Using IT to Reinvent State Government

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Using IT to Reinvent State Government

With a change in state leadership under way due to the recent resignation of Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld, the commonwealth's Chief Information Officer Louis Gutierrez is vowing to stay the course in efforts to use information technology to help reinvent state government.

In fact, he hinted that projects could even take a faster track as new Gov. Paul Cellucci, the former lieutenant governor, takes over.

Gutierrez joined Massachusetts state government in 1992 as assistant budget director for systems, where he played a large role in developing a state financial information warehouse. He quickly rose through the ranks and is now celebrating his one-year anniversary as state CIO and director of information technology, a position that oversees about $30 million of the state's $200 million information technology budget.

Gutierrez spoke recently to Washington Technology staff writer Dennis McCafferty about information technology initiatives in Massachusetts.

WT: Have you gauged any immediate or future effect of Gov. Weld's resignation on information technology programs?

GUTIERREZ: I don't see a major change in the transition to Gov. Paul Cellucci. The lieutenant governor has been as effective as Gov. Weld in advocating for the improvement of state government by use of technology. He's adamantly interested in technology. Clearly, both Gov. Weld and Gov. Cellucci have operated this administration as a team and they care about reinventing government. Technology is one means toward that, so I don't see a fundamental transformation. If anything, my sense is that the lieutenant governor may pick up the pace a bit in technology.

WT: In what respect? What are his interests?

GUTIERREZ: I know that he has taken a hands-on interest in communicating to agencies about the urgency of the year 2000 situation.

Of course, he's from Hudson, which is near and dear to the heart of the technology community here. Both Gov. Weld and Gov. Cellucci have been exceptionally energetic in passing a major revenue bond to finance information technology purchases here.

WT: The state of Massachusetts information technology department is pushing for legislation to pave the way for digital signatures. How important is this, with regard to electronic commerce?

GUTIERREZ: It's critical, if you look right now at the types of things that Massachusetts can do online. We can do a lot of publishing online. We also do credit card transactions online, where the means of identifying the other party are relatively at the same level of security as call-in catalog sales you do over a phone. When you get to the point of really needed authenticated, secure transactions with known third parties, to be able to know who's on the other end of the transactions, you need digital signature technology of some sort.

Because we care about pushing the electronic commerce agenda - the catch phrase here is that we'd rather have people performing business online than waiting in line - the ability to authenticate and securely transmit this information is critical to us.

WT: How unique is Massachusetts' proposed "technology neutral'' clause in the digital signature legislation and how would that open up the use of digital signatures?

GUTIERREZ: The approach that we are promoting is one that recognizes the reality that technology changes quickly, particularly in the authentication technology market. It's a fast-changing market. We don't want to deal with things that change quickly in the legislation.

We don't think that government should be pronouncing what technologies will eventually prevail in the market. Our approach is to try, in the narrowest possible sense, to allow the substitution of electronic forms of signature without setting in stone the precise mechanisms for doing that.

WT: Photo imaging has been used for state drivers, with respect to their license processing. Are there any other applications that you envision in the future?

GUTIERREZ: It's also being used now with an aggressive new program we have in electronic benefits transfer, which is touching many of the benefits recipients in the state. It provides more protection against fraud. It comes in a very nicely packaged card that does not overtly single out benefit recipients.

WT: How would cooperative purchasing off the U.S. General Services Administration schedule be received in this state? You already have a "Big Buy'' volume discount purchasing program that has resulted in 2,600 personal computers being bought over three years.

GUTIERREZ: We are eager for every form of bulk purchase advantage we can find. If participating in federal-like programs would be helpful, we'd be happy to partake in that. We've often thought of that and wished we could participate. In fact, in the absence of that, we've tried to do more aggregation of state-level purchasing.

WT: Your neighbor, Connecticut, has done some interesting and even controversial things with respect to the outsourcing of information technology. Where is Massachusetts on that topic?

GUTIERREZ: Because I know I have 200 very capable people with a long history of service to the state working for me, we want outsourcing to leverage their efforts so I can get the highest value out of their expertise - their expertise in state business processes, their expertise in state systems procedures.

We are devoted to not increasing the size of government. Therefore, the way I see outsourcing is that you use it as a leveraging mechanism so the people who know state government can get work done while you contract out those business activities that are commoditylike in nature.

WT: You're launching a major systems integration for the state's human resources department, which oversees Massachusetts' 84,000 state-employee system. Are there other major integration projects to be bid?

GUTIERREZ: There is a major renovation, for the first time really, of the trial courts and $75 million is going into trial courts automation. That's a major effort and one we are all looking toward with support and hope for its success. In addition, the comptroller's office continues its aggres-sive agenda in electronic commerce with a balance of $25 million to $27 million to pursue that agenda.

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