Technology leaders look to save Detroit


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Can a team of technologists help save Detroit from financial ruin?

That’s the hope this week as a group of five successful municipal technology leaders from around the country are in the Motor City to meet with city officials and other local leaders to find ways technology can contribute to economic growth and improve services for city residents.

The “tech team,” which landed in Detroit on Monday, consists of Nigel Jacob, co-founder of the Office of New Urban Mechanics in the City of Boston; John Tolva, former chief technology officer of the City of Chicago; Beth Niblock, chief information officer of City of Louisville, Ken.; Allen Square Jr., CIO of the City of New Orleans; and Gail Roper, CIO and community relations officer for the City of Raleigh, N.C.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy put together the mission.

“Based on the discussions that take place over two days of brainstorming, the Tech Team – in collaboration with the City of Detroit – will develop a set of actionable recommendations to improve city services and unleash the power of technology to help build a 21st-century Detroit,” wrote Brian Forde, senior adviser to the U.S. chief technology officer, and Don Graves, executive director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at the White House, on the White House blog.

Detroit leaders and the Tech Team will brainstorm solutions in several broad issue areas, including:

• Enabling online permitting: Identify ways for the city to offer the ability for local residents to apply and pay for business, safety, building and other permits online;

• Evaluating IT Infrastructure: Analyze existing IT infrastructure and software to identify opportunities for consolidation and cost savings in areas including software applications, data centers and servers;

• Streamlining payroll systems: Review city payroll processes and identify opportunities to digitize manual processes and reduce costs and potential for errors;

• Opening government data: Identify opportunities to leverage new software to enable open government data to fuel entrepreneurs and innovation while ensuring privacy and security; and

• Creating a 311 System:  Recommend best practices for implementing a 311 system and decreasing nonemergency-related service requests to emergency lines such as 911.

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Detroit, Michigan, States, White House