30,000. Last fall, Councilman Bill Green proposed a bill that would make all city websites compatible with all browsers last fall.
  • Philadelphia has “put more things in the cloud” than any of the other big U.S. cities, Ebeid said.
  • City Council’s six-month-old WiFi now appears to work swimmingly. The last time we used it, during Philly SEED this fall, it was a bit spotty.
Companies: City of Philadelphia / Division of Technology

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