LIVONIA – The Great Recession let Oakland County make great change.
And doing more government online is one of those key changes, making dealing with government more convenient and less costly for taxpayers.
That was the word from Phil Bertolini, Oakland County deputy county executive and CIO, at Corp! magazine’s 2014 DiSciTech Awards presentation April 17 at Schoolcraft College’s VisTaTech Center. Bertolini was keynote speaker at the event. ESD director of communications and public relations Matt Roush served as master of ceremonies.
“Government is traditionally rooted in its processes, but tough times force you to do things differently,” Bertolini told the crowd of about 200. “We were able to make more change in four years (of the Great Recession) than we could have in 10 or 20 years of a good economy. It was an awesome opportunity to reinvent government services.”
Bertolini said property tax revenue dipped from 62 percent of the county’s budget to 42 percent during the recession, forcing the county to eliminate 300 positions and cut salaries and benefits. What used to be called e-government was key to Oakland maintaining services in the face of those cuts.
Bertolini outlined five major trends in IT:
• Cybersecurity. Bertolini said the county is conducting a comprehensive cybersecurity training program for its 4,000 employees. Today’s cyberthreats come from a wide variety of vectors. But Bertolini said there’s hope – security for IT networks is now available as a service, a much more attractive proposition for cash-strapped local governments than buying a bunch of servers and software.
• Recruitment and retention of IT professionals. Bertolini said there are now 20 vacancies among the 157 authorized positions in Oakland County’s IT department. There’s a massive shortage of IT talent in the region. And it’s tough for a county government to attract young IT professionals, Bertolini joked, because “I don’t have slides, and they can’t bring their dogs to work.” And the problem is only going to get worse – within three years, 30 percent of Oakland County’s work force will be eligible for retirement. Local government will have to adapt to the changing expectations of a younger workforce, to whom making a difference and work-life balance is as important as salary.
• Cloud computing. Oakland County has established G2G Cloud Solutions, a provider of online payments, web hosting and other services to Oakland and now four other counties. It’s at www.g2gcloud.com. The next step, Bertolini said, will be an online services marketplace.
• Mobile technologies. Bertolini said we’ve had mobile computing for a while through technologies like air cards. But today mobile is just everywhere, on all devices. Citizens will have to get used to the fact that county employees may work from home, Bertolini said. And for those who wonder whether they might be shirking, Bertolini asks – well, how do you know people are working now? Malingering is malingering, whether it’s at the water cooler, out in the office parking lot, or at home. Preventing it is an issue of effective management.
• Citizen engagement through social media. When social media first hit the scene, Bertolini said, his job was to shut it down – keep people from posting on Facebook or Twitter while at work. Today, he said, it’s a major form of citizen communication. “Now it’s a tool,” he said. “It’s where people are.” Users just have to make sure they staff and manage it properly.
The event also saw the presentation of DiSciTech awards to 47 high-tech companies. A complete lsit of the winners can be found at www.corpmagazine.com.