Away with words

When it comes to e-gov, governors practice what they don't preach

Governors' top priorities for 2004

U.S. governors see five major issues dominating their political agenda in the year ahead, according to Meta Group Inc.'s new study, "2004 State of the States Priorities: Sorting IT Out." Helping governors solve these problems will provide many opportunities for technology companies, Meta Group said.

Governors' top priorities and possible solutions:

  • Health care. Health care costs account for roughly 30 percent of state budgets. Medicaid alone accounts for more than 20 percent of all state spending. Nearly half of the governors outlined the need to expand health insurance coverage to the uninsured and limit the cost of prescription drugs to senior citizens. Solutions include online resources for wellness and nutrition, systems that consolidate information to create patient care across human services, electronic provider payment, online eligibility screening, self-enrollment, performance management and compliance, and fraud and abuse detection.

  • Economic development. Creating new jobs is a high priority for nearly every state. Governors are focusing on leveraging the value of higher education and research facilities, commercializing technologies and creating more effective and responsive work-force development programs. Solutions include extending infrastructure through broadband or wireless technologies, streamlining regulatory and tax compliance, online licensing, online information for research, technology transfer, commercialization and related resource information.

  • Education. With economic competitiveness and quality of life tied closely to education, states are concerned about teacher quality, early childhood development and access to affordable higher education. Solutions include online courses and supplemental test preparation, subject materials, teacher licensing and education, and parental access to student information; consolidated procurement; and student and teacher performance monitoring, assessment and management.

  • Homeland security and public safety. States continue to focus on developing more effective homeland security strategies for incident prevention and response, and the importance of infrastructure protection and business continuity. More than half of the governors addressed the importance of improving the justice system and decreasing crime. Solutions include better justice information sharing, wireless interoperability, geographic information systems, infrastructure protection and cybersecurity, business continuity planning, enhanced e-911 services, 311 and constituent relationship management, and incident monitoring and response tools.

  • Streamlining state government. Two-thirds of the governors highlighted ongoing efforts to review, reorganize and streamline state government. Solutions include consolidation or elimination of redundant infrastructure and information systems, implementation of enterprise information systems, procurement systems, human and capital resource management systems, and performance monitoring.

Delaware CIO Tom Jarrett notes that IT "is now known to be an integral part of any initiative that a governor might have."

Henrik G. de Gyor

"Industry needs to be able to very directly show how their solutions support" the goals and priorities of state government, said Thom Rubel of Meta Group Inc.

J. Adam Fenster

Governors are no longer preaching the gospel of e-government and information technology.

A new study of governors' speeches found that "IT" appeared only four times among the nearly 200,000 words contained in their 2004 state-of-the-state addresses to their legislatures. The governors did not mention "e-government" even once.

That doesn't mean e-government and IT are no longer priorities, said Thom Rubel, Meta Group Inc.'s vice president of government strategies and author of the report, "2004 State of the States Priorities: Sorting IT Out."

IT initiatives have become an assumed part of state government operations and do not require a steady drumbeat of exhortation from governors to rally support. Information technology, Rubel said, "is so embedded in nearly every aspect of state government operations that it is no longer seen as a means to an end, but as an integral part of government itself."

Tom Jarrett, Delaware's chief information officer, agreed.

"IT is not a specific thing anymore, but is now known to be an integral part of any initiative that a governor might have," he said.

Their assessment is supported by market forecasts of state and local IT spending. The market is expected to increase 5.9 percent annually from $42.3 billion in 2004 to $50.3 billion in 2007, according to consulting firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn.

Meta Group, a research and consulting firm also in Stamford, based its report on 44 state-of-the-state addresses given this year. Governors did not address legislatures in Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

"In a fairly dramatic shift over the past three years, most of the terms associated with IT, such as electronic government, portals, governance, electronic voting, digital divide and information technology, have all but disappeared," the report said.

Instead, the nation's governors spoke of gradually improving economic conditions and focused their discussions on driving down the cost of government and improving government services, while limiting tax increases, according to Meta's report.

In the absence of IT-specific language in the governors' speeches, words such as "efficiency," which was mentioned 18 times, and "streamlined," which was mentioned 10 times, were clues to where IT has the greatest potential for a positive effect, Rubel said.

The governors emphasized health care, economic development, education, homeland security and public safety, and streamlining state government, the study said. Most governors spoke of the need to create jobs for their states and reorganize or streamline state government. Many spoke of improving the justice system and decreasing crime, and proposed expanding health insurance coverage to the uninsured and limiting the cost of prescription drugs to senior citizens.

To help states meet these objectives, business intelligence tools and enterprise resource planning solutions will be in high demand this year, according to Meta Group.

"Industry needs to be able to very directly show how their solutions support these goals and how they address the big priorities in state government," Rubel said.

[IMGCAP(2)]Ed Nadworny, senior vice president and head of public-sector business with American Management Systems Inc., Fairfax, Va., which was acquired May 3 by CGI Group Inc. of Montreal, said the governors are warming nicely to innovative funding mechanisms and business processes, such as benefits funding and strategic sourcing.

"The governors now believe this is the right way to go," Nadworny said of the widespread acceptance of benefits funding and the renewed interest in strategic sourcing.

Benefits funding is a way for agencies to purchase new systems using the additional revenue or savings the project produces.

Strategic sourcing is a process by which savings are gained by streamlining procurement.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm focuses her speeches on service delivery to citizens rather than government cost-cutting initiatives, said Teri Takai, Michigan's CIO.

As for e-government, Granholm didn't mention it in this year's speech, because citizens now take it for granted that they will receive services through the state portal, Takai said.

Todd Ramsey, general manager of global government industry for IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., is less certain that all states have fully embraced e-government. The failure of some states to integrate front- and back-end services through their portals means that they didn't capture the savings they initially envisioned through e-government, he said.

"States found e-gov was not as rewarding and harder to do than they thought it would be," Ramsey said. Governors "lost it as an easy speech item to talk about."

The financial crisis that states have been grappling with for the past three years continues to be the overriding issue for governors, who now view IT primarily as a cost-cutting mechanism.

"We've gone from how do I innovate government, to how do I survive a budget crisis," Ramsey said.

Nevertheless, Steve Kolodney, AMS' vice president of public-sector services and a former Washington state CIO, said he believes the almost complete absence of IT references from governors' speeches signifies these processes, especially e-government, are working satisfactorily.

"It's a declaration of victory," Kolodney said. "It means that governors are confident that their programs for online services are proceeding well."

Staff writer William Welsh can be reached at

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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