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Sacramento IT Leaders: More Tech, More Jobs, More Innovation

The city of Sacramento is harnessing technology to address societal challenges in creative ways. That was the message of a webinar Wednesday featuring the city's CIO and its chief innovation officer.

The city of Sacramento is harnessing technology to address societal challenges in creative ways — from delivering free Wi-Fi to stationing electric cars at affordable housing units.

That was the message delivered Wednesday by the city’s top IT officials on a webinar hosted by Meeting of the Minds, a nonprofit that seeks to bring together urban sustainability and technology leaders.

“This is an exciting and important point in our history as a society, where technology is pretty much pervasive in all aspects of our lives whether you’re two years old or 85 years old,” said Sacramento Chief Information Officer Maria MacGunigal. “Government and businesses are expected to deliver more and more in this digital world and this convergence of IT and societal forces are really rapidly changing how we get things done.”

The task, she added, is “immense, exciting … sometimes daunting” to put innovative ideas into fruition, but it’s an opportunity for the city to be progressive.

At the core of Sacramento’s approach is the drive to bring government, academia and industry together to bring more tech and more jobs to the region, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the state. But it’s not just to bring technology to the region for technology's sake, explained Louis Stewart, the city’s chief innovation officer. Rather, the city is seeking technological solutions to help its residents in creative ways.

“The emerging market requires people and companies to be agile and adaptable, and it requires cities to do that as well,” Stewart said. “There is a need for us to embrace the new reality so that our communities aren’t continuously falling behind and have a drive to be more inclusive in the innovation ecosystem.”

The city’s recent $100 million partnership with Verizon is one example, its leaders say, of how the city has worked to make Sacramento the first city in the country with a commercially available 5G wireless network as early as this summer.

The partnership, which MacGunigal described as a significant effort by both the city and Verizon, has sweeteners for both parties and will benefit residents. Verizon will install small cell towers on city utility poles and deploy hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the city under a streamlined permitting process. In return, Verizon will install free Wi-Fi at 27 city parks for five years, and the company will provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming and up to 100 jobs for city youth over five years, giving kids a pathway from high school to community college and a job.

Other ongoing technology-related initiatives include: mobility, clean technology and sustainability, health IT and life science, food systems, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity, government and civic technology and workforce development.

“The city is really focused on solving real world problems that improve the quality of life for our residents, businesses and our visitors,” MacGunigal said. “We believe the broad reaching, comprehensive partnership and initiatives to do more on multiple fronts at one time are necessary.”