June 12, 2017
Other Voices

A regional roadmap for improved town services

Lyle Wray
Elliot Ginsberg

Recently, Hartford Business Journal featured an opinion piece ("State, local leaders have chance to reinvent CT government,") from Bruce Carlson, head of the Connecticut Technology Council, calling for a regional effort to increase technological efficiencies in the state and introduce municipal and state officials to technologies to help them save money.

The Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. (CCAT) wholeheartedly agree. We want to share what has been done so far and highlight the opportunities ahead for using information technology to help our state's communities grapple with challenging financial times.

Several years ago CRCOG conducted a study with towns that identified eight areas for greater productivity in back-office information technology service sharing. As a result of the study, CRCOG partnered with CCAT to accelerate updated technology adoption in many towns across the state. As part of the Connecticut Municipal Opportunities for Regional Efficiencies (MORE) Commission's Demonstration Projects, CRCOG established five new IT services pilot programs in 32 towns.

Since the launch of the pilot programs in 2014, CCAT has been working alongside CRCOG to demonstrate the capabilities of shared technology solutions as well as cost-savings achieved by delivery over the high-speed, fiber optic Connecticut Education Network (CEN).

Two of the pilot programs — internet-based phones and cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service — are now available to communities statewide through CRCOG. A third test program, video streaming of public meetings, was completed in March. Development and testing is proceeding for the final two pilot programs: A human resources portal that will contain comprehensive HR best practices, information, and an online toolkit; and an electronic document management system. The latter program has vast potential for helping our towns deal with the paper tsunami surrounding public services.

The foundation of these programs lies in leveraging the Connecticut Education Network to deliver IT services that have a positive impact on operational costs and efficiencies. CEN is a very high capacity and reliable fiber network. In addition to the network, the pilot programs use a newly created municipal private cloud, which provides efficient storage, eliminates the need for on-site hosting equipment, and allows for a rapid modernization of services across towns on the network. Currently, 36 of CRCOG's 38 towns have access to CEN.

Using a custom-developed approach for applications and services, towns receive the services they need to meet their goals and streamline operations. Costs are minimized as the total development expense is shared among towns. The test projects are positive proof that IT shared services work and work very well.

Yet much more remains to be done. The potential is there to leverage CEN to serve all 169 towns throughout the state with a much expanded offering of services.

We are hearing from police departments statewide that want to implement the use of body-worn cameras. Video data storage is a major issue in deploying the cameras — how to store, secure and manage the thousands of hours of videos captured through daily use. A practical, affordable solution for video storage is critical to the expanding demand for body-worn camera use as an integral part of police work. We are in the process of working collaboratively with data storage specialists to develop cost-effective, reliable solutions. And, by allocating development costs regionally, costs will be lowered significantly.

Using CEN, a municipal cloud, and collaborative efforts across councils of government, towns and cities, there are significant opportunities to improve services to our residents even in these challenging financial times. Our state legislature launched the MORE Commission in 2010 to advance programs based on this philosophy.

At CRCOG and CCAT, we are committed to accelerating our efforts. We are witnessing the positive impact of this approach through our IT pilot projects. These programs are just the beginning of a path forward to a strong, sustainable economic future for our towns, our cities and our state.n

Lyle Wray is the executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments. Elliot Ginsberg is the president/CEO of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc.

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