The Chief Information Officer for the city of Des Moines was honored last night with the 2004 Distinguished Information Sciences Award. Michael Armstrong says keeping a computer network up and running on a city-wide level is a big job. He’s responsible for information systems — the hardware and software but also how those are used. Armstrong says as a result, he gets involved more in business processes than in just how to keep the computers running. Armstrong points out his computers must support operations utilizing lots of very important and very private data. When you’re dealing with health and life safety systems, the fire and police dispatch and criminal investigations, they store a lot of critical information so it must be protected from physical damage as well as any kind of computer attack. Armstrong also has to ensure that while users will find their computers operating properly, there’s powerful security in place. You need to make sure people working with the information have the access they need, but that that information’s protected against those who shouldn’t have it. To do that, he says, takes a combination of hardware and software and people who know how to structure systems to keep them safe. “It never ends,” he says. His job’s never finished as the I-T department must compete with other departments in the government for “the same bucket of dollars,” and so he has to focus on tightly on what’s really needed to accomplish his agency’s mission. Armstrong says computer networks aren’t just for big cities like Des Moines — Iowa communities of any size pretty much need computers nowdays to do their work. The information they deal with grows at an exponential rate, he says, increasing in size by four, six or eight times a year and so it’s a constant requirement to monitor it, store it and move things to storage elsewhere to keep data safe. Armstrong was chosen for the “Distinguished Information Sciences Award” award for advancing the role I-T plays in the operation of city government, and educating others about its significance in the organizational decision-making process.
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