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Information technology has a bright future in California

Currently in California, there are approximately 130 separate department-level Chief Information Officers who each oversee the development of information technology (IT) solutions for their organizations.  Imagine building a house by employing different contractors who are in charge of constructing separate rooms, working from their own individual sets of blue prints and choosing their own building materials.   To say the least, there would be missed opportunities to collaborate and conserve resources while making the prospect of building a solid house a risky endeavor.

 As California faces an unprecedented budget crisis, aging infrastructure and a growing population, we have a unique opportunity to use technology to our advantage as we overcome the monumental challenges we face.  Just as the Governor has been working hard to find solutions to fill the ominous budget gap, he has been just as dedicated to finding savings and achieving more efficiency throughout state government.

 With our many computerized databases, e-mail systems, desktop computers, phone lines and more, California state government spends more than $3 billion annually.  There are many opportunities to save money by modernizing our approach to the state’s vast IT system.  By working together in a coordinated way, under the leadership of an agency focused specifically on IT, state departments can make great improvements to California’s technology program.  We can save money, increase government efficiency and improve overall operations by making strategic changes.

 By creating a more consolidated IT organization, we can better manage our equipment, personnel and purchasing while optimizing the use of technology and ultimately providing more services for the people of California.  Just as the public can currently register vehicles or pay taxes online through government web sites, we need to make additional services and information available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Californians expect more online access, which will increase transparency to government operations and benefit the environment and state budget when transactions can be done from the convenience of home.

 In fact, that is what the Governor and Legislature had in mind when in 2007 they created the Office of the State Chief Information Officer (OCIO).  The responsibilities of my office include implementing statewide policies, overseeing major projects and generally coordinating the state’s IT activities with a common direction and vision.   By fulfilling our mission to provide leadership on IT issues, the taxpayers will benefit as dozens of agencies begin to work in more common ways, sharing technologies, staff training costs and contracts. 

In the one year since I arrived in Sacramento to accept the newly-created position in Governor Schwarzenegger’s cabinet, we have taken major steps to achieve this modernized, coordinated approach to IT. In June, state agencies and departments prepared and submitted a five-year IT Capital Plan which has given us a critically-needed, global view of upcoming projects and activities.  One cabinet secretary discovered six different case management systems that were being developed separately within one agency.  Combining them into a single project will save millions of dollars in purchasing and staff training.

 Last year, we also conducted a first-ever statewide survey of IT assets.   The result provided us an unprecedented inventory of devices, computer systems, servers and more.   We discovered numerous opportunities for collaboration.  For example, we operate approximately 409,000 square feet of floor space in 405 different locations dedicated to data centers and server rooms.  Data center consolidation is a prime opportunity to save money, and we now have a new direction for moving forward, due to this survey.

 We also have significant plans to continue along this new path to improved IT governance and oversight. The Schwarzenegger Administration will be submitting a Governor’s Reorganization Plan (GRP) based on the recent Little Hoover Commission Report that says by realigning IT resources, including the Department of Technology Services (DTS) under the leadership of the OCIO, the state will enhance efficiency and bolster performance.  The GRP, among other things, will create more accountability and helps us support and train the hard working employees who keep our computer systems running. It will also complete an important organizational step which began in 2005 with the consolidation of the state’s major data centers and networks into one department, the Department of Technology Services.

 To put the GRP into a larger perspective of where the state is heading with IT, the OCIO has submitted the California Information Technology Strategic Plan to the Legislature.  The Strategic Plan is both a white paper and blueprint for state officials to pursue as California enters into the next generation of computers and technology.   It presents the vision and strategies employed to achieve the Governor’s goals and to carry out our mission to overhaul California’s aging technology infrastructure.

 As more services are automated and available online, the state will increase efficiency and transform the way our constituents interact with their government.  And, as hard working families across the state find ways to economize, California government should be expected to do the same.

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