Kentucky officials go wireless

Recognizing that e-mail has become a critical part of conducting business,

Kentucky's state government is offering employees wireless messaging systems.

The state is providing BlackBerry wireless handheld computers from Research

In Motion Ltd. RIM's 950 and 957 devices with the BlackBerry software use

a "push" architecture to notify users in real time of new e-mail messages.

Kentucky tested the devices last year and has offered them to workers

in the executive branch. More than 100 have signed up.

"This is a natural evolution of services," said Doug Robinson, executive

director of IT policy and customer relations in the Governor's Office of

Technology. The department hosts and maintains about 35,000 e-mail accounts

for the executive branch. According to December statistics, more than 43

million messages were sent and received.

"As I talked to agencies and CIOs, it's apparent e-mail has become like

basic cable. It's our expectation," he said. "Now we're into premium channels."

In a Feb. 1 memo to state workers, chief information officer Aldona

Valicenti outlined what she hoped would be the benefits of implementing

a wireless system. She said it would help agencies reduce mobile phone airtime

and costs, possibly reduce or eliminate the need for numeric pagers, and

decrease remote dial-in costs.

Valicenti added that the wireless messaging system is highly secure,

would help increase responsiveness and productivity, and the flat rates

for unlimited messages and usage per month would help ease budget projections.

For the 950 model, which is the size of a pager, agencies pay a one-time

$321 charge and $55 per month for each worker. For the palm-size 957 model,

which has a larger screen, more memory and battery power, the one-time charge

is $395, and monthly fees are $64.

Robinson said he hasn't heard of other state governments implementing

wireless messaging systems. He said they'll monitor how the system works

in rural areas and may add upgrades in the future.

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