Wyatt Kash | Bottom-line ingenuity at state, local levels

Editor's Desk | Commentary: State, municipal CIOs must think outside the box in using IT

Wyatt Kash

STATE AND MUNICIPAL information technology managers who have stuck around long enough have certainly endured their share of roller coaster budget rides.

Now, after back-to-back years of relatively broad prosperity, it would appear that the relentless rise in health and infrastructure costs and the slump in real
estate-related tax revenues are conspiring to squeeze state and local budgets, and all rather suddenly.

States and local governments often find themselves ahead or behind of the national
economic recession recovery curve. Consequently, IT budgets don't always rise and fall with overall budgets.

That seems to be the case, based on a GCN survey conducted late last month of
211 state, city and county government IT officials.

More than four out of 10 public-sector IT officials, 43 percent, expect their IT
budgets to grow next year. Three out of 10 expect their budgets to stay the same, and only 24 percent expect a year-over-year decrease.

That's in spite of the fact that 64 percent of those officials anticipate overall budget shortfalls next year.

Where those dollars are going varies widely. But the responses seem in line with a recent poll from the National Association of State chief information officers, which found that major state initiatives next year will be focused on consolidation and
integration technologies (50 percent), security of data (20 percent), document management (15 percent), networking and mobile hardware (10 percent), and biometric/ Real ID capabilities (5 percent).

When you look beyond the numbers and talk to state and municipal CIOs, the reality is that IT budgets have seldom been adequate to meet demands, leaving them little choice but to think outside the box in using technology.

The upshot, as Trudy Walsh's story on Page 24 suggests, is that state and local
governments continue to be great incubators for developing IT projects that succeed in meeting a variety of internal and public-service needs ' often at dramatically lower costs. The growing pressure for health and case management records systems,
identity management tools, and more sophisticated security is placing tremendous demands on state and local IT teams.

But these teams are also coming up with innovative solutions. So let's hope top state and local officials continue to see the wisdom and value in funding what those IT teams are delivering.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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