Washington DC meets unique needs with Microsoft’s government cloud

Washington DC meets unique needs with Microsoft’s government cloud
City staff able to enhance collaboration and efficiency using Office 365

Toby Ingleton |

As a sizable urban area and the capital city of the US, Washington DC faces a host of unique challenges.

The city’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) provides technology services to around 33,000 government employees. Furthermore, the office provides network connectivity to more than 650 government buildings and supports enterprise services city citizens require.

Washington DC, though only having around 680,000 permanent residents, sees its numbers swell to more than a million each day as people commute to the city and visitors come to see its historic monuments.

In most US cities, there are eight priorities for public servants: public safety, housing, equity and economic development, aging infrastructure, education, environment and energy, healthcare, and budget. However, according to Archana Vemulapalli, chief technology officer for Washington DC, when it comes to the technology needs and challenges in Washington DC, the focus is on efficiency and economic value.

“In order for my office to operate effectively while addressing the city’s needs, time and cost considerations are a consistent focus,” she said. “Identifying your city’s strategic priorities means highlighting the city-wide trends and characteristics that make your city distinct. In DC, the fluid population density and need for reliable transportation options is a key challenge. My office requires technology that can adapt to rapidly shifting populations and substantial scale changes that are in flux every day.”

To meet these specific challenges, the city created a list of standards to government cloud service providers. The first three criteria identified were compliance, reliability and the technical architecture, and environment of the platform. A fourth standard was around the quality and efficiency of the relationship between the OCTO and the cloud provider.

The city of Washington DC has also recently launched ‘SmarterDC’, an initiative aimed to help explore digital solutions for the issues the city faces. The vision for the initiative has been created by OCTO and a number of city-stakeholders, and saw the creation of a list of criteria to enable digital transformation. These centred on areas such as increased resilience, sustainability, equity, transparency and collaboration.

In order to meet the aims of the SmarterDC initiative and the aforementioned challenges, the decision was taken to work with Microsoft in a service-oriented partnership based around government cloud technology.

“Microsoft’s adherence to compliance, obvious reliability, and user-friendly technical architecture all supported our needs,” said Vemulapalli. “Everyone we interacted with at Microsoft had the exact collaborative attitude we needed in a service provider.”

33,000 government employees are currently being moved to Microsoft Office 365 Government, while Microsoft Office 365 is supporting the city’s efficiency and collaboration efforts. The Groups application within Office 365 is proving particularly popular and has made it easier for city staff to coordinate and collaborate.

“As technology develops and digital capabilities expand, compliance and resiliency will remain two major qualifications for a successful cloud service,” said Vemulapalli. “In addition to those factors, having a collaborative and communicative relationship between an agency and their service provider is absolutely critical. For DC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft offered all of these services and more, facilitating a city-wide digital transformation that will bring DC toward a more resilient, sustainable, equitable, and transparent digital future.”

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