Washington — The White House on Monday praised the city of Detroit’s new chief information officer as the Motor City tries to reform its lagging information technology systems.
In a White House blog post, the White House point person on Detroit issues, Don Graves, and Brian Ford, senior adviser to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, praised Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s hiring of Beth Niblock, who was chief information officer for Louisville, Ky.
“The Obama administration is committed to partnering with the City of Detroit — its citizens, local leaders, and community stakeholders — to support the city’s vision for economic revitalization,” the pair wrote. “Today marks another important milestone for Detroit city government’s technological revitalization: it is the first day on the job for the city of Detroit’s new Chief Information Officer, Beth Niblock. She is serving in a newly-created cabinet-level position in the city. Beth, an accomplished and innovative leader, was a member of the municipal Tech Team.”
The hiring “further solidifies the critical role of technology and innovation in the city’s policies and economic revitalization efforts. We look forward to continued progress as the city of Detroit, under Beth’s leadership, embarks on building a more robust, vibrant, 21st-century city.”
Some police officers buy evidence gloves rather than trying to order them through the city’s outdated IT systems, while others reuse crime scene tape, Obama administration officials said.
In November, Detroit’s technology systems — among the most outdated in the nation — got some high-level attention from a team of national experts dispatched by the federal government.
Led by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, the “tech team” spent two days of work “as a partner to support Detroit’s vision for economic revitalization,” the White House said.
The team included Niblock; Nigel Jacob, co-founder of the Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston, a “civic innovation incubator” within Boston’s City Hall; John Tolva, Chicago’s former chief technology officer; Gail Roper, chief information officer for Raleigh, N.C., which Forbes magazine called “America’s Most Wired City” in 2010; and Allen Square Jr., chief information officer for New Orleans.
City leaders and the team worked on enabling residents to apply and pay for business, safety, building, and other permits online; identifying opportunities for consolidation and cost savings in software applications, data centers and servers; streamlining payroll systems; and exploring new software to allow access to government data to fuel entrepreneurs and innovation.
The city has woefully out-of-date technology infrastructure and many records are still completed manually.
“The city urgently needs to upgrade or replace the following IT systems, among others: payroll, financial, budget development, property information and assessment, income tax and DPD operating system,” the report’s emergency manager said in June.