Warner: Nation at 'critical tipping point'

LAS VEGAS?Making the United States more competitive on the world stage will require, in part, a renewed focus on information technology and how it can transform government and the private sector, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner told attendees at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show Government conference.

"I believe we are at a critical tipping point in our country where the public's frustration with the speed of change ? is going to push our political leadership of both parties to make the kinds of big transformative changes that have been sadly lacking," Warner said.
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Warner is campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. John Warner. The former governor said he was in the telecom and information technology business for almost 20 years and has seen firsthand the transformative nature of technology.

"We still are a nation of innovation, and we still are the best place in the world to create intellectual property and the intellectual capital that's going to drive, not just this country, but the world further into this 21st century," he said.

When Warner was elected in 2001, Virginia had a $6 billion budget shortfall, he said.
Resolving the budget crisis required a look at how the state was using IT and how technology could make the state more efficient.

"I asked how much does the Commonwealth of Virginia spend on IT?" he said. "It took 9 months and about $200,000 in outside consultants to get an answer."

That evaluation led to looking at doing things enterprisewide in the state when it came to IT.

The state contracted for an Internet-based purchasing system to make government buying more transparent and to leverage the buying power of Virginia

"We realized if we could push our purchasing power out of all state government to a simple portal we could use that as a way not only to track our purchases, but we could use that as a way to aggregate our purchasing power so that we could finally start bring about the leverage any major enterprise would bring," Warner said.

In the fall of 2002, the system was used by six state agencies and had about 400 registered vendors. Now, 500 state agencies, local governments and the state's university system use the system, which has more than 33,000 registered vendors.

Warner also created a single, statewide technology entity. Before the consolidation, close to 20 percent of Virginia's servers were not up to industry standard, and the state was violating a number of software protocols. The state is seeing benefits to the new organization and issues. "What we've been able to show is by moving to an enterprise-wide approach to state government IT services, I think we're providing a model to the country," Warner said.

A larger investment in broadband infrastructure is one step the country can take to stay competitive, Warner said.

"It is absolutely absurd to me that we, the nation of innovation, are in effect by not putting investment into broadband are leaving out two-thirds of our country in terms of being able to have a crack at the kinds of quality jobs and quality life experiences we all know and expect," he said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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