Mass. legislature names CIO

Massachusetts State Legislature

The Massachusetts Legislature has chosen Val Asbedian as its first chief information officer.

As CIO, Asbedian, who had been heading the Massachusetts House of Representatives information technology group since last November, assumes control of the state Senate's information systems group, the joint data processing group and the document center, which produces copies of bills and other materials for lawmakers and the public.

An immediate priority, Asbedian said, is ensuring that the legislature's $4 million Web-based legislative management system meets requirements and that his staff can operate the system. Asbedian was instrumental in developing the proposal while he was with the state's information technology division, which is implementing the system.

Asbedian also wants to make sure his staff is more in tune with current technologies, such as wireless systems and devices.

Additionally, he wants to automate the document center, transforming it "from a paper mill to an information center," which would require being imaginative in disseminating information. For example, he said, the state could establish an e-mail subscription service for lobbyists or other groups wishing to access the most recent bills or other information.

Asbedian also sees his CIO office as a place where lawmakers and their staffs can get comments, advice and observations regarding technology as it relates to legislation. More technology investment, such as providing a robust communications infrastructure, could help revive stagnant state economies, Asbedian said.

"It's like putting in a highway," he said. "Where you put the highway in, you know you're going to have growth. Technology does the same thing.

"Government is an engine of economic growth," he added. "What happens in depressed economies is the federal government spends. They act like a pump to stimulate the economy. Massachusetts does the same thing but not on the same level."

While working for the state's IT division, Asbedian was best known for being the point man on fixing the Year 2000 problem and testifying in front of legislative committees several times on IT funding issues.

In the late 1960s, he worked on the Apollo 11 mission at NASA and then moved on to help develop a national interchange for credit card authorization. He's also worked as a systems specialist for Shawmut National Bank and Computer Sciences Corp.

Calls to the Massachusetts House and Senate staffs for comment were not immediately returned.

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