Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What we have here is a failure to communicate...

Communications (Data & Voice) Operational Review Update

Data and voice communications is significant technology cost and responsibility for all state agencies. Last fiscal year, Virginia state government spent approximately $143 million for communications services state agencies and employees and approximately $43 million for communications equipment. Communications therefore is one of the crosscutting operational reviews of state operations we are undertaking.

We set up a Communications Operations Review Team to look at best practices in private business and government and existing practices in Virginia state government, and are developing recommendations that will both reduce communications costs in state operations and improve communications between state agencies and between citizens and their government. Delegate Paula Miller and Senator John Watkins oversee the team’s work. Team members include representatives from the Library of Virginia, Virginia Information Technologies Agency, Office of Commonwealth Preparedness, Department of General Services, Department of Corrections, Virginia Department of Transportation, Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Forestry and Virginia.

The Communications Operational Review team has reached out to outside experts for information on new technologies, procedures and best practices. The team has communicated with representatives from Verizon, Virginia Interactive, Northrop-Grumman, Alltel, Nextel, COMTek, New York City, City of Virginia Beach, State of Maryland, State of West Virginia and State of California. The team also has gathered information on existing practices, strengths and weaknesses in state operations, and ideas for improvement from representatives of the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Tech, Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance, Auditor of Public Accounts, Library of Virginia, Virginia Information and Technologies Agency and webmasters from agencies throughout the state.

The team found that we are using many best practices in parts of state operations. Service costs have actually been reduced over the past 5 years and new technologies have been and continue to be implemented as appropriate. Communications between citizens and state agencies have improved dramatically with increased use of the internet and agency websites to disseminate information to the public and provide a new avenue of communications, including online applications and forms, email and online chat. Tele/data/video conferencing has saved the state millions of dollars. Statewide VOIP implementation for agencies is underway.

The team has also identified areas to improve through new or expanded use of best practices, including: better coordination among agencies and between agencies, local governments, institutions of higher education, Office of Commonwealth Preparedness and the private sector; further expansion of new technologies to bring broadband, wireless and cellular access to un- and under-served areas of the state; improved state contracts to better leverage state buying power while taking advantage of new technologies, vendor competition and cost decreases; expanded use of videoconferencing; increased telework opportunities; and more and simpler ways for citizens to interact with their government.

The Communications Operational Team is drafting its full set of recommendations from this review. We welcome additional advice and input from readers of the VACostCutting blog. Please share your thoughts with the team through this blog. Or you can send your ideas to me at Please label your e-mails “Communications Review from VACostCutting blog” so we can know the ideas are coming from blog readers.


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