Canadian Municipalities Transform in the Cloud

“The smart city paradigm is the holy grail for cities. Cities are marching toward greater adoption of technology and data-driven insights all over the world,” says Adcock. “We all want to be intelligent cities; we all want to be smart cities. We all want to use data to help us manage the city in an open, transparent, innovative, resilient and sustainable manner.”
Jessie Adcock, CTO, City of Vancouver

If you’re a municipal IT professional in Ontario, you should consider attending MISA Ontario InfoSec 2019 at Casino Rama in Orillia, October 21-23. Those who attend the event have the opportunity to learn from other municipalities on security issues they have experienced, gain insight into future strategies, and get first-hand information on security trends that could impact the MISA organization from industry experts. ISA is proud to be there as Gold Sponsors with our partners, Zscaler and Tenable, to discuss how to move to the cloud safely. Drop by our booth #5; we’d love to talk to you.

5G and Smart Cities

With the impending deployment of 5G, and the speed and connectivity that it promises, cities will get increasingly smarter. Digitally transformed intelligent cities that rely on the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, and cloud-based scalable software will change how we live, travel, and consume. Of course, the big cities, like New York and Shanghai, are the first to adapt, driven by the needs of large and dense populations. However, intelligent cities come in all shapes and sizes, and Canadian municipal governments of smaller cities and towns are starting to embrace digital transformation and public cloud offerings.

Vancouver BC is an early adopter of real-time, data-driven experiences and turning toward modern applications to accomplish tasks quicker, easier and more efficiently. Back in 2013, digital specialist Jessie Adcock became Canada’s first public sector Chief Digital Officer. The City had just approved Canada’s first municipal digital strategy, and Adcock would lead the project. What began as an updated website, an app developed for communication and city service requests, and more Wi-Fi has now morphed into a smart city initiative.
“We’re going to take an ecosystem of disconnected technologies and weave a thread through them to create an integrated technology layer for the city,” says Adcock. “A connected architecture,” Adcock continues, “will allow Vancouver to leverage smart city technology, the Internet of Things and the promise of big data.” She recognizes that cities aren’t often on the cutting edge; “It’s just not always feasible. We have daily realities that we need to manage. Things are changing rapidly, so we have to have internal processes that keep us on the right side of the rules we have to follow but also enable us to be flexible and adaptable. That’s the secret sauce.”

Constituents are driving digital transformation for municipal governments.

How many of us have walked past a pile of garbage, shook our heads and moved on? Or tried to navigate the complex city phone system to make a complaint? Today, citizens have more options, and 51 percent of them want wider access to digital platforms to communicate with government.

The driving factor for most municipal government’s digital transformation is the ability to serve constituents smoothly and efficiently. This can also be read as doing more, better service, for less, reducing the cost to serve. The constituents are demanding accessibility and real-time interactions as a direct result of the data-driven consumer experiences that are progressively the norm in the private sector. Residents and business owners want the ability to pay their taxes online, apply for permits online, report a pothole or downed tree from their phone, and generally be able to interact with their local officials and services. This is easily accomplished with dashboards and portals – CRM software.

Smart cities go a step further with the incorporation of sensors, data collection and analytics to improve everything from crime prevention, to city maintenance, to traffic-control and air quality. And, while the benefits of reducing pollution, paper trails, natural resource consumption, and safety are vast – the vast increases in data and connectivity required to achieve full intelligence makes municipalities vulnerable to cyber threats. The smarter the city, the sharper the cybersecurity required. 

Smart cities are built in the cloud.

Cloud models today are breaking down barriers to adoption and can be up and running in hours. The ability to scale cloud resources as needed is great news for organizations that are often hampered by fluctuating budgets.

Smart cities rely on the cloud.

Cloud adoption has been more cautious and reserved in local government, primarily driven by the sensitivity around constituent data held by government agencies. The more connected a city, the more constituent data to govern. Yet, even in the face of cybersecurity concerns, for many municipalities cloud adoption is no longer an “if,” but a “when.” The benefits of the cloud are becoming too great to ignore. Adoption of the cloud is a journey — a strategic series of steps that ensure an effortless transition and minimum disruption. Steps on the cloud journey include:

• Mapping out your specific requirements and having a digital transformation framework in place is vital to your success. The framework needs to include your cybersecurity plans, not just for the new technologies, but how you’re going to secure the legacy technology from which you’re moving away.

• Make a transition plan that defines objectives, priorities and timelines.

• Consider your IT’s role and invest in employee training. There is a critical cybersecurity skills gap in local government. With the rapidity of technology’s evolution, “IT directors in the public sector are feeling the pressure to ensure not only that they remain informed of the latest tools and trends, but that their entire teams are equally knowledgeable” reports Government Technology website. The website goes on to advise that, “With budget constraints always at the forefront of concerns for cost-conscious IT directors, it may not always be fiscally feasible to routinely outsource training and education for every member of your team. Instead, prioritizing techniques must be implemented to raise the level of technical skill and competency in the most knowledge-deprived areas with the potential to make the most critical impact on infrastructure and civic data.”

• Don’t forget to plan for disaster recovery. Migrating to the cloud does not mean you no longer need an incident response and recovery plan. Even with robust cybersecurity measures in place, disasters happen, and you need to plan for high-speed recovery and data loss avoidance.

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