Maryland and Virginia Catch Third Wave
Like all the states, Maryland and Virginia are looking to information technology to reinvent themselves and their approach to serving citizens
P> In a two-part series, Hud Croasdale and Major Riddick talk about their strategies for information technology spending and development in the states of Virginia and Maryland. The two states, like their 48 counterparts, have increasingly taken on the burden of administering social welfare programs and keeping the civic peace. That trend seems likely to continue. Back in Washington, block grants -- setting aside large chunks of federal money for program administration at the state level -- have become all the rage. Politicians in both parties have identified block grants with the devolution of power from the federal government to state and local governments. Of course, it remains to be seen if state and local governments can be more effective -- or responsible -- than Washington in managing the civic enterprise. After all, there are 86,742 state and local governments in the nation. And while most are professional and competent, others are notoriously corrupt and inefficient.
Still, one thing seems sure: State and local infotech markets seem likely to grow at a faster rate than the federal infotech market. P.K. Agarwal, president of the Lexington, Ky.-based National Association of State Information Resource Executives, said infotech expenditures are rising 10 percent to 12 percent annually in most states.
In this first part, we look at Maryland's chunk of the state and local market. Major Riddick is the chairman of the Information Technology Board in Maryland. He works with the governor and Mike Langhrer, the chief information officer, to set strategic policy on state infotech spending. Riddick was appointed Maryland's chief of staff in January 1995 and works directly under Gov. Parris Glendening to manage the daily operations of the state government and implement the governor's priority policies and programs. Riddick said Glendening has launched an aggressive plan to modernize the state's information systems.
In an interview with WT, Riddick described the current state of infotech in Maryland and his plans for state agencies and education.
WT: How does Maryland's infotech development compare with other states' efforts?
RIDDICK: I'm finding states and the private sector have not truly embarked on the 21st century or the information superhighway. We have to move to interconnectivity; we have to drop technology into our schools. We must move toward virtual classrooms so we can give a new dimension to education training and computer-enhanced education.
WT: How are Maryland's current information systems designed?
RIDDICK: The majority of the state institutions are linked in some way. In some, the protocol and the network links are being updated. In terms of the e-mail arrangement, most people are going up on Internet e-mail because of the open architecture ability there. We are finishing a whole statewide backbone to be able to link all the agencies. Gov. Glendening has been a champion for technology and is responsible for moving the state to this heightened level of focus toward technology.
One of the biggest connections across our state government is our financial management information system. It allows [government employees] to deal with personnel, payroll, purchasing and general accounting. The system provides reports and reconciliation in time for audits. It [lets us] get a handle on the state's finances.
WT: What programs are you working on to develop Maryland's information systems?
RIDDICK: The Maryland Electronic Capital is a feature on Maryland's [World Wide] Web page that will allow users to obtain information on permits and state procedures and request and receive those permits or applications directly through the state agencies and the tourism department. For example, someone will be able to request campsite permits, real estate permits or driver's license permits. Users will also be able to access the Internet through the library system. We have established the Maryland Electronic Capital Operational Center with computers so people can understand how to use the on-line system and how to use the Internet and the World Wide Web.
The governor just announced a kiosk system for the Motor Vehicle [Administration]. The systems, which will be strategically placed in shopping centers and other outlying areas, will allow the user to obtain a driver's license or registration renewal at the kiosk. We are working with AT&T on this project, and we expect to have 20 to 30 within the next year.
In education, we had the chair[man] of Bell Atlantic agree to a challenge that we presented. We want him to identify a school in Maryland where we would put computers in the homes of students and teachers and in the classrooms in an effort to bring them on-line. This project will allow them to turn in homework electronically. Students could participate in group projects from home, and parents will have electronic communication with the teacher about the status of their child.
WT: What is the state of the current systems?
RIDDICK: We wouldn't be spending millions of dollars over the next five years if we were at the point of utopian satisfaction. I think if any state thinks they are at a point where they feel comfortable, they probably don't understand the rapid change in technology. We still have a tremendous need to improve the kind of service we provide to our citizens and a tremendous need to improve the confidence in government. We need to be more entrepreneurial and function like the private sector. When the governor was appointed, he was amazed at how far off the mark the technology was in the state.
WT: What is driving you to achieve these goals?
RIDDICK: I believe that technology as a tool is a tremendous asset to the educational system and to connect people across the state of Maryland. This will improve confidence in government in general.
WT: You have more than $300 million to develop information technology in Maryland. How do you decide where the money goes?
RIDDICK: Well, it may be as helpful to hear about the technology investment fund worth an additional $200 to $300 million in infotech dollars. The fund will take a slightly different approach to distributing the money. The governor's plans for infotech spending indicate that there will be a mandate for a comprehensive system or a life cycle methodology. The distribution of funding will be based on a full-needs assessment. The funding board has been working with the statewide information technology board to achieve a more strategic direction on how we allocate the dollars. We've been looking at other states and learning from their mistakes in order to maximize our funding support.
In addition to this two-part series, WT will be running interviews in upcoming issues with key infotech strategists in other states. We welcome your comments, tips and suggestions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Sina Fusco Kniseley, our state and local reporter, at 703-848-2800. ext. 154.