March 8, 2006 By Tod Newcombe
For someone who heads a rural state in New England best known for its lobsters, potatoes and moose, Maine Gov. John Baldacci has compiled a dossier of IT accomplishments that sparks envy in governors of states twice Maine's size.
Like most governors, Baldacci recognizes that Maine won't be more efficient or deliver better services until it breaks down the silos of information and integrates them -- at all levels of government, not just in Augusta, the state capital.
That's where the value of IT lies and the governor knows it, said Maine CIO Richard Thompson. "The governor believes in high-quality services and recognizes that IT is the backbone to making quality service a reality," he said.
To make his vision a reality, Baldacci created the Office of Information Technology, which Thompson heads, and provided the leadership to make IT in government a success. He pushed for broader standards to make data integration across agencies more feasible, and supported creating a project management office, which has boosted the state's IT project success rate. Baldacci's support gave Thompson and his staff the leeway to make Maine's e-government program a national model.
The results speak for themselves. Brown University's annual e-government survey, conducted by Professor Darrell West, ranked Maine second in the nation two years in a row. In 2005, the Center for Digital Government awarded Maine first place in its Best of the Web competition. Center Director Cathilea Robinett noted that more than half of the state's citizens use its portal, Maine.gov. "That's unheard of anyplace else," she said. Most states see 15 percent to 20 percent usage.
Whether it's high-speed access, IT in education or better public safety communications, Baldacci understands effective use of technology, according to Thompson. "He knows how to set the tone, create a vision and present a problem we have to solve. He knows how to ask the tough questions that we have to figure out to answer."
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