To be effective while ensuring cyber resiliency and privacy are maintained, the city needs to evolve its leadership team to include a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Information Security Officer.
The City of Ottawa has a rather unimpressive track record in attracting and retaining a chief IT leader. Sadly, this position has become a revolving door. Over the last 15 years, the city has gone through nine chief information officers. At best, that’s an average of 20 months each CIO had in their role, hardly enough time to learn the systems, the people and the culture, and be able to implement any vision or change. This has undoubtedly created systematic issues and instability in our city’s IT operations.
Yet, the CIO role is of critical importance, with responsibility for all the computer systems throughout city operations, not to mention the responsibility of protecting our city against the growing plethora of cyber threats and evolving privacy concerns. IT operations undoubtedly touch every single area of our city operations, which – if looked at in another way – also means that every single area of our city operations is exposed to cyber risk and privacy concerns. One would think we’d want a top-rated goalie in the net, given how high the stakes are.
Ottawa is a city with deep technology expertise and history. We are home to hundreds of technology firms and have a robust and growing rank of technical talent across our city. Ottawa residents’ expectations are for government to not only keep pace with technical innovation, but ultimately to lead. By 2030, merely 11 years from now, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in smart-enabled mega-cities. The far-reaching implications of digital adoption and change in our day-to-day lives means cities not only need to keep pace, but need to lead the way, ensuring that our smart-enabled cities of the future are a safe place for everyone.
Where do we go from here? I believe, Ottawa needs laser focus on using technology and data purposefully to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life for our residents. This must be a priority during the current term of council. If done well, the range of implications for residents are vast: from better air quality to safer streets.
In order to execute on this, we need to ensure strong leadership with vision, accountability and authority. We also need to recognize the unique task at hand.
Our city’s current CIO holds the responsibility to:
- Lead our digital transformation and modernization;
- Ensure our networks and sites are cyber secure and data privacy is maintained;
- Maintain and evolve our day-to-day IT operations.
As the gravity of these tasks continues to grow, not only here in Ottawa but worldwide, it’s time for change. One person can not reasonably be expected to wear all three of these hats and successfully deliver for our city. We need dedicated resources in these areas. The role of CIOs across the country – in cities, industry, and non-for-profit – has evolved dramatically. To be effective and to have the opportunity to lead in smart service innovations while ensuring cyber resiliency and privacy are maintained, the city needs to evolve its leadership team to include a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Information Security Officer.
Ottawa, the city, can not lag behind Ottawa, the innovation engine. It’s time for the City of Ottawa to give IT innovation and security the mandate needed to evolve our operations in order to serve residents as they expect, and perhaps even more importantly, to give security and data privacy the focused leadership it deserves.