Tech Talk

The (Hidden) Cost of Open Data

Los Angeles County announced this January the creation of an open data website that would allow anyone to find information on a host of county government programs, from budget information to welfare data to crime statistics. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Los Angeles Times the county was about to become the “largest municipal government in the nation” to make its data easily accessible to the public.

While the data will be free to the public, the county will spend $319,000 in startup costs, and annual expenses are expected to cost an additional $287,000. For comparison, consider this: California lawmakers in June introduced a bill to establish a statewide open data policy that would affect more than 200 state agencies. An analysis of the bill’s fiscal impact showed the policy would cost the state $4 million to $5 million annually. READ MORE

Government Apps Are Popular, But Are They Useful?

Robert Putnam wrote the thought-provoking book Bowling Alone in 2000, which explored how Americans were increasingly becoming disconnected from family, friends and neighbors. Changes in work, family structure and commuting times, among other things, were contributing to the divide and leading to a decline in traditional community social networks such as bowling leagues and parent teacher associations. But then came social media platforms and mobile devices, and many of these activities simply went online.

Soon governments followed, rolling out a host of apps in the late 2000s in an effort to engage citizens. Now about a decade into the trend, cities are beginning to look at how effective these technologies actually are -- and the data coming in so far isn’t all that encouraging. READ MORE

311 Upgrades Make It Cheaper to Connect With Citizens

When Tulsa, Okla., launches its new 311 service later this month, the three-digit hotline will be just one component of what officials have dubbed as the “Customer Care Center.”

Similar to many retail companies, the Customer Care Center will now let people request city services, ask questions and file complaints in a variety of ways. Besides talking with agents over the phone, people will also be able to chat with agents over the Internet, use social media to interact with the center and track the status of their requests online and via email. READ MORE

Advice for State CIOs: Make IT Interesting

When Doug Robinson meets an incoming IT director, he often has to provide a reality check. “I tell all new CIOs that information technology is not important to governors; it’s only interesting.”

Robinson, executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), has had to do that a lot lately. Between appointments by new governors, changes in existing administrations, and resignations and retirements, there are 14 new state CIOs this year. And they’ve arrived at a time when the use of IT has never been as important as it is now. READ MORE

A Cautionary Tale for Any Government IT Project: L.A.'s Failed iPad Program

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) tried an interesting new experiment: give every student a tablet computer equipped with a digital curriculum. It was a bold move that was supposed to push Los Angeles public schools into the 21st century. It turned out to be a disaster.

The idea was certainly huge, requiring the purchase of 650,000 Apple iPads, networking gear and educational software from Pearson -- all at a cost of nearly $1.3 billion. L.A. Schools Superintendent John Deasy, who launched the program in 2013, also saw it as a way to help the city’s low-income students. Until Deasy’s announcement, students had limited access to digital education tools at computer labs, which couldn’t accommodate all students at the same time. READ MORE