Linux in Government: Stanislaus County Does Linux with a Best Practices Slant
If you call the Stanislaus County administrative offices and ask for Richard Robinson, be sure to specify that you want to speak with the director of strategic business technology. If not, you most likely will get the county's CEO, who has the same name. When you reach the technology director, you will meet a former Accenture (Anderson Consulting) professional steeped in high-level consulting methodologies. In two years, he's reduced costs in his department by 30-65%, depending on how you want to figure it, by using Linux and open-source technologies. According to Robinson, he's only getting started.
"In 2002, about two percent of the county's computer servers were Linux", Robinson recently told reporters from the Modesto Bee. "This year, about one-quarter of the servers are Linux. That number is expected to increase to more than one-third by next year." Robinson also said that "he expects the county will save money in the long run by moving to Linux because it won't have to pay software licenses every year, which nickel and dime you to death and can be very costly".
After reading this article, I made a call to Stanislaus County and found Robinson. He gave me another number to a VoIP phone, and soon we starting talking about Linux and saving taxpayers money. After a few minutes, I realized Stanislaus had cornered a pro.
A couple of years ago, meeting government officials interested in Linux surprised me. Recently, the incidence of inquires has become somewhat commonplace, especially with initiatives being introduced in states such as Massachusetts, Virginia, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Utah. People in government work want to know how they can join the march to open-source.
Even with this flurry of new activity, I hadn't come across a government organization with the sophistication of Stanislaus County--welcome to a well-run, model county government. I personally wish government people in Dallas County, Texas, would take a look at how Robinson and his colleagues do business.
If you make it to the Stanislaus County Web site and dig around, you'll find some interesting business technology. This county has a vision, mission and values. It sounds like an MBA program in action. But according to the communities, these people walk the talk. According to the Web site, the Board of Supervisors have fashioned some priorities, including:
Ensuring a safe, healthy community.
Facilitating economic development.
Delivering excellent community services.
Promoting efficient government operations.
Achieving multi-jurisdictional cooperation.
Providing model community leadership.
The board also created a vision of "a county that is respected for its service in the community and is known as the best in America". In line with its vision, the board established a mission that states, "Stanislaus County serves the public interest by promoting public health, safety, welfare and the local economy in an efficient cost-effective manner." Finally, the board puts its values up for all to see. "We:
respect each other.
partner with our customers.
focus on prevention.
take pride in our work.
share our learning.
Imagine these values in action, and it's not surprising that this organization has turned to a commodity hardware platform and deployed Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Although Robinson and I discussed the strides made in his department, I also found this information on the county's Web site. That's something rarely seen in the US; it certainly does not happen where I reside.
The Strategic Business Technology (SBT) division provides information technology services and support for all county departments and divisions. These services include but are not limited to Help Desk, desktop support, financial and payroll system support, shared countywide information technology infrastructure support, email hosting services, wide area network support, local area network support, internet services, application integration/development, electronic document management services (EDM), geographical information systems services (GIS), county website support and technology/business support.
This past year SBT delivered the ability to provide real-time streaming audio and video broadcast through the internet and the intranet, a new Check Reconciliation application for the County Treasurer, a GIS polling location site application for the Clerk Recorder, a GIS application, with the addition of (20) new layers, for the Children and Families First Commission, as well as a new county website. SBT has also provided substantial "in-house" technology training for the county in the areas of operation systems and architectures, telecommunications, programming languages and end user applications.
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