Strong IT makes smooth flight for Phoenix

Strong IT makes smooth flight for Phoenix

Phoenix's Danny Murphy said the city is bridging the digital divide by training a few senior citizens to access the city's Web site so they can teach others.

City set up a cohesive systems architecture 10 years ago for its 13,000 workers

By Trudy Walsh
GCN Staff

Who's In

Frank Fairbanks

'''City Manager

Danny Murphy

'''Director, Information

'''Technology Department

Peggy Bilsten

'''Councilwoman and

'''chairwoman, Technology

'''and Transportation



Source: Phoenix Information

Technology Department

Danny Murphy, director of Phoenix's Information Technology Department, answered the call to 'Go West, young man' in 1983 when he became office systems administrator for the city.

Murphy received his bachelor's degree in 1973 from Northeast Louisiana University, and his master's degree in 1976, also from Northeast Louisiana. Murphy talked to GCN/State & Local about Phoenix's systems.

MURPHY: Phoenix has what we call a federated republic model. To sound a little less Trekkie, we also call it a coordinated decentralized model. The Information Technology Department is responsible for networks, backbones and policy. We manage large systems like our SAP [from SAP America Inc. of Wayne, Pa.] and PeopleSoft [from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.] packages, telephones, microwaves and the network component of our e-mail system.

That's the framework for the city, all 26 departments and 13,000 employees. Departments can have their own technology initiatives, as long as they keep in accordance with our policies and framework.

Ten years ago we had a lot of islands of technology. One department could not talk to another. So we implemented a cohesive architecture, a technical vision. As long as the departments are working within that framework, they are free to go forth and do.

The one exception: anything that is enterprisewide or citywide. The IT department controls and maintains the city's financial systems and large networks because they touch all 26 departments. We cannot have 26 different financial systems.

Phoenix is one of the fastest growing places on Earth. Sure, we have a lot of Sun Belt retirees, but the average age of the population is much younger.

IT for all

It's a vibrant place to live. The Grand Canyon is a few hours away. You can be in your backyard swimming pool, then hop in your car and drive a few hours north and be snow skiing.

We've got 1.2 million residents in more than 470 square miles. That's one of our biggest challenges, providing electronic services to the city.


Networks'Provides e-mail, Internet and LAN services for Phoenix's 13,000 employees

Financial systems'Supports SAP software for the city's financial system

Policy'Sets IT policies and a framework for the city's 26 departments


Phoenix at Your Fingertips'Delivers e-commerce and other Web services to citizens at

Geographic information system'Provides integrated geospatial mapping to almost every city service

Public safety radio system'Issued a request for proposals for a $95 million 800-MHz digital trunked radio system for public safety

One thing we all agree on: We don't want to create a split between the digital haves and have-nots. When we created the electronic city hall, we made sure every neighborhood in the city had access to a PC where people could access city government for free. We put 40 PCs in libraries, community centers and parks.

When we rolled this program out a few years ago, we did a major outreach to senior citizens. We did a project called Train the Trainer, where we would teach a few seniors to use Phoenix at Your Fingertips, the electronic city hall at Then those folks would go out among their fellow senior residents and help them get online.

Library links

Our primary objective was to make sure everybody had access to the Web. If you couldn't afford a PC in your home, you'd be able to go to a library or park to get access. We worked with the parks, recreation and library agencies to present this to the community.

We didn't go out with our pocket protectors and scare everybody to death. We put that veneer of parks, recreation and the library on it, agencies that were already a familiar part of the community.

There's at least one piece of good news about Y2K: It's almost over. We learned a couple of things from it. One of the greatest gifts we got from Y2K is that we now have a thorough documentation of the technical environment in the city.

Another benefit of Y2K is what we learned from our Y2K emergency center exercise. It started at 5 p.m. Friday afternoon and ran till 6 a.m. on Saturday. All the departments participated in the emergency drill. It really showed everybody how reliant the city's departments are on technology, and it raised the level of awareness.

I'll be in the emergency operations center on New Year's Eve with staff from the police, fire and IT departments. We've developed detailed contingency plans, but that's where we'll be just in case. Hopefully we'll all be twiddling our thumbs.


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