Chief IT Officer presents options to City Council

Technology is everywhere, providing Calgarians with a means to communicate and access information about the city through mediums such as television, the radio and the Internet. With people becoming more reliant on technology, the accessibility and management of technology grows increasingly important.

Doug Hodgson, chief information technology officer at the City of Calgary, presented this viewpoint to City Council on March 19. In his report, he said that 97 per cent of Calgarians have access to city services through the Internet. The report also suggests the use of mobile devices to access city services has more than doubled in the past two years.

Technology serves city

“Technology is pervasive in our business today. It lives everywhere among our 32 business units at the City of Calgary,” he said to council.

The information technology unit at the City of Calgary manages around $300 million of city technology assets.

Hodgson said the presentation was to encourage communication between the members of City Council and the information technology unit as it works to develop advanced technology in Calgary.

“According to a global survey of CEOs, they say technology is the number one factor impacting organizations.” Hodgson said. “The City of Calgary is no different. We need technology to run a complex business.”

More technology needed

Hodgson provided information on some of the functions the information technology unit includes, saying that it:

  • Collects data
  • Connects citizens to services that they need, such as online applications for permits
  • Supports services such as water treatment technology, traffic cameras and transit updates
  • Integrates city systems

Gmail is one example of cloud technology that Doug Hodgson referred to during his presentation at City Hall.

Photo by Kristine SaretskyTo continue serving the City of Calgary effectively in the future, Hodgson said his department needs to develop current technologies and use new technologies as they become available. In the future, this could include cloud technology.

Cloud technology uses remote servers to store software and information. The main advantage of a cloud-based system is that by storing information on remote servers, the ability to manage and maintain information is improved.

“There’s a lot to like. No capital expense or long-term liability, updates and upgrades are invisible, and you know exactly what it costs.” Hodgson said, referring to cloud technology.

Security concerns

But he added, “There’s a lot to be concerned about too, such as privacy and security. If the service provider is in another country, there’s many links between you and the provider of which you have no control over or contract with. For example, we would never use a cloud service for public safety.”

Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart, who represents Ward 13, voiced some concern over the risks associated with cloud technology.

“What options are available as to where it [the city’s information] is stored?” she said.

A member of Hodgson’s information technology presentation team said there are several options, including utilizing storage space in the United States, as well as allowing some service providers the ability to store sensitive information on site.

Hodgson said that the department would proceed cautiously with a cloud technology strategy. It would be both a consumer and a provider of cloud services, in what is called a hybrid or “government cloud” model.

He said: “Is the city using cloud services? Yes, but not at enterprise scale. Do we plan on using more of it? Yes, where it is beneficial to us.”

ksaretsky@cjournal.ca