IT efforts focused on homeland

But survey shows that government officials don't know what they need to do or have the funding to do it

More than 80 percent of state and local government officials said one of

their major technology initiatives for next year would be homeland security,

according to a Gartner Inc. analyst. But he cautioned many don't know what

that emphasis will entail.

"That's a huge percentage," said Rishi Sood, research director at Gartner,

which recently completed a national survey. "That percentage obviously is

biased by the fact that [Sept. 11] just occurred and our focus on homeland

security. But if you look under the cover of that data point, state and

local government organizations don't really understand what they need to

do with respect to homeland security today...and they don't have the funding

to deploy those."

Sood spoke about upcoming technology trends and drivers, including homeland

security, in the state and local government market at the Innovative Government

Forum, sponsored by Hansen Information Technologies, in Sacramento, Calif.

In that survey of states, cities and counties, 55 percent of the chief

information officers and other technology and business officials said they

would spend funds on an e-government initiative.

"One of the reasons we're seeing that there is obviously the impact

of homeland security, but also e-government is starting to look and act

differently," said Sood, adding that e-government is shifting toward government-to-business

transactions or government-to-government transactions.

The survey also found 45 percent said such initiatives will be agency-specific

and 20 percent said they would strategically outsource some initiatives,

such as seat management, networking and telecommunications infrastructure.

However, Sood focused a good part of his talk on the impact of homeland

security over the next several years and initially dealing with first responders,

bioterrorism and national infrastructure protection. Affected state and

local agencies would include transportation, public works, health, police,

fire and emergency medical personnel, he said.

Officials also will look at national frameworks, standards and common

architecture tools and use a variety of technologies including wireless

services, geographic information systems and data integration, he said,

adding that physical and cyber security would underlie everything that is

done.

The homeland security challenge, he said, is similar to what the national

highway and transportation system faced in the 1940s when it was building

interstate highways "so we could drive from New York to California."

"We see the technology as the glue to the objectives of homeland security,"

Sood said.

Citing the same Gartner survey, he said 80 percent of the respondents

also expected federal matching grants to be "kicked down" to state and local

governments to fund the homeland technology projects; 45 percent expected

that block grants would be doled out; 35 percent said jurisdictions would

pay for them; 25 percent said agencies would fund them; and 5 percent said

agencies would share funding.

Homeland security will be part of what Sood called "transformative services"

— part of the continuing evolution of digital government.

"Transformation is really talking about more things than just the online

component. It's talking about jurisdictions getting together and building

a singular application so that they can share information across the enterprise,"

he said.

But state and local governments are facing challenges as they try to

press forward with technology projects, including Sept. 11-related priorities,

budget revenue shortfalls, an information technology skills shortage and

the turnover of as many as 23 governors. "Given that the fact that it's

a political year, dollars spent on children are always better vote getting

procedures than dollars spent on technology," he said.

Despite the problems, Sood said that state and local IT spending, about

$45 billion, combined with the federal IT spending, about $50 billion, is

the second largest market segment in the United States, second only to financial

services, which represents $150 billion.

"It's a very important statement," he said. "It's a particularly important

statement today. The government from a vendor perspective — and I'm going

to say this with a straight face — is a sexy industry. It really is the

market to be into today. And vendors are very eager to work with you."

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