The United States has two foreign-born governors. One actor-turned-politician has grabbed plenty of headlines and publicity as he runs the nation's most populous state. The other, a mother of three originally from Vancouver, B.C., is governor of Michigan, a state with an industrial economy buffeted by the challenges of the Information Age and globalization.
Like so many other governors sworn into office in 2002, Jennifer Granholm immediately tackled a massive budget deficit of $3 billion, leaving her little room to maneuver in launching new programs and other initiatives. Instead, she put her efforts into reviving an economy that lost a substantial number of high-paying jobs (unemployment in Michigan reached 7 percent in November 2004) while finding scarce funds for her priorities, including education, children and health care.
Despite the obstacles, Granholm boosted the state's use of technology. Perhaps her most striking move was to hire Teresa Takai as Michigan's CIO. Takai -- with the solid backing of the governor -- moved quickly to put the state's IT infrastructure and services on a more corporate model, where enterprise solutions, good governance and accountability take precedence.
Results emerged quickly. In September 2004, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers recognized two of Michigan's IT solutions for their excellence. The Electronic Filed Unemployment Claims Project allows citizens to submit unemployment claims from their homes using the Internet or phone. Since the system's launch, the state closed 43 branch offices and reduced paperwork.
Michigan's Critical Incident Management System is a Web-based application using GIS that aids numerous first responders around the state. Users can share information in real time.
In 2004, the Center for Digital Government ranked Michigan No. 1 in its annual Digital States Survey, citing how the state changed the citizen and business experience through a broad suite of real-time transactional services.
"We're using information technology to support and enhance the core functions of Michigan government, and to position our state as a global economic powerhouse in the 21st century," said Granholm when the rankings were announced. "Information technology is playing a critical role in every aspect of our work."
Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers," who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.