Posts Tagged ‘government’

New Castle County Moves to the Cloud

It is no secret that government agencies are not always on the cutting edge of new technologies. From tight budgets to lean teams, it can be very challenging for government IT to deploy and manage the robust technologies used by their private sector counterparts. And yet, 85% of U.S. citizens expect government digital services to be on par with or better than private sector digital services. How do governments meet citizen expectations without the resources required?

One answer? The cloud. By using cloud-based solutions, government agencies can scale operations, decrease total cost of ownership, and improve citizen experiences with less day-to-day maintenance and more time to focus on impactful projects.

One such county is leading the charge for government organizations across the United States: New Castle County. The largest county in Delaware, with over 550,000 residents and 1,600 government employees, found a way to do more with less in order to meet citizen expectations. They started with a cloud-managed network, deploying access points, switches, and security appliances across the county. With their new network, New Castle County experienced three main benefits:

  • Intuitive Interface: The team now manages their access points, switches, and security appliances from a single pane of glass, greatly simplifying day-to-day network management. The elimination of command line helped the small IT team allocate resources more effectively.
  • Increased visibility: By knowing all the devices that are connected to the network, who is using bandwidth, and where more coverage might be needed, the team can easily maintain and troubleshoot the network. With building floor plans uploaded into the Meraki dashboard, the team can see how endpoints are moving from access point to access point and identify where someone is if they are having connection issues.
  • Improved security: By using content filtering to block inappropriate content and intrusion prevention to safeguard against malicious traffic, New Castle County’s network is much more secure than before. Plus, with simplified firmware upgrades, the team ensures 24/7 uptime, so there is no impact to critical operations such as the 911 center.

Governments are eager to provide more for citizens, but it isn’t always easy. By managing their entire network through a cloud-based dashboard, the New Castle County IT team has eliminated the day-to-day tasks that come with traditional networking solutions, opening up new opportunities for team members to focus on providing digital services for citizens. The IT team now prioritizes projects that will improve daily operations for government employees and citizen experiences across the county.

To learn more about how the cloud has enabled New Castle County to be a technology-forward government organization, watch the webinar recording. You’ll hear from Mike Hojnicki, Chief of Technology and Administrative Services, and Jon Yearly Manager of Information Systems, on why they chose to move to the cloud. Watch today!

Public Libraries: Going Beyond Just Books

Parents gather as children set up their LEGO robots in the competition ring. The task is simple: navigate the robot to help in several natural disaster situations. The first contender makes a few finishing touches, and the robot is off. It flawlessly makes its way through the scenario of delivering food to people who are stranded. The next teammate places their robot into the competition area, and it smoothly removes a fallen down tree from the middle of the road so cars can get by. All of the robots are impressive, and members of the Brooklyn Robotics Team cheer on their teammates as they continue to solve staged disastrous situations.

Scenes like the one above are all too common at one of Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) 59 branches across Brooklyn, NY. Serving 2.6 million residents, the libraries offer a vast variety of services and programs for library visitors beyond just checking out books. The Brooklyn Robotics League goes beyond just building cool robots — they teach kids ages nine to 14 how to code, work as a team, and practice core values. “Ask a Tech Day” provides drop-in technology services to patrons. Whether it’s a broken computer or a question about how to FaceTime, anyone can come by and get the technology help they need. At the central library, meeting rooms are available for people to conduct small business meetings, host DIY classes, or run community programs. Classes for all ages are available on topics including resume building, job readiness, basic computer and email skills, art, podcasting, and more.

The sense of community that the libraries provide would not be possible without the robust network and endpoint management system that BPL has built. Reliable Wi-Fi at every branch ensures that people can easily view entertainment, complete homework, and manage their businesses, on top of supporting the classes and programs the libraries offer. With a cloud-based endpoint management system, BPL is able to provide iPads, already configured with the applications and information they need, for library programs. Thanks to time saved from not having to manually configure iPads or be on-site to troubleshoot the network, the IT team and library staff can focus on providing the best services for library visitors.

This breadth of programs and technology resources was not always the reality at BPL. The IT team has worked diligently to turn a once consumer-grade, limited visibility network into a streamlined, cloud-managed technology solution that has allowed BPL to build the thriving community it has today. Watch the webinar recording to hear Rawle Jackman, Manager of Technology Services at BPL, explain why he chose Cisco Meraki as the network backbone for the library system, and how it has enabled them to provide new experiences for patrons. Watch it today!


3 Steps to Start Your Smart City Journey

Becoming a “smart city” is something that towns, cities, states, and even countries are striving to achieve. But what does it actually mean to become a smart city? Where do you start? How do those initiatives benefit your community?

To find out, I spoke with Stephen Dawe, CTO at The City of Opelika, Alabama. Stephen is on a journey to make Opelika a digital city, and he takes a systematic and thoughtful approach in deciding which projects to take on and which ones to leave on the sidelines. The conversation highlighted three steps that state and local government IT teams can take today to launch their own smart city projects:

Step 1: Determine if the Project Supports Your City’s Mission

It is easy to get wrapped up in wanting to implement the latest shiny and flashy technologies. But will those technologies support the goals of your community? To get buy-in from the mayor, governor, or city manager, and to see the most success, focus on projects that will help you deliver on your city’s mission. Citizen demand can also be a good starting point: if citizens are asking for it, and it supports your city’s mission, the technology is worth exploring. Make a list of your top five projects, and move on to the next step!

The City of Opelika’s mission focuses on three things: to improve the quality of life for citizens, provide jobs through economic development, and be good stewards of citywide resources through sustainability. Stephen will only evaluate smart city projects that support one of these three areas, making his smart city strategies much more tailored to the city’s needs.

Step 2: Identify Technical Feasibility

Let’s say you want to implement sensors in every street to monitor and reroute cars because traffic is problematic in your community. But what if half of your streets are windy mountain roads, making it challenging to run end-to-end cabling? Does it still make sense to deploy sensors as well as a network to support them? When evaluating smart city projects, remember that the goal is to deliver outcomes that will deliver on your city’s mission, not necessarily to have the technology everywhere. Select the technologies that will be feasible to implement and will drive the biggest impact.

Stephen wants to work towards closing the digital divide in Opelika. But when he realized that covering the entire city with public Wi-Fi would be extremely difficult due to vast forested areas throughout the city, he determined this was not technically feasible. Instead, he is focused on rolling out public Wi-Fi in underserved areas, public libraries, and all government-owned buildings and areas, so that people can access the Internet when and where they need it. This will not only help bridge the digital divide, but will deliver on the city’s mission to improve quality of life and provide more economic opportunities for residents.

Step 3: Don’t Do it Alone: Find the Right Partners  

When exploring smart city projects, it is easy to quickly become overwhelmed. Even after narrowing down the projects you want to work on, and determining their technical feasibility, how do you actually get started? Find the right community and technology partners to help you on your journey; it is impossible to do it all alone. From your prioritized list, start thinking about who you can tap to help you plan out and execute your projects, from local universities to technology partners.

Stephen identified a handful of partners to work with to plan and launch his smart city initiatives. The short list includes various Cisco solutions, including Meraki, CIMCON lighting, and Auburn University, in addition to his collaboration with the Mayor and Government office heads. Each of these partners plays an important role in delivering on his smart city goals.

Now that you have a framework, what are you waiting for? Start planning and strategizing your smart city projects today. Still feeling a bit overwhelmed? Listen to this webinar recording to hear Stephen explain firsthand which smart city projects he chose to start with, how he plans to develop and install the technologies, and how he thinks the projects will benefit city residents. Or, attend an upcoming webinar to see a live demo of the Meraki dashboard in action and get your questions answered.

Connecting Florida State Parks with Meraki

When you think of a Meraki deployment, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of Wi-Fi in coffee shops, mobile device management in classrooms, or the network of a hotel. Recently, I spoke with the IT team at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and it opened my eyes to all of the possibilities for Meraki to connect the unconnected in unique industries and situations.

DEP manages 175 state parks across 16 million acres, and is responsible for protecting the air, water, and land in the state. They are in charge of land and recreation, all state parks and trails, regulatory programs for air and water quality, and ecosystem restoration. In order for park rangers to collect payment information and work effectively, the parks need a secure network connection.

When it was time for a switch refresh, the DEP team wanted a solution that was easy to deploy and manage, while providing improved network visibility. After completing a bake-off between their legacy solution, a competitive solution, and Meraki, the team decided to move forward with deploying Cisco Meraki switches, access points, and security appliances at DEP parks and offices across the state.

The wireless network allows park rangers to securely access DEP resources and data, improve efficiency for day-to-day administrative tasks, and connect credit card machines to process park fees, hiking permits, and souvenirs. The switches and security appliances support the DEP network, connecting remote sites and offices back to the main network at their headquarters in Tallahassee. On Honeymoon Island, the DEP deployed several APs at the park entrance, which connect their toll booths back to the main ranger station.

Honeymoon Island Meraki AP

There are now hundreds of Meraki products connecting parks across the state of Florida. To learn how the IT team at the Florida DEP is managing this massive, distributed network, watch this webinar recording. A Meraki Product Specialist joined Arthur Wilson, Network Engineer at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for a live demo of the Florida DEP Meraki dashboard. You can read the full Florida DEP case study here. To learn more about Meraki for state and local government, attend an upcoming live webinar.