Friday, October 20, 2006

Virginia's High Tech!

RTD reports that Virginia ranks second in the nation in using information technology for public services, according to a new study by the Center for Digital Government. Great news, right? So what does this mean to the taxpayer? But perhaps more importantly, how has technology changed the way the state does business? How has the introduction of new IT and innovation impacted the quality of services the Commonwealth delivers to us?

I don't doubt that we should be proud and that its much better to be #2, and not #50. Beyond that, however, rankings are irrelevant without knowing what you're measuring or comparing. At first glance, the measures and scores have more to do with implementing IT into the business practices of the state -- putting services online is just part of it -- and not necessarily delivering value to taxpayers.

Virginia moved up the rankings rapidly largely because of Warner's efforts to consolidate and centralize IT infrastructure, creating a common platform but remove overlap and duplication -- state architecture development and IT infrastructure are large chunks of score. In addition, IT planning is as well -- Gov Warner was and is a visionary in this regard and he certainly moved the state forward. All good things but what do we have to show for it?

With that said, I believe there really isn't a way to capture any savings from these efforts -- I'm sure they were there, but without the transparency, or the performance measurement programs in place we'd be guessing....and those savings were sucked back up into the agencies as we watch their budgets grow and grow.

Technology is supposed to make things more efficient and cost less. Its supposed to make it easier to measure and evaluate. Its supposed to shed new light on how things operate and allow for innovation. Its supposed to make it easier to communicate results and outcomes. Yet we still have debates about transparency and performance in state government...oh, and rising budgets too!


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