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Legislation Threatens Modernization Efforts

When Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels came into office in 2005, the state had the most child deaths in the foster care system and was ranked last in the country in transitioning welfare recipients to self-sufficiency. An outdated paper-based system was partially to blame.

The state inked a deal with IBM to modernize its welfare eligibility system, because the proposal would cost $490 million less than revamping the technology in-house. Many employees moved to the contractor’s payroll, and the system launched in November to acclaim. “It’s the difference between an oxcart and a Buick. It’s not a Cadillac, but it’s a heck of a lot better than an oxcart, and that’s where we were,” says Mitch Roob, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

But if farm legislation under debate in the Senate becomes law, a provision added to the House of Representa-tives’ version of the bill would ban the private sector from performing certain services for state nutrition pro-grams. This would include collecting food stamp applications, analyzing data on applicants and operating call centers. Indiana would be forced to shut down its welfare modernization program and undo the progress made.

A survey commissioned by the Information Technology Association of America found that 74 percent of citi-zens polled believe states should determine how they run their social services programs. Respondents also see industry as providing advantages in technology, customer service and efficiency.

City CIO and CTO Cachet Rises

City CIOs and chief technology officers will find themselves in demand in 2008. That’s according to the results of executive search firm CTPartners’ 13th annual list of hot jobs, which places municipal IT leaders 23rd on the list of 30 positions. These folks are getting props for the city services and public safety applications citywide WiFi networks enable.

Despite some of the problems encountered in deploying these networks in 2007, maturing technology and busi-ness models will spur implementation. Municipalities seek CIOs and CTOs who can integrate and oversee wire-less networks for emergency medical services video streamed to the emergency room in real time, for camera surveillance of neighborhoods, and for automated meter reading.

County Pilots Overseas E-voting

Overseas residents of Okaloosa County, Fla., will be able to try an electronic voting system in this year’s gen-eral election. The Okaloosa Distance Balloting Project will establish a secure, scalable distance-balloting envi-ronment for up to 900 self-selecting overseas voters.

Working with Operation Bring Remote Access to Voters Overseas (BRAVO) Foundation and the Security and Assurance in Information Technology Laboratory at Florida State University, the county will place kiosks in three locations near U.S. military installations in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. The kiosks will be linked to a secure server in Okaloosa County through a virtual private network.

Operation BRAVO Director Carol Paquette calls the pilot “a monumental step in the right direction. Overseas voters have been left without a reliable voting method for far too long.”

FCC Funds Telehealth Services

The Federal Communications Commission recently earmarked more than $417 million to build 69 statewide or regional broadband telehealth networks in 42 states and three U.S. territories.

Broadband deployment in rural areas will improve acute, primary and preventative health care by tapping the expertise of urban medical centers and giving patients access to specialists. The Rural Health Care Pilot Pro-gram will support the connection of more than 6,000 public and nonprofit health-care providers such as hospi-tals, clinics, community health centers and correctional facility clinics to broadband telehealth networks.

These networks aim to boost efficiency, cut costs and reduce travel time for patients. They will also reduce er-rors and allow for rapid, coordinated responses to public health emergencies such as pandemics or bioterrorism attacks, according to the FCC. Participants must adopt U.S. Health and Human Services Department standards for electronic health records.

Illinois and Microsoft Launch Fusion Center

Microsoft and the Illinois State Police unveiled parts of the first-generation law enforcement intelligence fusion center architecture code-named “FusionX.” A fusion center is a terrorism prevention and response unit aimed at facilitating information-sharing across governmental jurisdictions. FusionX is a set of best practices for horizon-tal collaboration services.

DHS and Arizona Drive WHTI Licenses

Arizona will collaborate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to offer a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative–compliant document to U.S. citizens who reside in the state.

The enhanced driver’s license will securely validate the identity and U.S. citizenship of Arizona residents who voluntarily apply and qualify. DHS will provide technology and data-sharing that will allow the licenses to be used at a port of entry.

In addition, Arizona pledged to become compliant with Real ID as soon as practicable.

Empire State Aims To Extend Broadband

The newly formed New York State Council for Universal Broadband is charged with ensuring that every New Yorker has access to affordable broadband service. The project will target unserved and underserved areas of the state.

“Internet access is no longer a luxury. We must implement a strategy that leads to every New Yorker having access to affordable, high-speed Internet,” New York Governor Elliot Spitzer said upon announcing the pro-gram.

Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, CIO and director of the New York State Office for Technology, will chair the council.

Collaboration Key to Citizen Services

Citizen demand for streamlined government services increasingly calls for cross-boundary collaboration be-tween states and localities, according to research from the National Association of State CIOs.

NASCIO’s “Connecting State and Local Government: Collaboration through Trust and Leadership” brief high-lights several collaboration examples and describes their governance and financial models. The advantages in-clude:

  • cost reduction
  • relationship building
  • providing increased or improved services to citizens
  • streamlining processes and speeding transactions
  • improving information sharing and quality
  • tapping enterprise solutions
  • sharing risk.

“Through developing trust and communicating with participating organizations, and by implementing a sound financial structure at the outset of collaboration, state CIOs can help ensure a successful, mutually beneficial, state-local collaborative effort,” says Otto Doll, South Dakota CIO and chairman of NASCIO’s Cross-Boundary Collaboration Committee.

One example, the South Carolina’s Information Sharing and Analysis Center, taps funding from the U.S. Home-land Security Department with other financial resources from partnering organizations. SC-ISAC’s mission is to share security-related information across the state. Berkeley County and the city of Columbia are two localities that work with the center to mitigate threats.

Along with success stories, the NASCIO report examines the challenges state-local collaboration face and rec-ommends ways to forge partnerships.

Random Fact

In 2007, New Mexico elevated the Department of Information Technology to a cabinet-level agency and named state CIO Roy Soto as secretary of the agency.

Jan 10 2008