"I don't think anything was communicated before," he said. "In five and a half years, I've seen very little come down from the state or from any other town."
Currently, Deltano said, Massachusetts towns manage their IT needs in myriad ways, some of which are better than others.
"Sometimes they're doing things so totally different that it's like, 'Why are they doing it that way? Is it just because they've been doing it that way for the last 10 years, and they don't want to change?'" he said. "There's a lot of good stuff out there, and I think if we pool our resources, we can get a lot more done."
If all the towns communicated regularly, Deltano said everyone could gain a lot. "For instance," he said, "I'm just a one-man show here, and if I try to do everything on my own, I'm a very busy person." But information from localities or state agencies with more resources would save time. "If they've already researched something and said, 'OK, we found out this is the best way to do this,' and I can just go someplace and find out what that is without having to spend hours researching it myself, it's going to save me time. It's going to save everybody time."
Quinn said the state could also learn from cities and towns. "There are some very interesting and innovative people working at the cities and towns," said Quinn. "We think we can benefit and learn from some of their technology deployments and innovative things they've done and adopt those at the state level."
Burlingame said InfoExchange membership, so far, is divided between approximately 50 percent state officials and 50 percent local officials, but some local administrators have said communication on the list server has been mostly one-way from the state.
"We haven't gotten as much out of the cities and towns as we would like at this point, but we're hoping to drive that communication so it's much more toward the commonwealth than it has been in the past," Quinn said. "It's early, you know. We've got the two biggies here sort of taking the lead -- the city of Boston and the commonwealth. As we go, we're going to continue the outreach, and hopefully we're going to see much more interaction from localities."
Collaboration Benefits Everyone
Opening communication between the state and its localities will not only make it easier to develop business solutions for services that currently require state and local governments to work together, Quinn said, but such collaboration among IT employees could also lead to more effective e-government in the future.
For example, Massachusetts' residents must often deal with more than just the Registry of Motor Vehicles to manage vehicle issues, he said. "An awful lot of what they have to have done before they go to the Registry needs to be done at the cities and towns."
But through collaboration, he said, citizens could make one stop to handle their vehicle needs, such as paying excise taxes or parking tickets. "We could collect that at the state level, then turn around and give it to the cities and towns directly, and save citizens the requirement of running around to various localities before they came to the commonwealth," he said. "There's a number of different initiatives we think could really help make things comfortable for somebody in the cities and towns."
Quinn and Burlingame also see opportunities for statewide collaboration in procurement. While the state already allows municipalities to use state contracts, Quinn said both state and local government could gain from maximizing their buying power for state contracts -- something Burlingame and Quinn were already trying to do.
In fact, InfoExchange was born from this effort