Dallas, we got an information technology problem

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Wired, a publication that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, economics, and politics, recently reported that approximately 1.8 terabytes of footage from Dallas Police and State Patrol helicopters from Georgia had apparently been pulled from an insecure cloud infrastructure and posted on a group of transparency activists. website.

Authorities aren’t sure how it happened or why, but it is the third publicly known issue this year involving Dallas’ IT infrastructure, which the city’s own internal reports say is in need of. an overhaul.

It is a disturbing trend. In the spring, a since-fired city information technology worker deleted more than 22 terabytes of data, sending police, city officials, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and private attorneys to a mad rush to retrieve information. The loss has also given rise to an independent investigation.

Then recently we learned that the automated voice mail system alert system used to notify Dallas fire stations of emergency calls is unreliable, does not work well with other systems in the city. and should be replaced.

The loss of data from the police files perhaps highlights the larger problem. After hiding the data loss issue from the city council and district attorney’s office for months, city officials first explained the data loss as an employee’s failure to follow crucial protocols and management’s failure to fully appreciate the consequences of data loss.

However, the city’s after-action data loss report sheds more light on this incident. The city’s safeguarding process, the report concluded, lacked “any explicit data management procedures for archiving data” and “undeveloped governance and data management policies, standards and procedures.”

And this is the heart of the matter. Unless data monitoring improves, the report notes that the city “is at risk of further data loss, inability to recover from on-site outages resulting in data loss, disaster recovery requiring data recovery and liability for inappropriate data exposure ”. And from an efficiency standpoint, the city will “not fully realize the analytical value of the data due to a lack of quality,” the report warns.

The explosive growth of digital files and years of neglect have created a serious problem with day-to-day data management. “The simple truth is that as a city we haven’t invested as much in IT as we needed over the years,” Elizabeth Reich, Dallas CFO, recently told a council committee. during a discussion on a preliminary proposal for a new data center.

Investment in equipment needs to improve, but so do human factors such as training and monitoring. City officials are reviewing police data collection and storage needs, but the data problem is citywide and involves more than adding storage and securing more terabytes of data. As board member Jaynie Schultz noted in a recent meeting, “There is a difference in making sure my house is secure when what goes inside could be a disaster.

The city wants to become a national leader in municipal technology and data. So far, 2021 has not inspired confidence.

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