Proposal: A new City of Oakland Technology Commission


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Many of Oakland's tech challenges could benefit from public-private leadership. This is a rough draft presentation of the text at

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Proposal: A new City of Oakland Technology Commission

  1. 1. Proposal: Technology Commission for the City of Oakland Phil Wolff November 2013
  2. 2. Let’s have an Oakland… Where every home has blazing fast Internet.
  3. 3. Let’s have an Oakland… Where City departments don't work with paper.
  4. 4. Where the City's web sites are easy, fast, and useful.
  5. 5. Let’s have an Oakland…
  6. 6. Let’s have an Oakland… Where the City wins awards for innovation, for technology leadership that make Oakland a better place to raise kids and find well paying work
  7. 7. An Oakland Technology Commission can help us •  Slash our backlog of tech projects •  Apply our telecom permitting power •  Attract tech talent and business •  Narrow our digital divide •  Boost our buying power •  Increase Oaklander privacy & control over personal data.
  8. 8. Let’s start a Tech Commission! Many of our challenges have causes and solutions rooted in technology
  9. 9. Oakland’s Facing… Technical Debt Missed IT opportunities, risks, & costs Wasted Permitting Power Oakland Not In Silicon Valley Fortress Behavior Tech Law Overwhelm Offline Oaklanders
  10. 10. Growing Technical Debt Oakland has a huge, growing “technical debt” A long list of work deferred, bugs to fix, systems to upgrade or retire, risks to be secured, paper to be digitized, workflows to be automated, apps to be built, staff to be trained.
  11. 11. Growing Technical Debt Failure to work off tech debt means broken systems, stalled innovation, more liability, less service
  12. 12. Growing Technical Debt •  We don’t know whether this is hugely bad or apocalyptically bad. The scope of these problems, and the costs for digging out, are still incompletely measured or prioritized. •  No plan to pay down this debt.
  13. 13. Wasted Permitting Power. We have power. We don’t use it.
  14. 14. Wasted Permitting Power. Our power comes through permitting for hardware installation and maintenance. The City gives Telephone companies, Internet service providers, and Cable companies permission to operate.
  15. 15. Wasted Permitting Power. We negotiate with Comcast and AT&T on our own once ever four to six years They have professional teams who do these deals daily all over the country, leaving us at a disadvantage.
  16. 16. Wasted Permitting Power. Why Don’t We Use Our Power? Public interests have not been turned into policy, an agenda. Our negotiators have not been directed to seek agenda goals
  17. 17. Wasted Permitting Power. A generation ago we negotiated for public access channels and studios from cable companies in exchange for exclusive contracts.
  18. 18. Wasted Permitting Power. What should we ask for in 2013? in 2015?
  19. 19. Our tech commission could… Lobby carriers to lay live fiber every time the streets are opened, every time a home is connected, to improve our economy.
  20. 20. Our tech commission could… Negotiate increased bandwidth in public libraries to improve education.
  21. 21. Our tech commission could… Get cheap smart phones to support our community services.
  22. 22. Our tech commission could… Demand more transparency in the areas of personal privacy and personal control over consumer data.
  23. 23. Our tech commission could… Contract reports to assure every neighborhood of our community has the communication capacity to assure economic development.
  24. 24. Our tech commission could… Ensure carriers can operate during and after earthquakes and other disasters, saving lives and speeding recovery.
  25. 25. Barely a Tech Town in Silicon Valley Oakland can be a more attractive place for big and small tech companies to operate. The City government does a weak job at selling Oakland to tech communities.
  26. 26. Oakland Acts Like An Island We don't pool our technology purchases, coordinate our contract negotiations, or cooperate in our tech advocacy with other Bay Area governments and agencies.
  27. 27. Technology Law is Overwhelming •  Sacramento and D.C. make complex new laws and new regulations affecting the City, and the companies and employees working here. •  The City isn't addressing this in its lobbying, in its public advocacy, or in its policy positions.
  28. 28. Offline Constituents Many Oaklanders still have very limited access to the Internet at home, at work, or in their mobiles. This hurts the City's ability to automate without cutting off those who need services the most.
  29. 29. A Technology Commission could address these issues.
  30. 30. The TC’s Year Zero Agenda 1.  Listen 2.  Plan 3.  Document/Cut Technical Debt 4.  Tap Talent
  31. 31. Listen. The TC would listen to local tech leaders, advocates, and community members to form a tech agenda that supports Oakland.
  32. 32. Listen. •  Year One Goal: Tech policy agenda. •  Year One Goal: Tested a process for turning tech community ideas into an actionable policy agenda.
  33. 33. Listen. Cooperation. The TC would promote coordination with other public sector groups and NGOs to improve our negotiation, advocacy, and buying power.
  34. 34. Listen. Year One Goal: Quarterly meeting with counterparts from ABAG and other agency neighbors.
  35. 35. Plan. The TC would be the agent of our City's broad interests regarding permitting for mobile and wireless phone and Internet providers and for cable companies. The TC would advise, review, and sign off on Planning Department and Planning Commission activity in this area.
  36. 36. Plan. Year One Goal: Compile the calendar of contract renewals, with discussion points and proposed partnerships for each.
  37. 37. Technical Debt. The TC would review and report on the City's state of technical debt and annual progress.
  38. 38. Technical Debt. Year One Goal: Work with City staff to compile the first annual report.
  39. 39. Technical Debt. Tech City. The TC would advise the Mayor and City Council on economic development related to high tech.
  40. 40. Technical Debt. Year One Goal: Add a Tech City component to the City's business recruiting activity.
  41. 41. Tapping Talent. The TC would recruit IT professionals from big Oakland companies and startups to advise and support City IT staff.
  42. 42. Tapping Talent. Year One Goal: A pool of tech volunteers connected with their City counterparts on named projects, and a system for coordinating this activity.
  43. 43. What's next? Open questions?
  44. 44. Q. How does the City create a new commission? •  What's the workflow and checklist? •  Who signs off?
  45. 45. Q. Charter? •  Assuming it needs a charter, how would we draft a charter that's useful? What's missing from this proposal?
  46. 46. Q. Duplication of Effort? •  How can we verify these challenges aren't being well-addressed elsewhere?
  47. 47. Q. Buy-in? •  Which City stakeholders' buy-in would help the TC's creation and chances of success? •  Whose support in Oakland's tech community would help this succeed?
  48. 48. Q. Team composition? •  What blend of experience, attitudes, talents, and affiliations could make an effective TC?
  49. 49. Q. Candidates? •  Who would you nominate to the commission?
  50. 50. Q. Operations? •  How would the TC operate, assuming commissioners work no more than an hour or two weekly? •  Dedicated staff? Staff seconded from other City departments? Volunteers?
  51. 51. Q. Scope? •  What limits or constraints would be reasonable to apply to the TC? •  What risks or threats to the TC's success might we plan for and mitigate? •  What City, county, and California laws, rules, and regulations apply to the conduct of a city commission?
  52. 52. Q. Money? •  What would a first-year TC budget look like? •  How could we fund the TC?  •  Does every City commission come with some overhead charges?
  53. 53. Discussion •  Love it or hate it? Doable or pipe dream?
  54. 54. Action •  Contribute to the proposal’s OaklandWiki page… •  Join the Open Oakland brigade of Code for America (meets Tuesday nights at City Hall) •  Talk with Phil Wolff…
  55. 55. Phil Wolff +1.510.444.8234 @evanwolf skype:evanwolf
  56. 56. Thanks! Credits •  Photo: Welcome to Oakland cc-by-nc 7202695-51035555243@N01 Critique