Celebrating State Initiatives
Some exciting information technology initiatives are bubbling up nationally that hold out the prospect for a transformation in the way state and local governments work.
One state forging ahead with initiatives that could well be adopted by other states in a few years is Kentucky, which has the second-largest Microsoft Exchange network in the world with 40,000 users. That base includes the entire public school system as well as 13,000 users in state government.
A piece profiling Kentucky's IT milestones on page 34 by Washington Technology senior writer John Makulowich points out that the Bluegrass State was the first to outsource its network backbone. That move has led to an annual savings of $2 million in data line costs alone and the creation of a 130-site videoconferencing network.
And guess what? Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee have since jumped on the bandwagon. Vendors are now aligning partners for Tennessee's broad-based effort, which will require the winner to build, operate and manage a consolidated statewide network infrastructure. One interesting aspect of Tennessee's planned effort is the requirement for the winner to purchase the assets of existing portions of the state consortium's network infrastructure.
But let's go back to Kentucky, where 10-year Amoco Corp. veteran Aldona Valicenti, the state's first CIO, is focusing on re-engineering the state's basic business processes - a $90 million effort. The impetus for that effort came from Gov. Paul Patton, who took the state's top job one-and-a-half years ago with the aim of making government more efficient.
Like many other public and private sector CIOs, Makulowich reports, she finds that her main challenge is to rethink how IT is deployed. She characterizes her task ahead as a transformation process, determining what should remain and what should change. Among the lessons she has learned so far is that it can take seven years to usher in cultural change.
While that may sound like a grim assessment, there are some encouraging signs from forward-looking governors that change may come more swiftly in the coming years.
As Washington Technology contributing writer Tom Davies points out in his Eye on the States column, Virginia's Gov. James Gilmore has jumped out in front of what could be a parade when many new governors take office next year.
Soon after taking office, Gilmore appointed a well-known executive with both public and private sector experience to serve as secretary of technology. Don Upson's charter is to serve as both CIO and its ambassador to the technology community - a move without precedent in state government.
And North Carolina recently created a CIO position and assistant secretary for technology, locating this organization in the state's department of commerce.
One thing is clear. With more and more citizens clamoring for better government services, there is a definite sense of urgency. And the nation's governors and their technology agents of change that deliver are certain to get a shot at transforming government on the national level in the tumultuous years to come.