Doll Says for States, the Future Is Knowledge

South Dakota faces the same technology challenges as the nation's more populous states, albeit on a smaller scale. It also has a few problems that other states do not have, said Otto Doll, the state's commissioner of the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications.

South Dakota faces the same technology challenges as the nation's more populous states, albeit on a smaller scale. It also has a few problems that other states do not have, said Otto Doll, the state's commissioner of the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications."We don't get the benefits of a technological infrastructure that the large metropolitan areas have," said Doll, whose state is trying to help get modern telecommunications services to homes that are 20 miles off the main road.Doll, who was appointed commissioner in July 1996, is essentially South Dakota's first chief information officer. With 360 employees and an annual budget of $40 million, he is responsible for all the state's computing, telecommunications, year 2000 preparations, state radio and public broadcasting.Previously, Doll held a variety of positions advising private- and public-sector clients on information technology, and developed IT strategic plans and oversight policy as a director with the General Services Administration. Just last month, Doll became president of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives, a post that gives him a unique perspective of the pressing concerns among state CIOs throughout the country.Washington Technology Staff Writer Steve LeSueur caught up with Doll at NASIRE's annual conference in Indianapolis in October to discuss some of these issues. What are the chief issues and concerns of state CIOs? Now that the year 2000 is [approaching], we're going to be moving into electronic government or digital government. We've always been fairly good providers and brokers of data and information, but we've got to start moving into knowledge. Citizens want to know how a law affects them, not just that the law exists. You'll find CIOs trying to make citizens more knowledgeable about state processes, regulations and laws. Everybody now is talking about doing transactions with the citizenry and business community to be transactors. But the actual Internet spectrum goes beyond that into something I call simulations. What do you mean by simulations? If a series of candidates say they are going to lower taxes, everybody has the immediate question: "How does it exactly work for me?" Give me the model and let me plug in my numbers to determine which of the candidates' proposed tax structures benefit me the most. Or when I'm looking to set up a business in South Dakota, [I want to know] what is the tax burden and how does that compare to any other state. That is ultimately what companies go through to determine where they locate. A lot of times that ends up happening with paper and pencil rather than asking an information system. CIOs need to unleash the power at the end of the connection: the personal computer. So we're going to become "simulators" or "modelers" beyond just transactors. We are really going to make people knowledgeable. Some governments have suggested charging transaction fees to pay for new online applications and services; others are considering advertising. What's the best approach? No one model has emerged. We need to stop focusing funding so narrowly because we provide most functions across government agencies. For example, we typically will get money, whether it is from the state legislature or the federal government, for doing something with park licenses vs. hunting licenses vs. driver's licenses. We probably would get a much better economy of scale if we would implement "licensing," regardless of what the license is, across the state. But states have a hard time doing this because one has to show the federal government or the state legislature that the money they gave us for the park service license program went to the park service. What is the status of Y2K in the states? The states are doing very well. If you watched our progress over time, the states slowly moved their way up. In South Dakota, two years ago we were a third done, and by January 1999, we were two-thirds done. Then we went from there all the way to 99 percent in the first six months of this year. That's typical, because the bigger systems take longer to do all the pieces. The work does not get accomplished as a straight-line function. What's your best guess of what will happen Jan. 1? I'm sure something, somewhere is not going to work. But I don't think it will be anything major. If we're going to have trouble, it's going to be in the back office. But the welfare checks will go out. How do your state's problems differ from those of CIOs in more populated states? It's the same across the board in the sense that I have to follow federal regulations in welfare or any other area, just like other states. But I don't have the magnitude of issues that a lot of states have to deal with. Where South Dakota differs is that because of our predominately rural nature, we cannot move as easily or quickly into some areas, such as in the telecommunications arena. Can you give an example? I'll probably never see DSL [digital subscriber lines] outside our largest city, which is Sioux Falls with 100,000 people. South Dakota has only 10 cities over 10,000. We'll be lucky if we get DSL to the second largest city, which is Rapid City with 55,000 people.Sure, the larger states are not getting DSL implemented in their smallest towns, but they're getting it in their major metropolitan areas and surrounding suburban areas. The majority of their populations gets covered. But doing DSL in Sioux Falls does not cover the majority of our 740,000 citizens. So that is one of our challenges.We also have some mindsets that are different in South Dakota. A good example is putting kiosks in malls. South Dakota only has a handful of malls in the whole state. We're still more traditional Main Street businesses. You go into a town of 1,500, and you have a few stores on Main Street with no covered mall. When our people come into town, that's a big deal. It might have been a 50-mile trip. Do you think that they want to go to a kiosk? But having Internet access, from home or the local library, to state government services is of great value when the snow flies. South Dakota is starting to conduct business online. Does this include, at least in some instances, paying fees online? Yes, we take credit cards. For instance, public broadcasting takes pledges online. One can get licenses online, and businesses can pay their taxes online. Almost all these applications were developed in-house. XXXSPLITXXX-All state forms"How to" instructionsBig game license drawing successBirth recordsBoard of technical professions rosterCommercial and privateapplicator of pesticidesContinuing education coursesLaws Legislative session billsReal estate agent and firm rostersState job listsStorage tanks directoryVisitor service directory

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