Letters to the Editor
Connecticut Outsourcing: Policy for IT Ostriches
I cannot agree with Gov. Rowland's simplistic view of information technology ("IT Face-Off: John Rowland Targets Connecticut's Legacy Systems," May 1997). It's easy to say that we in government are not in the business of information technology, but that is simply a cop-out. Information technology is ubiquitous. Imagine a CEO in business saying: "We're not in the business of information technology; we're in the widget business." How long do you think they'd be making widgets?
Information technology is a tool that must be managed effectively in both the public and private sectors. In this day and age, IT must be used to accomplish our business, whatever that may be. The managers who use it best are able to compete; those who do not risk failure. Let's hear about public managers who use IT effectively and disregard those who, like the proverbial ostrich, try to avoid a tough job by sticking their head in the sand.
Administrator for IT Strategic Planning
Employment Security Department
State of Washington
Threat to Civil Liberties
In disturbingly innocuous language, your magazine apparently supports what is the most intrusive abuse of government power ever launched by state or federal government ("Fingerprint System Points Out Welfare Fraud," May 1997). Your benign presentation of the framework of the program masks the tremendous threat to the basic civil liberties of citizens who have committed no crime.
The fact that it is technically possible to create and maintain such an elaborate invasion of privacy does not make it something any of us should work to establish. Moving freely within our national borders has always been a hallmark of our great democracy. Monitoring and tracking citizens undermines that great ideal.
You owe it to your readers to let them know the policy implications of proposals such as this one. IT professionals deserve to be shown the whole picture.
Dorothy K. Dean
Judiciary, Safety&General Services Committee
Board of Supervisors
Giving Taxpayers Their Money's Worth
I read your article ("GIS Moves into the Enterprise," March 1997) and would like to commend you for your awareness of the need to educate the masses as to what this technology is all about.
Through my experience working for local governments for eight years, I have been instrumental in starting geographic information systems from the ground up. I agree that it easier to start in this fashion, but for those who start over, it is a classic case of poor planning. Many times I have encountered agencies that started over and found that the issue was not technology change but rather negligence in planning. Taxpayers are sick and tired of having individuals working in a capacity that ends up costing them more dollars.
I know for a fact that if I proposed to retool and start again, it would be my Waterloo. My employers feel confident that I will do everything I can to get the job done and do it with one focus: to give the taxpayers their money's worth and allow them to feel at ease knowing that someone in government is thinking of them on a daily basis. I am honored to be in such a position.
Also, I agree that too many agencies have an "it's mine" attitude. The data never was and never will be theirs; it's the people's. Here in Kansas, that is quite clear; we gladly give our data away.
However, we are allowed by law to distribute that data for a fee to recover costs. If the request is "unreasonable," we may opt out or charge an even higher price based on a "hardship." Our department's and county's feeling is that the data is the taxpayers', but some fees might be necessary for "enhanced" access to it. One thing is for sure: No one (well, maybe some) complains as long as they can leave with what they need.
I hope you do not feel I bashed your article; in fact, I agreed with most of it. However, too many people write about large communities and lose touch with where things have always worked well: small town USA.
Christopher De Yoe
Deputy Director of GIS
Sedwick County, Kan.