As chief technology officer of Idaho since 2008, Greg Zickau has spent the last few years helping the state push ahead on IT initiatives he hopes will create long-term benefits. Improving governance, building out Idaho’s core IT network and extending the state’s education network are some of the priority items on Zickau’s to-do list.
What is the Idaho Education Network and why is it important?
The Idaho Education Network is a private network that connects all of the state’s high schools. It connects to the districts and then uses district networks to connect to the high schools. The intent is to enable rural students to participate in educational content that they haven’t had access to. It’s honestly one of the most exciting things that I’ve been involved in throughout my technology career because I can see it making a difference in students’ lives.
We’ve been able to extend, for example, high-level math courses to rural students who didn’t have the opportunity to take advanced courses. As a result of that, we’ve seen students go on to MIT, Cal Poly and advanced schools like those.
Funding for Idaho’s core IT network has been approved for fiscal 2014, how will this help shape IT for the state?
If you don’t have the network foundation in place, then you’re not going to be successful. So we have to get that in place and get it right. Health information exchanges, which we want to bring online by fall, will require a robust, reliable network. So with all of our core upgrades to the network, we want to get that done in time.
But it allows the discussion too. We’ve got all these various small data centers in the state. Do we want to do anything with those? Or do we want to do something with cloud computing? Different agencies and their lines of business have different takes on what’s appropriate. Now we have the network capacity and support to do a hybrid, private or public cloud initiative.
Based on those choices, are you leaning toward a specific cloud model?
I believe we’re going to end up with a hybrid, and we’re really working toward a federated model of IT governance that focuses on allowing the agencies to meet their own business needs.
How do you plan to fully carry out the Idaho IT strategic plan initiatives?
We’ll be asking questions like: What priorities for the business do we want? Do we want to focus on efficiency? Do we want to focus on flexibility? If we’re focusing on efficiency, then it may well be that we do some kind of data center consolidation. If we’re focusing on flexibility, we’ll probably be focusing more on cloud.