Meet the Tech Exec: Jonathan Behnke, Chief Information Officer, City of San Diego

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Jonathan Behnke

Chief Information Officer, City of San Diego

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Jonathan Behnke is the Chief Information Officer for the City of San Diego. He has over 20 years of IT experience managing and implementing technology for a broad range of industries including public sector, contract services, oil, construction, automotive, distribution, consulting, and manufacturing.
In Jonathan’s current role he is responsible for the technology strategy and operations for America's eighth largest City including data center, network, voice, public safety wireless communications, web services, enterprise applications, portfolio management, cybersecurity, GIS, and data analytics in support of over 10,000 users and 1.4 million citizens.
He also serves on the Board of Directors for SanGIS, a joint powers authority between the City and County of San Diego responsible for maintaining a regional GIS land base and data warehouse. In support of CA Governor's Office of Emergency Services, he also serves on the California Cybersecurity Task Force. Jonathan is also a member of the MetroLab Network Smart Cities Initiative, Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, The Municipal Information Systems Association of California, San Diego Infragard, and Metropolitan Information Exchange representing a group of CIO’s from the largest cities and counties in the USA.
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What’s the #1 area of focus you are personally focused on?  
We have so many initiatives and projects underway, I can talk about the top tier. Top things: modernization and expansion of services to San Diegans. We rolled out a mobile app called Get it Done San Diego. It allows residents, neighbors, and community members to report things like potholes and the reports to go straight into our backend system. It's really quick for San Diegans to take a picture of an issue and send it to us. The request is routed to the correct department and when the City completes the work they can take a picture and send back indicating that the work is finished. We're seeing a great level adoption and high level of satisfaction for the app. We are looking at broadening the functionality to other areas. The app does geotag issues and we have it plugged into our GIS systems to produce the issue on maps for City workers. It's really efficient for the City and our residents because we’re crowdsourcing the reporting of issues. Many neighborhoods are really excited about this are walking through their areas reporting all of the issues they can find to improve their neighborhood. San Diegans win by getting their issues fixed more quickly and the City wins by crowdsourcing the reporting more quickly. The Get it Done app has been out since this last May. Last March a new city website was launched, which won Best of the Web Award from the Center for Digital Government for ease of use. We surveyed over 5,000 San Diegans to develop the new website. There is now a set of drop-down menus to fast-track our residents to the information that they need. We have another initiative to replace PDF Forms on the website. Instead of downloading forms now we have a new solution that converts the PDF’s to online forms to fast-track the entry into our back-end system, making things more efficient for San Diegans and the City employees. We are also working on making permitting available online and looking to release that sometime later this year.
As we roll out these capabilities, we are also working on a single-sign on portal for residents to get to multiple city services. We make Cyber Security a priority in everything that we do and are constantly managing new threat vectors. Anytime you are traversing through the internet, there are all kinds of vulnerabilities and new ones appear every day. The City requires all 11,000 employees do annual cyber security training. You can have a rock solid system but it only takes one person to get a phishing email and all the cards fall if they click on it. I have heard about incidents in other companies where someone finds a flash drive in a parking lot with a child's picture on it. Someone will pick it up and take it to the computer and plug it in to see if they can find the owner, releasing a payload of malware into the company’s network. We got an email last week that was signed by a student from a local university. It said they were doing a cybersecurity survey and it had a link to respond. We knew it was a scam because we get emails like this all of the time. We have also seen ransomware as a growing problem. A legitimate website gets hacked and when someone goes into the site and it dumps malware onto their computer. After someone encounters ransomware, we'll get a phone call that says, hey what's BitCoin? We know immediately it's ransomware with a message on the person’s screen that says to give the hackers BitCoin and they’ll get their data back. We approach cybersecurity from multiple angles. We've got tools in place that isolate compromised computers from our network and then reimage the computer. Cybersecurity is a 24/7 job.
If you won the lottery what would you do?  
I think about the people that completely self-destruct, so I wouldn't do that. I think I'd give it back to the community somehow. I would build a new football stadium and bring the NFL back to San Diego.
What superpower do you want most? 
I would say flying because I commute from North County. I take transit to San Diego and get work done during the trip, so it's great to take the transit down here. They do a great job. A lot of city people take advantage of that.
What’s your take on Public Cloud? 
We look at government compliant cloud offerings and cloud providers out there. We currently do some work with Sales Force apps. The "Get It Done" app is based on Salesforce technology, using their government cloud. We also have a private cloud, using our own infrastructure allowing us to spin up virtual machines quickly. We have a lot of efficiencies built into the private cloud already. We use Amazon and Azure for business cases that are a good fit for that and continue to evaluate cloud offerings for Back Up and Recovery.
We have a hybrid environment. We see a lot of our new applications being SaaS applications. If we have big projects need infrastructure for a short time it might make sense to use cloud for that because it's no longer needed after the project is done. It gives us some agility to provision those resources quickly and then we haven't had to make a capital investment.
We've been on Microsoft Office 365 for 3 years. We are one of the largest municipal governments on Office 365 and we were one of the first out there. Our police department is not on Office 365 yet as we are just getting through CJIS compliance. CA law enforcement requires CLETS backgrounding for employees accessing CJIS information. Chula Vista PD was just approved by the State last month for Office 365 and now the door should be open for approval for other agencies, so we expect to get our police department on Office 365 soon. Currently, we've got an on-premise system and a cloud system in our hybrid environment, so we've got the challenge of getting the two synced up. We were on the early edge of large organizations going to the Cloud -- Office 365, and there was a little hesitation at first because we wanted a high level of confidence.
We also want to get the user’s home drives moved over to Microsoft OneDrive. That is something I’d like to do this fiscal year. We've got to work out the logistics to get ourselves there, but we see a lot of benefit to that.
If you were 80 years old and speaking to your younger self about life what advice would you give? 
My theory is if you make it 80 then you're playing on house money after that. I would say live life to the fullest and pass along your knowledge to the younger generation about your mistakes as well as your successes.
Tough question: Side salad, curly fries, sweet potato fries or onion rings?  
I would pick the side salad but if I need that rush I'd go with curly fries. I'm a huge carbs person.
IOT what does it mean to you?  
We hear from a lot of vendors in the technology sector and when we talk about it as a local government, IOT is discussed alongside Smart Cities. There is a lot of discussion about improvements to transportation, development, and energy. We see a lot of potential for the City and surrounding governments to partner and make life better for our residents, neighbors, and community members. The city announced a partnership with Google WAZE, and are looking at how we can use that data to really improve transportation. Our traffic engineering department can take that data and potentially implement changes. The City also has a project to deploy LED streetlights, and some will have sensors to generate new data and drive analytics that the City can make improvements from. If the regional governments can take advantage of IOT and aggregate that information into a single source, there are some great possibilities. You can take analytics and data from multiple organizations and aggregate it and put up a heat map, and do some really cool things. The city has an open data portal releasing a lot of data sets to the community. As we look at IOT, we really look at a lot of future potential, data and analytics, which could ultimately bring improvements to the everyday life of citizens.
What are your top 3 concerns in technology today? 
Security, mobility, and the cloud.


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Managed Solution is conducting interviews as part of an outreach initiative to share trends and engage technology enthusiasts in the southwest.


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