Oct 11 2017

A Peek into San Francisco’s Tech Upgrade

The innovative city is getting a large-scale tech makeover for more efficient government systems and practices.

San Francisco may have a reputation as one of the most tech-forward places on the planet, but its government systems have yet to catch up.

While the city government has been publicly championing technology through initiatives like its Superpublic Innovation Lab, which brings together private-sector, academic and government talent to innovate public-sector tech, internally, departments have been held back for years by outdated systems. But the tide is turning, and modernization is on the horizon for many, if not all, aspects of the San Francisco city government.

In fact, the city is now in the throes of one of the largest tech upgrades in history, The San Francisco Chronicle reports, with the aim to grow business efficiency and transparency throughout its operations.

New Leadership Furthers Tech Upgrades

Earlier this summer, the city tapped Linda Gerull to lead the technology initiatives as San Francisco’s new CIO.

“Linda’s unique combination of public and private sector experience will help the Department of Technology continue to strengthen its services and the City’s overall IT infrastructure,” said Mayor Edwin Lee in a statement. “I especially welcome Linda’s proven track record of delivering technology solutions which improve government services.”

Gerull has taken up the helm at a time when the city has launched several technology-focused projects aimed at improving residents’ lives, including a full-fledged smart city initiative and sensor-equipped parking meters that aim to alleviate traffic and parking woes downtown.

She’s also promised a flurry of new services that embrace digital government and aim to streamline government operations and improve efficiency for both residents and city workers. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city has already upgraded to a new computing system that aims to more efficiently manage funds for its 5,000 vendors. Now, vendors will be able to register to do business with the city, bid on projects and get paid, all online. The system will also handle the payroll for the city’s 30,000 employees.

It’s the backbone of the city’s back-office functions,” City Controller Ben Rosenfield, who oversaw the system upgrade, tells the publication.

The upgrades don’t end there. The new financial system will allow the city’s Department of the Environment to more easily track environmental and energy data and encourage departments accordingly to equip with more eco-friendly systems and practices, department director Debbie Raphael tells the paper.

“The city has these great intentions, and we want to fulfill them, but we’re hamstrung by technology,” she says. “If we had real-time data, we would be able to ensure that every dollar of public money spent maximizes its protection of the planet and the people.”

Meanwhile, the city’s health department will soon introduce technology that will allow it to track patient records across nine hospitals and health centers. It will begin the tech rollout in summer 2019.

“It is an essential tool for the organization to function as a unified network so that patient care and experience is consistent and of the highest quality, wherever the patient may be,” Albert Yu, the department’s chief health information officer, tells The San Francisco Chronicle.

Additionally, the computer system at the city’s Assessor-Recorder’s Office, which tracks property tax revenue, is set for a refresh as well.

“People want to see a government that’s responsive to them, that helps to make their lives easier,” Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu tells the paper. “Even though we’re not there yet, we should strive for that.”

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