“We can’t compete with other cities if we do not compare to other cities. And in the digital age, cities that showcase technology win jobs.”
And in two short sentences, newly inaugurated Shreveport mayor Adrian Perkins followed up on a campaign pledge. Throughout his mayoral campaign, Perkins had emphasized that he would bring smart city technology to Shreveport.
In his Dec. 29 inaugural address he announced that he would appoint Shreveport’s first chief technology officer (CTO). On Jan. 4 Perkins nominated Keith Hanson for this new post.
Hanson is the former president of a local tech company that specializes in custom software and app developments. His appointment must be confirmed by the Shreveport city council.
Hanson is considered to be a virtual genius by the local tech-head crowd. His success as a small business entrepreneur is also a big positive.
Hanson will head up the city’s Information Technology Department. The 2019 budget for this department is $3.7 million dollars.
Nationwide, many cities have CTOs. In Louisiana, these include Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Monroe.
Some have combined these responsibilities into chief innovation officers positions. No matter the nomenclature the goal is the same: to use technology to improve the quality of life for citizens.
Hanson will have many job duties.
He will be charged with pursuing grants for smart-city initiatives, advising Perkins and department heads on the implementation of technology and providing support for Shreveport’s local tech sector.
The smart city concept has gained substantial momentum in the 21st century. Generally, the term is applied to urban areas that use different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.
Smart city technology allows city officials to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure. This facilitates monitoring what is happening in a city on a real-time basis. This technology can be utilized to monitor and manage traffic systems, the city water, and sewage systems, and assist law enforcement.
Another major responsibility of the new CTO will be to pursue a city-wide broadband through public/private partnerships. This network would make the city more attractive to tech-based companies. It would also bring affordable, high-speed internet access to all Shreveporters.
Fiber-optic broadband is the fastest internet connection available. Perkins plans on forming public/ private partnerships to expand the fiber-optic coverage area until Shreveport achieves universal broadband coverage.
Universal broadband is also an attractive selling point when luring industries that require high-tech infrastructure to conduct business in real-time. The more neighborhoods with fiber-optics, the more competitive are broadband prices.
New York City recently issued a request for proposal (RFP) to expand high-speed broadband access. The RFP invited input on technology and private partnership approaches to expand internet access to every city resident and business by 2025. A privately funded consortium is planning on installing kiosks with free high-speed Wi-Fi at no cost to the city.
Hanson will also review the city’s website. By many standards, outdated and not user-friendly, especially to Shreveport’s seniors.
Perkins promised that hiring a CTO would send a strong signal to tech companies that Shreveport was open for their business. As predicted, out of town inquiries were received by his office after the CTO announcement.
Perkins believes that an upgraded tech infrastructure will attract higher paying jobs, improve educational opportunities and reduce crime. He also sees technology as a tool that can assist in solving the city’s most persistent problems and save taxpayer dollars.
Much like the Big Apple, Shreveport will need to solicit creative solutions to maximize public benefit with private investment to achieve his goal of providing reliable, high-quality services to meet community needs.
The appointment of a CTO is the first step. Shreveport citizens can expect Perkins to make a major push to implement many smart city initiatives.
(This article was published in The Forum on Tuesday, January 15, 2019)