The New Digital Deal Call-Out from Michael Pegues, CIO, City of Aurora, Illinois

The New Digital Deal Call-Out from Michael Pegues, CIO, City of Aurora, Illinois

Blog 2 out of 10 in the 2020 A New Digital Deal series

In the Revised 2020 Edition of my book ‘A New Digital Deal,’ I have included 22 call-outs from leaders across the world. The ask I had to them all: Can you produce a call out on your fears, hopes and a call to action on what it takes to get digitalization right for our cities, our communities, our regions. As per this post, I’m publishing the call out coming from Michael Pegues, CIO, City of Aurora, Illinois.

Serving in the public sector, my biggest fear is that our digital plans are not sustainable because we have not shifted our mindsets enough to adopt expeditious change.

Governments do an atrocious job at multi-year planning when it comes to technology solutions and services. In our current way of doing things, progress is stunted by overstretched municipal budgets, bureaucratic approval processes, and the turnover of elected officials without an effective handoff. The result isn’t just failed or delayed political agendas, it’s an unacceptable lack of resources that weakens our local economies and limits the quality of life for our most vulnerable and unserved citizens.  We must understand that “Technology is the common denominator for local and global growth”.

If we are to avoid falling into a digital rust belt, we must speak about the new Public Private Partnership (P3) business model in which public and private sectors work together to drive innovation for humanity. This is the future, and it’s necessary, but nobody’s doing it yet.  Governments are fundamentally risk-adverse, and nobody wants to be the first to make drastic change. Therefore, my biggest hope is that we can all make this mindset change together, sooner rather than later.

I see this change being actualized in Aurora, the 2nd largest city in the state of Illinois.  It started in January 2018, when my own Information Technology (IT) Division shifted to a more external-facing approach and identified our primary role as serving the public, not just internal city departments.   Our primary goal is to drive innovation through a strategic private public partnership that enables solutions and services through technology.

We are working toward what I personally consider an ideal P3 model, in which partners work together to meet the city’s top initiatives by translating them into viable business opportunities. A private equity partner takes the responsibility of the budget out of the city’s hands, provides the budget for the city at no cost, invests the money, and operationalizes and monetizes city assets and pays the city a percentage of the revenue share. This revenue then goes back to our tax payers and helps to drive economic development, education and public safety. It helps us to deliver a more connected city, minimizing the digital divide.   And it makes us a more prosperous cities by generating a higher GDP and enhancing the quality of life.

My call-to-action for leaders in the public sector is to serve your constituents boldly – get out of your comfortable zones. Fight for disruptive change in your departments, your procurement processes, and the way your elected officials see the role of technology and private partners. And lastly, fight to give the your most vulnerable groups, including veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, including physical and mental disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, and those recovering from addictions and many others affected by digitization a say in this process. Those individuals who lost their manufacturing jobs and those students who aspire to be digital entrepreneurs — remember —you’re working for their futures!

Michael Pegues




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