(Courtesy Photo)

San Francisco’s IT spending increased 80 percent over five years

San Francisco’s recent hire of the newly created post of chief digital services officer is but one example of the fast growing spending on technology by city government.

In fiscal year 2012-13, San Francisco’s information and technology budget was $265.6 million — 3.6 percent of its total budget.

That spending has increased each year and, today, totals 5 percent of The City’s $9.6 billion budget, which means The City is spending $481.5 million on information and technology in the current fiscal year.

The City has had a history of troubles in modernizing technology while being dogged by either wasteful or insufficient spending. A series of scathing civil grand jury reports rapped The City for tech failures.

But Friday’s official announcement by Mayor Ed Lee and City Administrator Naomi Kelly of the hire of Carrie Bishop to serve as San Francisco’s first chief digital services officer is part of The City’s larger commitment to tech and specifically an effort to modernize public services by making them more accessible via the internet.

Bishop announced her move to San Francisco for the post via Twitter on Feb. 10.

“We know that today, our residents expect online services from The City,” the mayor said in a statement. “With a chief digital services officer, we can provide those services in the most modernized and efficient ways possible.”

Kelly said Bishop was “a proven leader with a strong service design vision and deep experience building consumer-oriented web products.”

Bishop comes from FutureGov, a company she helped form that is based in England and Australia, which provides web design services for the public sector. She will begin work in the next two weeks, and her salary is $167,986.

Kelly also oversees the creation of The City’s required long-term tech spending plan as part of its budget and has recently finalized the Information and Communication Technology Plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. The plan is updated every two years and the first one was created in 2012.

Kelly stated in this fourth ICT plan that The City is renewing “our focus on the role technology plays in delivering services throughout San Francisco.” She continued that “in every interaction we have with the public, our technology should help improve the lives of our residents and businesses.”

The City plans to improve the hiring of “technologists” and notes that in the current fiscal year, city departments had 219 technology positions out of 1,536 vacant spots. “As The City becomes more technologically advanced, our need for skilled professionals grows,” the plan states. “The City is positioning itself as an employer of choice for top tech talent.” That includes the TechHire program, which improved marketing of city tech jobs.

“The implementation of the Major IT Projects is another factor contributing to an influx of IT project staff over the last five years,” the plan states.

The City’s IT jobs have increased from 1,190 positions with a salary of $129.9 million to the 1,536 budgeted positions with a salary of $189.8 million.

Some of the largest spending in the coming years per the plan includes $31 million to replace radio equipment to move all public safety responders onto one system.

“The new technology will support over 9,000 mobile and handheld radios, with over 20 city departments and outside agencies operating daily on the system,” the plan states. The City plans to spend $4.7 million to upgrade wireless service at the San Francisco International Airport.

Some $47 million will go toward the assessor-recorder and treasurer to upgrade tech systems in those offices.

Nearly $400,000 will go toward an online reporting system for short-term rental hosts like Airbnb users.

Nearly $2 million will go toward completing a housing application platform for below-market-rate units, and another $2 million will go toward a platform for job seekers and workforce providers.

The City is also making a multi-million dollar investment in a new data sharing program to track and case-manage homeless residents.

“Although the demand for technology investment continues to outpace available resources, The City is well positioned to invest in technologies with the most impact,” Kelly said in the new ICT Plan.

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