Study calls for Vermont to embrace IT

Reorganizing the information technology infrastructure in Vermont's state government offices offers "the single greatest opportunity” to transform business processes, improve public service, support state employees and save money.

That was the conclusion a panel of independent reviewers reached after a two-year study. The seven-member Vermont Institute on Government Effectiveness released its report last week. The members made 20 recommendations that they said could provide up to $30 million in savings if implemented. Gov. Jim Douglas created the institute in 2003.

The recommendations lean heavily toward transforming the state’s IT infrastructure and making greater use of the Web for routine internal and external government services. The report indicates that several of the recommendations are already being implemented.

The most extensive recommendation calls for consolidating separate IT departments, platforms, e-mail systems, databases and network architecture into a statewide infrastructure. State officials began an IT reorganization in July 2004, which the report indicates is on schedule to be completed by the end of this year.

The group also recommended forming a public/private partnership to create a Web portal for e-government services. According to the report, the state spends $2 million to $3 million a year to design, support and develop dozens of stand-alone Web sites.

Despite a proliferation of Web sties, e-government services for state employees and citizens is anemic, the report states. In addition to fundamental service improvements, a Web-based customer transaction can be nine times less expensive than a transaction or question fulfilled via an e-mail or telephone response, according to the report.

The report's other technology-related recommendations include:

• Establishing a credible and nonpartisan strategic technology oversight and investment commission to address inefficiencies in current IT management processes.

• Making greater use of modern electronic conferencing and collaboration systems that could reduce employee time and travel expenses, which currently cost $15.8 million annually.

• Evaluating Web-based travel services, such as a state travel portal that would permit 24-hour access and centralized accrual of travel mileage.

• Web-enabling employee time and expense reports.

• Creating a Web site for new businesses to aggregate and share data among several agencies.

• Web-enabling quarterly wage and unemployment insurance reports.

• Web-enabling applications and reports of regulated entities, such as banks and insurance companies.

• Modernizing document management workflows and capabilities.

• Studying the use of voice-over-IP communications among state campuses.

"Our state is far behind our counterparts in the efficient use of technology, and this is unacceptable," Douglas said in a press release. "This report will form the basis of our new Information Technology Initiative."

The state has 9,800 full-time and temporary employees in 62 agencies, offices and business units, and a $3.6 billion budget.

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