How a Florida city got 1 gigabyte service (and saved $200,000)

Wed, 2013-08-21 06:10 -- Liz Enbysk

Jacksonville, Florida Collaboration can be a beautiful thing, as the city of Jacksonville, Florida discovered when it looked at what it could do to realize Mayor Alvin Brown's vision to modernize city-county technology. Chad Vander Veen's article in Government Technology describes a smart approach that includes: 1) Making IT dollar-focused to help reduce costs and improve revenue streams; 2) Having an IT strategy around building efficiency, automation, consolidation and delivering better overall service, and 3) Ensuring IT is citizen-focused in a way that delivers services like mobile apps and promotes the image of the city in general. 

Thanks to a consolidation in the '60s, Jacksonville, Florida is one of the largest cities by area in the U.S. But that kind of big can bring stress on siloed IT systems. Like many cities, Jacksonville had independent IT shops operating in various agencies.

When Mayor Brown was elected in 2011, he brought a vision of modernizing technology with him to city hall and his ideas became the to-do list for Chief Information Officer Usha Mohan and her team. As she told Government Technology: “The mayor is highly focused on collaboration, innovation and technology," she said. "He has a very strong vision for the city in terms of how we function together and how we can be as consolidated as possible.”

You can read the Government Technology article for more details, but in a nutshell what Mohan did was create Metro IT Monthly Meetings that pulled in stakeholders from various city agencies – public safety, the libraries, the mayor's office, etc. Sometimes representatives from nearby cities and counties attended too. The idea, Mohan explains, was to start working together to solve the technology problems they all faced.

Envious of the Google Fiber cities program that had passed Jacksonville by, they started looking at other ways to get a high-speed network in Jacksonville and in 2012 the discussion turned to ways to get 1 gigabyte service, which aligned with the mayor's vision for technology enhancements and consolidation.

Bottom line, they learned that because Jacksonville's Information Technology Division (ITD) was responsible for the city's libraries, the city and ITD's partner agencies were eligible to take part in Florida LamdaRail, an independent research and education network that had fiber running across Florida to deliver high-speed broadband service to Florida's higher education institutions and partners.

“The whole notion of collaboration and consolidation is for taxpayer savings,” Mohan said in the Government Technology piece. “We were just looking for the best way to get a 1 gigabyte network and pull it off at the least cost. At that point we didn’t even imagine the kind of savings we’ve realized. We just wanted to bring 1 gig to the city and maybe long term save money.”

The partners did the math, though, and their collective savings hit $200,000. And Mohan says none of it would have happened without the collaboration and relationship-building that occurred at the Metro IT Monthly Meetings.


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