Friday Q&A: Councilman Bill Green talks technology and Philly Charter - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 12, 2010 2:00 pm

Friday Q&A: Councilman Bill Green talks technology and Philly Charter

Early this week, Councilman Bill Green and five members of City Council introduced legislation that would change Philadelphia's Charter to include a permanent Chief Information Officer. We spoke with Green on Monday to put into perspective the reason for the legislation and whether or not the bill represents concern for current Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank's leadership.

Early this week, Councilman Bill Green and five members of City Council introduced legislation that would change Philadelphia’s Charter to include a permanent Chief Information Officer.

As we reported, the bill would continue consolidation of the city’s Information Technology resources and it would require that the CIO develop annually a 5-year technology strategy, among other changes.

We spoke with Green on Monday to put into perspective the reason for the legislation and whether or not the bill represents concern for current Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank’s leadership. Green’s answers, after the jump.

Councilman Bill Green

This emphasis on reforming technology in city government – and ultimately, cutting city expenses by going paperless – has been your plan since your campaign [PDF]. What does this legislation mean for those ends?

Essentially, I’m trying to put in place a permanent structure that will make investment in technology and continual upgrade of our technology a permanent part of city government. I think Nutter has a great guy in [Chief Technology Officer Allan] Frank. I’d like to look at 5-year planning, with a specific emphasis on paperless government and improving efficiency of the workforce. Ultimately, my goal is to save $200 million a year, once the concept and plan are fully implemented. That will take 5 to 8 years.

What specifically does the bill bring to the city’s technology strategy?

We should constantly plan ahead, look at what’s available, look at how private industry does it, and make a long range plan as we implement technology. Specifically, [the Chief Information Officer] would have to submit a 5-year plan] to the Mayor and City Council a week after the budget address, so there can be consistency in planning with respect to technology. The plan must include productivity enhancements and how we’re going to eventually go paperless. In 1952 when they wrote the [Home Rule Charter [PDF]], no one imagined there would be a paperless system. Many other cities are doing a permanent CIO by ordinance, but we can’t do that here because of the Charter.

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What do you think is the most important value of having the CIO create an annual technology plan?

If you force all future administrations to put together a 5-year plan, someone’s going to be thoughtful about it. You cant do long-term investments and you can’t achieve productivity increases unless you lay out something for the long-range.

How does this legislation differ from the executive order last year placing then CIO Allan Frank in the role of CTO on the Mayor’s cabinet?

It differs because [the CIO would] report to the Mayor, not Managing Director. It also moves all the employees into a single department with one budget. I understand why they chose to do the executive order, but department heads aren’t giving up their IT portion of budget easily.

Do you think CTO Allan Frank been as effective as he can be?

I’m not at all concerned with Frank, but I’d like to see us start implementing things. It’s been two years into the administration and we haven’t made any serious technology implementations. The sooner we invest the dollars, the sooner we’ll have the savings. The Mayor mayor could [appoint] another CTO, but I certainly would expect that he would choose Allan Frank.

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