New York City Seeks Greater IT Oversight

Government body wants more insight into the city's technology planning and procurement processes.
The New York City Council is mulling legislation to require that the city's IT heads develop detailed annual and five-year technology plans.

At a hearing of the council's Technology in Government committee Thursday, chairwoman Gale Brewer said the proposed laws would ensure that the city is efficiently acquiring and deploying information technology. In addition to achieving cost savings, Brewer said, more rigorous planning processes would shed light on the city's $800 million annual technology budget and technology procurement practices. States such as New York, California, and Virginia have adopted such plans with success, she said.

The city's CIO, Gino Menchini, meets regularly with agency heads to formulate IT plans and strategy, said Ronald Bergmann, deputy commissioner of the city's department of IT and telecommunications. That's in accordance with a 1998 executive order signed by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani requiring production of an annual technology plan.

But council members questioned whether that process is transparent enough. Brewer said the proposed laws would add teeth to the 1998 executive order.

Some experts question the effectiveness of such plans, saying they're little more than window dressing. "Mandated strategic plans are useless unless they're tied into the budgetary process," says John Kost, VP of government research at Gartner.

In recent years, technology has figured more prominently in public policy debates as states and cities across the countries roll out IT-centric services such as 311 phone directories and wireless Internet access. The issue can pit public sector against private sector, such as happened in Philadelphia last month when the city's plan to deliver a citywide wireless Internet service was almost killed by a Pennsylvania state law that gives Verizon Communications Inc., the city's local telecommunications carrier, veto power over the project. In last-minute negotiations, the city got Verizon to agree to let the project go forward.

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