(Fargo, ND) -- Ron Gronneberg, Fargo's Information Services Director spoke to WDAY Radio about the purpose of the department, how they aid FM residents and employees, and how they support dozens of other departments in Fargo.
The Information Services Department's main priority is to provide technical support and planning for city organizations and staff. This is largely directed at the technology side; especially with managing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and several of the city maps available for use by the public. GIS is especially important to systems that have fluctuating locations at various times of the day, and a fast response is necessary for the safety of Fargo residents.
"A fire happens somewhere in Fargo. So our software we got laid out in GIS, if that fire is happening then this fire station is going to respond... "said Gronneberg, "Every department has a GIS need basically."
GIS Services are also used to support the Red River Regional Dispatch Center. Gronneberg says Fargo's IT department collects GIS data provided by several other nearby cities and counties and combines them into a single map to be used by Red River Regional Dispatch.
In terms of cyber attacks and security, the city deals with its fair share of attempts to compromise essential systems and services. Gronneberg says there were two times within the last decade where attacks were successfully able to get into the city onto an individual desktop, but due to preparations put in place beforehand, the threats were contained and isolated after a few hours of downtime. He says the city is doing what it can to prepare contingencies and backup plans, but sometimes preparation can't solve every problem.
"If China wanted to get in and really make my life miserable, there is nothing I can do to stop them, "said Gronnenberg.
The Information Services department provides services to Fargo employees, and by proxy to Fargo residents. However, Gronneberg says there is a clear distinction for who is their direct client on an average day, especially from cyber attacks.
"We don't protect the residents from cyber incidents, "said Gronneberg "It's a wild west for residents, to tell you the truth. Certainly from the employees and inside the city side we protect everybody."
Some of the services provided by Fargo's IT department happen to see use from residents, as seen in the publicly available maps on the city's website. However, these maps have limited uses to non-city employees. Fargo officials are able to access much more information that public residents cannot access on the same maps.
"There is certain things that we can't share with the public, "said Gronnenberg, "Whether it contains private - you know, police records stuff, its going to be private information. if its assessors stuff, it's going to be the values of things... We have the same kinds of tools available for internal employees but more robust then we have [publicly] available."
Throughout all of this, Gronneberg says their support directly impacts how other services are able to serve residents in a more direct way. He says they are Without the IT department, other services will be dramatically impacted in their ability to help residents in a direct matter.
"Most people probably don't have a sense of how broad the city is. They'll know their garbage gets collected and they'll know the police are doing their job [...] You turn the faucet on and water comes out, you flush the toilet and it goes away some place. They don't know what those things are, they just expect them to happen. Behind those things are a bunch of city employees that are making those things happen, seamlessly so they don't have a problem."
You can learn more about the Information Services department by clicking here.