At #ThinkGov2020 last week Ginni Rometty, IBM’s Executive Chairman, had a conversation with Jessica Tisch, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), NYC. At one point Jessica made the statement I’ve borrowed for this blog’s title.
It’s so true.
For a bit of background, Jessica Tisch moved into this role earlier in the year, and had 3 months to get to know what was happening internally and how it worked. Then COVID-19 hit and it was a baptism of fire for her. Firstly, she had to take the city’s workforce and get them ready to work from home, setting up remote access and MFA, distributing a great many laptops and such like.
The second phase for Jessica has been working with agencies to help them deliver traditional services and new services. For example, when people couldn’t leave their homes this left 1 million people food insecure. Her actions meant that meals could be delivered direct to people’s doors. Today they deliver 1 million meals a day. They built the service in a weekend. Folks can sign up online or call to register. They put the city’s taxi drivers – whose businesses had plummeted – to work. In Jessica’s words:
“we created a free Uber-eats in a weekend”.
It just shows what we can do when we have to – and how we can be imaginative when we have to. One of the challenges I have is making the time to think, to be creative. Anyway, I digress…
Jessica also told a story of which I am particularly proud. NYC has 1800 state schools with 1.1 million students. Whilst digital can be such an enabler, in the words of Ginni, it can create a “bigger have/have not society”. Approximately 1/3 of these students did not have access to an internet-connected device and therefore wouldn’t have access to education at home. NYC reached out to many suppliers for help; 3 stepped up. Apple provided 300K iPads. T-Mobile offered unlimited data plans for under $8/month, which made it affordable and achievable. IBM provisioned all those 300,000 iPads so they arrived with the students equipped with every app needed to support the remote learning curriculum, which meant they were ready to use out of the box. Now the most underserved can be included.
Ginni talked about what one Governor had said – there will be no more snow days! Now when it snows the students will be able to access their learning from home. I suspect there will be disappointment there!
Ginni finished with some words that really struck me:
“Now is the time for leaders to lead with both their head AND their heart; the head deals with the mechanics, the heart will help deal with the systemic issues … we will have a chance to build back better.”
Then she closed saying that the crisis has show that we can find:
- New ways to work
- New ways to partner
- New ways to fix some of what have been intractable problems (such as disease, work, social inequality)
Lets rise to that challenge!