State's IT team upends systems practices

State's IT team upends systems practices

Donald Upson

Information Age goal is to focus on what Virginia's citizens want, CIO says

By Wilson P. Dizard III

GCN Staff

Who's In

Donald Upson

Secretary of Technology

Bette Dilehay

Deputy Secretary of Technology and Executive Director of the Digital Opportunities Task Force

Caroline Boyd

Assistant Secretary of Technology

Michael Thomas

Director, Information Technology Department

Jerry Simonoff

Director, Technology Planning Department


Source: Virginia's Office of the

Secretary of Technology

Donald Upson, who became Virginia's first secretary of technology in May 1998, learned the subtleties of government computing as the top aide to former New York Republican congressman Frank Horton and as minority staff director for the House Government Operations Committee. He also worked as a vice president of strategic planning for Litton PRC Inc.

As chairman of Virginia's Council on Technology Services, Upson leads a coalition of 23 state and local agencies that is hammering out Virginia's technological direction. His job is a combination of chief information officer and advocate for the commonwealth's information technology industries.

UPSON: The whole point of the Information Age is it turns everything on its head. The notion of running the government by top-down management and top-down control just doesn't work any more. I believe the Internet and the Information Age is about the individual having choices and control.

Today there's a higher expectation among the population, for services online, immediate response'on my time, at my convenience'and a different expectation about accountability.

The whole point of our personalized Web page, My Virginia, is we now have a focus. It's always been our statement that we have to think of where we want to be in terms of the citizen, to provide a single portal able to execute multiple transactions across multiple agencies and multiple levels of government with a single digital signature.

That basically is electronic government in its objective, quantifiable form. As you drive toward that, you start asking different questions as a government. You don't go inside your agency and say, well, what are my services, how do I make my services more efficient? You start talking about the citizens and what they want, and you actually, I think, change the philosophy of government.

The discussion has changed in the Council on Technology Services from two and a half years ago when we started it, when nobody talked.

The discussion at the last meeting was about how, if we are going to do My Virginia, we need to think of collaboration among agencies at all levels of government.

At that meeting, you had the members of the government, representing stovepiped agencies normally, saying, 'Why not, when someone changes their address on their driver's license when they move, have the Motor Vehicle Department have an application that automatically connects to all of us, and have addresses changed for every other government purpose, seamlessly?'

Now to do that, you have to have not an application, but you've got to have cooperation, you've got to have systems that talk, and the only way you get there is having people who talk.

When I got this job I was told that the Transportation Department was going out with a request for proposal for seat management.

Information Technology Department'Operates the state's data center, which provides data processing services to state agencies, and oversees telecommunications contracts

Technology Planning Department'Conducts strategic planning for state information technologies, reviews agencies' technology plans, develops standards and reviews procurements; also oversees the Electronic Government Implementation Division

Digital Opportunity Task Force'Builds a community-based infrastructure, in partnership with government and industry, to bridge the digital divide in Virginia

Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission-Advises the governor on how to allocate the Commonwealth Technology Research fund

My Virginia'The state's personalized Web homepage, accessible from and intended to tailor information about state and local governments and educational institutions

Executive Order 65'Gov. James Gilmore's program for statewide electronic government, which is intended to streamline government and emphasize service to citizens

Covanet'An integrated broadband telecommunications network to consolidate five separate state networks

IHRIS-The Integrated Human Resource Information System bringing together systems that help manage food stamps, public assistance and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Family programs so social workers will be able to work with one system

Very early on I pulled one of the top Virginia DOT officials aside and said, 'It would be very helpful if you could pull that RFP back, and put together a multiagency team of council members that would re-examine and maybe amend it, so it could be a pilot for the entire state.'

They put a group together and did revamp the RFP. When they awarded a contract VDOT became a pilot for the state.

From that, the council itself put together the seat management RFP that's now on the street.

A grade above

That's important because now they own it. It's not coming from me, it's not coming from a GS-11 who wants to say, 'We're going to buy a billion dollars worth of computers.' It's about permanently putting state-of-the-art technology on every desktop in the state of Virginia.

The benefits are many. The question people always ask is, what are the economic benefits? Let's just say there are none. Let's say it's the same price. Even if it's the same price, what you do get is the ability for every agent in government to execute things across a common platform with at least a core set of common applications.

Once implemented, it gets government out of the business of maintaining computers.

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