Boston City Hall Goes Google

Bye, bye Outlook: Government workers are getting Gmail.


Screenshot via Google

Mayor Menino’s City Hall has been teased in the past for being old-fashioned—the city, after all, didn’t get voicemail until February—but lately has proved to be downright innovative in their office of New Urban Mechanics and the mobile City Hall to Go. The latest smart tech move? Adopting Gmail and Google Docs for city employees.

Keeping a city government’s technology system up and running is enormously expensive. There are thousands of computers and users constantly dealing with the same problems you have with your computer at home: Microsoft Outlook keeps crashing, the anti-virus program needs to be updated, Microsoft Word isn’t playing nice with some file type, or someone is trying—and failing—to get their email up and running on a 10-year-old Blackberry that was bequeathed to them. It’s a daily IT nightmare.

So, the city announced this morning that they’re switching all 75,000 email users—including 57,000 public school students—over to Google Apps. It’s a smart idea. The programs, which include a suite of email, cloud-based office software, calendar, and video-chat apps, will save the city’s IT department an enormous amount of time, as they never need to be updated since Google updates the programs automatically. Google Apps also work, pain-free, on smartphones and tablets. And many people, including the students, already use the programs at home, so they’re familiar with them.

In a statement, Menino had this to say:

“By bringing city government into the cloud, Boston continues to modernize our technology while saving taxpayer dollars and freeing up city workers to focus on the vital work of helping people. Our technology experts will now be able to focus on moving the city forward, rather than maintaining servers. I applaud the vision of our technology leadership and the efforts of all those involved in this process.”

But the best part? The current system is costing taxpayers about $100 per user per year on average, and the move is expected to reduce that cost by at least 30 percent annually.