Maine has ranked in the top five of the Center for Digital Government's Best of the Web competition since the contest began in 2001, achieving first place in 2004. It's one of CIO Dick Thompson's many accomplishments as one of the nation's longest-serving state CIOs. Appointed state CIO in 2003, Thompson also served as director of Maine's Division of Purchases for 12 years, where he helped bring technology into the procurement office.
"We were one of the first states to use a bid-and-response system," Thompson said. "We used an ASP - application service provider - to host it on the West Coast. Everybody talks about cloud [computing now]. In the late '90s and early 2000s, we were signing up our vendors on this third-party software, issuing competitive electronic bids and issuing orders through this system paperlessly."
In all, Thompson has spent 33 years in Maine state government and said he's proudest of Gov. John Baldacci's IT consolidation initiative. "I think we've done that in an intelligent, thoughtful way, and in tough times," Thompson said.
Maine is also upgrading its public safety radio network that was built in the early 1970s. "We're well on our way to designing a cold technology system that gives us a narrowband, FCC-compliant system that is trunked, which is an efficient way for us to handle our volume with the frequencies we have and that will cover the state. That project is expected to be done before the regulatory compliance deadline." As of Jan. 1, 2011, the FCC will stop granting applications for the old 25 KHz wideband channels, and prohibit manufacturing or importing equipment that operates on 25 KHz channels.
As for Maine's future, Thompson said, the state continues to look at how technology can better deliver services to citizens. "I think the way we use our portal and tools such as social networking, we'll go through - I almost call it a rebirth - because I really believe that when we start to marry these tools in effective ways to deliver information and services, the degree of transparency, the degree of involvement of citizens in the way their government operates, will be expanded."
Miriam Jones is chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. She joined e.Republic in 2000 as an editor of Converge magazine.