Q & A with the City’s Chief Technology Officer

By SLNext
In Uncategorized
Jul 25th, 2019

Earlier this year,  former Information & Technology Manager Tony Batalla was appointed as the City’s first Chief Technology Officer. This new position, which combines aspects of the IT Manager role and the Chief Innovation Officer position, will help fold innovation into the fabric of the City organization. Under Tony’s leadership, the City’s dedicated IT team has been extremely successful in working with City departments to help implement new technologies to make the City’s work more efficient and effective. The creation of this new position will ensure the continuation of that work as well as the enhancement of community-facing innovation projects such as public wi-fi, expanded use of the fiber-optic network, and efforts to close the digital divide. Tony has proven to be adept at both managing day-to-day IT operations and leveraging technology assets to benefit the community.

We sat down with Tony to learn more about his role as Chief Technology Officer.

SLNext: What are your top technology and innovation goals for the City of San Leandro?

Batalla: My top priorities are to ensure that our IT operations continue to run smoothly and efficiently, and also to explore new areas and opportunities for innovation, such as “smart city” technologies and building digital services that can be delivered through the Internet. This is the really primary goal of moving the Office of Innovation into the IT Division.

SLNext: What do you see as the most unique opportunities in San Leandro?

Batalla: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that San Leandro’s most unique opportunity is our 21 miles of fiber and conduit. This is a fundamental asset, meaning that all of our smart city technologies in one way or another leverage this overarching connectivity network. Also, we have a great team culture of collaboration and being nimble and agile. The continued support of the City Council is an important aspect that gives Staff the latitude to be innovative.

SLNext: What are some of the most successful projects you have overseen thus far in San Leandro?

Batalla: Our Public Wi-Fi network has been a hit. Over 16,000 devices connect every month, transmitting nearly 3 terabytes of data. All delivered to the public for free on our fiber network.

Core IT projects aren’t always memorable, but our transition to Office 365 has been hugely successful. We’ve saved money, increased the services available to Staff, and all but eliminated email outages and service impacts. We have also deployed several cyber-security upgrades that have helped us become more resilient to attacks.

SLNext: How do you see the City changing in the next 10 years thanks to technology and innovation?

Batalla: We outlined a Smart City Strategy as part of the Fiber Optics Master Plan, and I think that provides a good road map. We identified areas where technology will play a key role in helping the community to reach its goals: public safety, transportation, broadband service, and energy/environmental sustainability. More broadly, Mobility – public transportation along with ride-sharing, scooters, bikes, pedestrian routes and trails, and eventually autonomous vehicles – is likely to dramatically change the experience of getting from point A to point B over the next 10 years. And it will all happen in the public right-of-way.

SLNext: What do you see as the biggest challenge as we look to the future?

Batalla: The biggest challenge with technology, I think, is more pragmatic – it’s finding the right balance. Safety vs. privacy; performance vs. risk; the better features of a new system vs. the comfort and proficiency of the old system; stability vs. change. Technology is often perceived to be at the heart of these tensions. So, balancing those – finding a way to achieve the results you desire, while also being mindful of and responsive to the trade-offs, is the probably biggest challenge in any project. You thought I was going to say budget, didn’t you?

3 Responses to “Q & A with the City’s Chief Technology Officer”

  1. Kay Arnold says:

    I hope that traffic control is on the list of Smart City improvements to come. We need traffic lights that are responsive to traffic – or the lack of it: not sitting at red lights when there is NO cross traffic; no sitting thru 2 or 3 light cycles to turn let when there is NO traffic, etc. Traffic flow thru this city is hrrible, considering its small size – let’s get it up to date.

  2. Lewis Pollack says:

    Could you please contact me. I would love to have you as a speaker for the San Leandro Kiwanis Club. We meet every Tuesday at noon at The Englander. If you are not aware of us we are a community based organization that provides volunteer service.

    Thank you

  3. Andrew Ward says:

    I just want to know how this guy is going to keep our city free of ransomware and whether he has rotating off-site backups of EVERY computer used by a city employee in the case of a massive infection and how he makes verifiably-sure that every computer connected to any city network with connections to servers or other devices in an intranet are up-to-date with the latest patches. I also want to know what kind of training he requires all city employees to go through to make sure they know what brings infections into a network including spot testing employees to see what they can be tempted to click on and warn them (and their managers) of the dangers of click-bait, unknown, un-scanned flash drives, bit-torrent shared apps and even music, and a host of other bad-behaviors. Does this guy really get it? What network configurations does he have implemented to control the sharing of information? And are all public-facing servers on a completely isolated network or an Amazon EC3-based network? What remediation plans has he established in case of a crisis?

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