San Diego chief information officer: ‘IT departments provide critical services’

January 23, 2024

Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity and experience.

This week’s profile is Jonathan Behnke, chief information officer of San Diego.

Public career highlights and education: The biggest highlight of my public career has been the experience of implementing our digital equity program to bridge the digital divide in San Diego. When the pandemic began, the City Council allocated $500,000 for digital equity to help those impacted by library closures and the shift to virtual classrooms. Since the pandemic closed library buildings, we started by opening outdoor public library Wi-Fi areas where patrons could get connected on their own devices or check out laptops. We also compiled census data and used our geospatial services team to map the areas of the city that had the lowest broadband adoption. The maps were used to enable over 250 street-level Wi-Fi hotspots in digital-equity priority areas. We were unsure of the need for this expanded public Wi-Fi, but we started with a goal of connecting 25,000 San Diegans in the first year. When the usage stats were compiled a year later, over 200,000 unique users had accessed the expanded public Wi-Fi. The digital equity program has been expanded with digital literacy training, access to low-cost or free computers, digital navigator services to provide one-on-one support, and more public Wi-Fi locations at schools, parks and transit areas. My education was from the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Lutheran College with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree that had an emphasis on Information Systems.

What I like best about public service: My previous career was in the private sector across manufacturing, energy, automotive, distribution, contract services and consulting. The move to public service in a local government was an exciting opportunity to learn the business models, requirements, support needs and customers for over 30 departments. The dedication and passion for public service from so many city employees is evident every day, and my team is enabling many critical services to the public. In the private sector it was always fun to see increases in sales and stock prices, but the services that we provide in the public sector are visible every day as I travel through the city.

The best advice I’ve received: “Keep doing whatever you are doing.” At the time I was giving significant focus to customer satisfaction and partnering with the business side of the organization. We all get different opinions and feedback about what we do, and at the time I was wondering if we were spending too much time focusing on our customers and not enough time in other areas. The advice helped me validate that the customer focus was working and that it needed to stay at the center of our strategy.

People might be interested to know that: I’ve attended over 500 Major League Baseball games but never had to pay for admission. During college and a few years after, I worked crowd control for the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers and many concerts. On any given day some of the experiences with that job mirrored basic functions of local government. I might have called emergency services for a medical emergency, helped a lost child find their parent, assisted law enforcement in public safety incidents or directed thousands of people to safety during severe weather. It was a fun experience and to this day I still can’t attend an event without thinking about the wellbeing and safety of the crowd.

One thing I wish more people knew about county government: Many people have a difficult time understanding what Information Technology departments really do. We manage over 16,000 computers and laptops, over 1,200 servers, 40,000 network endpoints, block 667 million cyber-attacks, manage 27 million website visits, process 5.1 million credit card payments, and manage over 10,000 public safety radios and seven mountaintop radio towers that support over 130,000 monthly 911 calls. We are very conscious of the importance of technology across almost every service in the city. Maintaining networks, patching computers, upgrading servers and managing cyber security may not always be glamourous work, but it is all critical so our city can deliver their services and communicate with minimal downtime and maximum performance.

Government Market News Staff

Welcome to Government Market News, your trusted source for in-depth coverage of the U.S. government marketplace. Our dedicated editorial team provides comprehensive insights on contracting opportunities, private-public partnerships, funding programs, and industry trends. As a publication of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., we offer unrivaled expertise to help you navigate this unique marketplace successfully.

Don't Miss

Massive support, funding now available to improve supply-chain networks

New opportunities for multimodal freight, rail, and port projects are
A hospital hallway.

New hospitals greenlit for Amarillo, Wichita Falls

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is searching