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Pennsylvania Sets Stage for Data Center Outsourcing

Pennsylvania awarded a $410 million data center outsourcing deal to Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, Pa. The state's contract will consolidate and privatize operations once spread over 18 state agencies and potentially save the state $140 million over five years. The project, one of the most watched outsourcing projects in the country, may be a model for other state and local governments considering similar moves.

Congress Passes Internet Tax Legislation

President Clinton has signed the Internet Tax Freedom Act into law. To promote growth and competition in the new electronic commerce market, the legislation imposes a three-year 'time-out' on any attempt to levy new taxes on Internet-based transactions. But the nation's governors also claimed victory in the bill's passage because the moratorium allows states time to formulate new sales tax policy. Passed as part of Clinton's mammoth omnibus appropriations bill, the law creates an Advisory Commission on E-Commerce, which will guide Congress toward tax policies that promote business growth and tax fairness.

Y2K Czar Scolds Lagging States

NASIRE conference attendees also got a dose of reality when Clinton administration Year 2000 czar John Koskinen vowed to blow the whistle on the handful of states that had failed to disclose information on their data interfaces with the federal government. While Koskinen did not embarrass those states beholden to federal Year 2000 coordinators, he vowed to by year's end. "We are not naming them yet, but we are about to start naming them," he said. States must first identify individuals responsible for system interfaces on important programs such as food stamps and Medicaid before any fixes can be made.

Feds Dole $18.5M in TIIAP Grants

Local governments pushing the envelope on advanced networking technology got a shot in the arm recently when the U.S. Commerce Department awarded a new round of grants.

The Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program, the popular matching-grant program, is aimed at interoperability and innovation. TIIAP winners included the Western Identification Network Inc., a multiple-state law enforcement project struggling to provide offers with access to digital photos. Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Applications Office runs the program. A full list of 46 recipients appears at

House Committee Passes Anti-Porn Legislation

To shield children from pornographic material on the World Wide Web, the House Commerce Committee recently approved a bill that would require content providers to impose charges or access restrictions to adult material. The Child Online Protection Act would have the National Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure look into an 'adult domain.' The bill calls for a new commission of Internet company leaders to investigate other ways of protecting children from pornography.

FAA Backs Y2K Fix Using Airport Money

The Federal Aviation Administration last month suggested that $100 million in airport funding be diverted to help the nation's airports solve their Year 2000 computer problems. The FAA proposed a measure that would allow airports to use the money for technology systems such as baggage claim and ticketing devices as well as internal airport equipment. FAA predicts that 99 percent of federal aviation systems will be Year 2000-compliant by June 1999.

FBI Sketches National DNA Database

The FBI last month debuted the National DNA Index system, which would allow broader use of existing state and local DNA databases. The FBI trumped the idea as a way to catch more criminals by allowing investigators in one jurisdiction to search for DNA matches in another. Privacy advocates were quick to point out the privacy implications of sharing DNA data. The FBI promised to secure the system by using secure lines to connect labs with the central system, but critics were not placated.

Connecticut's Political Football Lands

By now, voters have decided the fate of the Connecticut gubernatorial election-and thus the gigantic information technology outsourcing contract directly tied to its outcome. The proposal was likely dead if Democratic challenger Barbara Kennelly defeated incumbent Gov. John Rowland, but barring a Republican defeat, state CIO Rock Regan said the contract would be awarded the week after the election. Potentially worth $1 billion, the project has been decried by state employee unions and even the state comptroller, a Democrat who has made political hay of the project. Other parties waiting for the political football to land: contract competitors Electronic Data Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Computer Sciences Corp. as well as the Connecticut State Employees Association, which also bid.

NASIRE Changes Guard

The nation's state chief information officers embraced a new leader last month, electing Missouri CIO Mike Benzen to replace outgoing NASIRE president John Thomas Flynn, California's CIO. At its conference in San Diego last month, NASIRE, the National Association of State Information Resource Executives, also announced it won a U.S. Justice Department grant to explore interoperability among law enforcement systems among different levels of government.


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