You are viewing 1 of 2 articles without an email address.


All our articles are free to read, but complete your details for free access to full site!

Already a Member?
Login Join us now

City Lights: Lea Eriksen, CIO, City of Long Beach

SmartCitiesWorld talks to Long Beach’s CIO, Lea Eriksen.

LinkedInTwitterFacebook

Long Beach is in the top 50 most populous cities in the United States, with a population of around 466,000 people. It is the seventh-most populous city in California. Long Beach was recently ranked in the Center for Digital Government (CDG) Digital Cities Survey awards, which recognise cities using technology to tackle social challenges, enhance services, strengthen cybersecurity and more.

 

SmartCitiesWorld talks to Long Beach’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Lea Eriksen, about the city’s priorities, her approach to the role and more.

 

SCW: What is the main purpose of your role?

 

LE: As the CIO of Long Beach, I lead the city’s Technology and Innovation Department, which provides a customer-focused environment that integrates people, processes and technology to support efficient and effective city services throughout Long Beach.

 

Over the years, the Technology and Innovation Department has shifted from an internal services department to a convenor and collaborator on issues of digital inclusion, privacy, smart cities and digital engagement to improve residents’ quality of life.

 

The evolution of technology is fundamentally changing how our residents live, work and interact with their local government. As CIO, I strive to be forward-thinking in planning for solutions to support smart city strategies, as well as continuing the traditional CIO responsibilities such as investing in technology infrastructure and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the city’s information and systems.

 

SCW: What was your route to the position?

 

LE: I definitely do not have a traditional path to the CIO role! I was permanently appointed in June of 2018 after serving in the interim role for five months. I have over 20 years of municipal experience, primarily in budget and finance, serving as the Budget Director/Manager of two large cities, Cincinnati and Long Beach.

 

As the Assistant Finance Director for the City of Long Beach, in addition to overseeing the development of multibillion-dollar budgets, I played a key role on two of the city’s largest technology projects. These were the $30 million enterprise financial and human resource system and the city’s $67 million critical technology infrastructure programme, which is an investment in city-wide technology infrastructure, a city-wide fibre network and other key information systems.

 

Based on my knowledge of those projects and the city’s procurement, budgeting and hiring processes, I was the right person to deliver the projects, maintain relationships throughout the city and put the needs of the community first.

 

For me, there’s a direct connection between the work I’ve done in municipal government finance/budget and the CIO role.

 

For me, there’s a direct connection between the work I’ve done in municipal government finance/budget and the CIO role. I am a people-focused leader and it’s useful to understand department operations and city-wide needs to maximise investments and serve as a proactive problem-solving partner to city departments.

 

SCW: What does the term "smart city" mean to you?

 

LE: A smart city is one that focuses first on the needs of our residents and responsively integrates technology into the built environment to enhance the way our residents and visitors live, work and interact with city services. It is critical to use an equity framework in our smart city planning.

 

In Long Beach, we started our smart city efforts by looking at digital inclusion. We are proactively working to ensure that everyone has equitable access and use of digital literacy training, the internet, technology devices and other digital resources – regardless of background.

 

We also know that one of the things that makes people anxious about smart cities is data privacy. We’re doing research on other cities to develop data privacy guidelines that will guide our smart city work. This is important to have in place as we expand our use of smart devices and sensors, such as parking meters, water and gas meters, street lights, traffic signals and surveillance cameras.

 

We’re doing research on other cities to develop data privacy guidelines that will guide our smart city work.

 

Finally, a smart city also means a smart city hall. We’re working on projects like an electronic document management system that will allow us to automate some workflows and use less paper.

 

We are also implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system and single city phone number using automated voice recognition, to effectively coordinate the city’s relationship with its residents to be more accessible and build trust and accountability.

 

These tools will supplement the city’s mobile-responsive website, suite of mobile apps and our open data government portal, DataLB.

 

SCW: Can you describe a typical day?

 

LE: I am in a lot of meetings on a variety of topics that need executive-level attention and as a result, I work late into the evening most nights to address emails, review work products and sign paperwork.

 

I will give an example of a recent day – I had meetings on cybersecurity, civic centre construction and migration, digital inclusion roadmap development, smart city strategy development, enterprise financial and human resources system implementation and a department budget year-end financial review.

 

I also found time to discuss an executive coaching proposal for my leadership team and have lunch with my mentee!

 

SCW: What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?

 

LE: My team and I successfully implemented our enterprise financial system this spring and we just moved into a new civic centre this summer. Working on both of these projects at the same time presented a once-in-a-career opportunity for myself and my department. These were monumental efforts involving countless hours.

 

 

The financial system is in use by 800 employees across all departments and the new civic centre involved a 1,000-person move, a new data centre and all-new integrated technologies to enable collaboration within the building.

 

The financial system is in use by 800 employees across all departments and the new civic centre involved a 1,000-person move, a new data centre and all-new integrated technologies to enable collaboration within the building.

 

SCW: What are the main challenges of your role?

 

LE: Due to the intense focus on the new civic centre and the financial phase of our enterprise system implementation over the last couple of years, we have a significant backlog of other critical projects that we need to address.

 

However, we are not done with our enterprise system as the HR/payroll and budget phases continue and so this has to remain the city’s top technology project priority.

 

It continues to be a challenge to balance the significant demands from city departments for technology systems and projects along with current staffing levels and other critical technology infrastructure priorities, all while keeping systems and information secure.

 

SCW: What is your number-one priority right now?

 

LE: My top priority is building and retaining a top-performing team to efficiently and effectively meet the city’s numerous technology needs now and in the future.

 

The team I am building is able to adapt to changing technologies, embrace the city’s priorities such as digital inclusion, equity, climate action and adaption, safety, mobility and livability, while incorporating user-focused and data-informed methodologies into our work.

 

SCW: What are some of the positive effects new technologies can have on governments around the world?

 

LE: The scope of local government is changing every day and we need to harness new technology to help us do more with constrained resources. As new policy issues and programmes come up, we are rarely given additional staff to help think through these problems. This is where use of technology and a data-informed approach are very useful tools.

 

We are also interested in exploring new technologies that not only solve civic challenges but also serve as an economic development opportunity for small businesses.

 

We are also interested in exploring new technologies that not only solve civic challenges but also serve as an economic development opportunity for small businesses. The city participates in the Startup in Residence Program, which pairs government agencies with tech start-ups to develop software solutions to meet real city challenges.

 

SCW: What new problems do emerging technologies create in government?

 

LE: Emerging technologies often move much faster than government. Government is being challenged to respond responsibly to emerging technologies. For the city, this means being able to develop guidelines or implement pilot programmes quickly, where once we might have spent months or years developing ordinances and fully fledged programmes.

 

The city’s scooter pilot programme and small cell ordinance are successful examples of this in action. They each provided opportunities to address issues like equity by requiring scooter coverage throughout the city and options to fund smart city and digital inclusion programming, respectively.

 

SCW: What is the best part of the job?

 

LE: Working with the dedicated, talented employees within my department each day to deliver technology solutions with partner departments that make a difference to our residents and visitors.

 

I also get to be involved in the City of Long Beach’s planning for the 2028 Olympics. As home to six Olympic events and the second-largest Olympic village outside of the City of LA, Long Beach is collaborating with both the city and county of Los Angeles to explore and implement smart city solutions to address mobility, parking and safety.

 

SCW: What keeps you awake at night?

 

LE: Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the city’s information and systems.

 

SCW: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

 

LE: I suppose I was on the path to be a City Finance Director/CFO, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun!

 

You might also like:

LinkedInTwitterFacebook
Add New Comment
You must be a member if you wish to add a comment - why not join for free - it takes just 60 seconds!