The ability to provide good customer service in today’s world is often tied to networked computers where customers’ orders or the availability of a product can be quickly accessed. When it comes to government, good network connections are equally important for registering residents for recreation or art classes, responding to information about their accounts or allowing them to use Wi-Fi connections in public facilities.

But Lakewood’s outdated network connections for its outlying City buildings including recreation centers was making it difficult to provide the best customer service to residents. The City’s Information Technology Department changed that with a recently completed project that upgraded and expanded the fiber-optic network for those facilities, which are often miles away from City Hall.

“The changes have allowed us to provide consistent and effective customer service to residents whether they are calling us on the phone, contacting us online or walking into our facilities,” Recreation Manager Peggy Boccard said of the upgrades for the recreation centers.

The enhancements mean higher speeds, improved reliability and increased security, accomplishing the overarching goal for the IT Department to ensure that the City’s network is safe, reliable and capable of expanding as needs evolve. With multiple focus areas, the department must remain ahead of the curve to prepare Lakewood for the future while still supporting today’s needs and executing pragmatic long-term strategies.

Another goal for the department is fiscal responsibility. Given that boring underground to lay new fiber-optic cables is costly – particularly under busy streets like West Colfax Avenue – sharing existing fiber infrastructure in a variety of ways provides significant opportunities to connect various City facilities in a more cost effective way. In one example, the department worked with Lakewood’s Traffic Engineering Division to use excess fiber-optic capacity that had been laid to connect streetlights for network connections to City facilities instead. The department is also working on forming partnerships with other entities that help the City reach its technology goals.

Whether for a large or small project, the department’s work always includes “a huge component” of security and privacy, explains Larisa Thomas, information security officer. Her role focuses not just on software, but also on threats like phishing, malware and physical security, she says, and a “big goal is awareness and education” for both employees and the public.

With October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Thomas has focused on trainings that are “easy, fun and informative” for City staff members while she is also working on programs for Lakewood residents.

The City participated, for example, in CyberTech Girls, a program run throughout September that aimed to expose girls in middle and high school to the field of cybersecurity through meeting and hearing from women working in the field, Thomas says. Up next is the national Kids Safe Online Poster Contest, where K-12 students can submit their artwork illustrating the secure use of the internet and mobile devices. A total of 13 winners will have their artwork displayed and distributed throughout the country for campaigns to raise awareness among children of all ages.

“This is an amazing exposure for the kids,” Thomas says, “and a great way to get them to care about their own privacy and security while they use the internet.”