Atlanta’s IT department grapples with declining funding trend


(TNS) – A quarterly review of Atlanta Information Management found the department was funded nearly $8 million less in fiscal year 2022 than four years ago, dropping to $30.8 million compared to $38.6 million for fiscal 2019.

The results of the review were presented to the city council’s finance executive committee by Jason Sankey, the city’s chief information officer. Sankey told the committee that the department has also faced a deficit of $3.1 million since the start of the current fiscal year.

The shortfall is due to cellular, data, network and cloud infrastructure costs, Sankey said. The goal is to level the deficit by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, he said.

The city’s IT department assists residents, businesses, visitors, and internal staff with a variety of technical issues, including equipment repair, software distribution, and access.

“Right now, we’re stuck in what’s considered a firefighter mentality, which won’t advance the technology needs of the city,” Sankey said. “This current situation is due to competing priorities, a lack of governance prioritization, historical misalignment of strategy and ongoing resource challenges.”

Responding to a question from Councilman Alex Wan, Sankey said the department is about $10 million short of where it should be.

“We have historically made compromises where, in my professional opinion, we can’t or shouldn’t because we should invest in technology.”

The quarterly IT department report also shows 19 vacancies and a retention rate of almost 73%. Sankey said they were losing staff to private companies with higher paying incentives than the city, but he also said they hired five new help desk technicians.

A spokesperson for Mayor Dickens said the department is in the early stages of identifying whether certain programs should be cut, maintained or strengthened.

Atlanta wants to become a “smart city,” which describes cities that are data-driven and focused on using technology to advance utilities, transportation, and other public services.

But Atlanta has learned the hard way that these loosely interwoven computer systems are vulnerable to malware. A foreign criminal group infected more than 3,700 computers, servers and workstations in the municipality with ransomware in March 2018.

Hackers kicked city workers out of the system and demanded $51,000 in bitcoins. Former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms refused to pay and asked employees to return to paper for city business.

In December 2018, federal authorities charged two Iranian nationals with the attack, and Atlanta spent $17 million to rebuild its online footprint.

During his last month as mayor, Bottoms told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the city’s online systems are constantly tested to ensure safety.

“When we talk about infrastructure, we often think of sidewalks and streets,” Bottoms said. “There’s not a lot of conversation about infrastructure that you don’t see, like your computer network infrastructure, or even about recent challenges we’ve had with our 911 center.

“As a city, we have to be very mindful of those things that don’t always attract attention or even public outcry to fix. Because they’re just as important, if not more so.”

© 2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia). Distributed by Content Agency Tribune, LLC.


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