Voters last month approved continuing the one percent sales tax program, which allows the city to put money toward deferred maintenance needs. With an estimated $47 million to work with, the Assembly approved putting the money toward 13 projects. The list includes maintenance and improvements to CBJ’s water and wastewater systems, city and school buildings, the Augustus Brown Pool, Centennial Hall and city parks. All of these things are physical structures or systems; of course, they need maintenance. But also on the list was something much less tangible – $2 million for upgrading CBJ’s information technology systems.

CBJ (along with everybody else) first got email more than 20 years ago. Since then, the city’s and citizen use and dependence on information technology has consistently grown and is a part of everything the city does. By adding information systems to CBJ’s list of capital projects, the city is acknowledging that computers and software are part of the municipal infrastructure that need to be constantly cared for just like buildings, roads and utilities. While roof replacements or paving overlays can hold up for 20 to 30 years, technology and the operating systems are only expected to last a short amount of time, about two to five years. Many people don’t think twice about upgrading a smart phone every two years. That same attitude needs to be applied to city technology. Technology doesn’t just happen; it takes people and money.

Upgrading the city’s IT systems will allow for more effective customer service, operational efficiencies across departments and financial savings. Here’s just a short list of IT projects that will happen over the next few years: upgrade the dispatch system for Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire/Rescue, allow residents to pay online for various services, implement or improve security cameras, upgrade financial systems, build out wireless infrastructure in city buildings and standardize software systems. Citizens have come to expect integrated and seamless technology. Delivering that service requires the city to treat those systems like any other piece of infrastructure.

(This is written by the City Manager’s office and originally appeared in the November 15, 2017 Juneau Empire in a segment called, “City Corner”)