Gov. Dave Heineman, CIO Brenda Decker, Nebraska/Photo by Gov. Dave Heineman, CIO Brenda Decker, Nebraska Photo by

Watch Video: Nebraska: The Next IT Hotspot? Part 2

Let's shift gears to interoperable public safety operations. You have an initiative on that as well.

We're trying to develop a statewide communication system so every law enforcement agency, fire department, emergency management agency and health-care agency can communicate in an emergency. It is very difficult to do. We started out by setting up regional networks -- with the ultimate idea that we would connect the regional networks and have a statewide system. We're well on the way to getting that done. But I will tell you -- with this one, there is no question we had to have everybody in the room at the same time; everybody had to understand the objective. We've had too many situations where a life has been at stake because a county sheriff couldn't talk to a police chief in the same jurisdiction, let alone the state patrol. We're overcoming that now.

The proprietary or territorial nature of the individual agencies must be the biggest challenge here. What did you say to them to get them all on board?

We brought them all together. We outlined our goals. Everyone is in agreement with the goals; it's the details. Then we said, "We'll put up the money. We'll take our homeland security money that is coming from the federal government, and put it into a statewide interoperable communications system." All of a sudden they saw money.

Here was the other key: We had a very successful regional project, and we brought everybody eventually out to the central part of the state and we showed them. Twenty-five counties got together. They're talking to each other and demonstrating that it could work. All of a sudden, a lot of barriers dropped by the wayside. They saw a successful pilot project and that made a tremendous amount of difference.

Nebraska CIO Brenda Decker also said a statewide e-mail system is being created. Can you tell me about that project?

That's another project where you must have a strong will to get this done. When I took over as governor, we had numerous e-mail systems throughout our statewide agencies. In fact, we even had two or three within a given agency. There is not a private-sector company in the world that basically doesn't do I said that's where we want to get to. We want to get to and everybody is going to be part of it. We want to think as a team. We're not really the Department of Revenue, the Department of Administrative Services or the Department of Agriculture -- we're the state of Nebraska. It's a lot simpler in terms of cost, maintenance and the ability for the outside world to send you an e-mail.

We got a little bit of pushback, but with the governor leading the charge I think they understood that one way or another, we were going to get it done.

Photo: Lincoln, Nebraska, by iStockphoto

That's one of those projects that prompts, "Why haven't people done that already?" What is the resistance based on?

Change. It's [people saying], 'Why are you forcing us to change? We don't want to be integrated between the departments of Economic Development and Revenue. That's not how you do it in the private sector, or how you win an athletic contest. We have to get people thinking as one team: offense and defense. You have to

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.