Government Technology

Top Digital States Use Technology to Face Fiscal Challenges

September 28, 2010 By

Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania and Virginia received top grades in the 2010 Digital States Survey, a comprehensive examination of state government technology practices.

The announcement Tuesday, Sept. 21, revealed those four states were the only recipients of A or A-minus grades in the survey. Michigan and Utah received the highest scores. Conversely only three states — Idaho, Indiana and South Carolina — received C-minus grades, the lowest given among the 50 states.

The survey is conducted every two years by the Center for Digital Government, the research and advisory division of eRepublic, publisher of Government Technology. State IT officials across the nation answered an extensive questionnaire divided into eight broad categories: adaptive leadership; enterprise IT; public safety; health and human services; commerce, labor and tax; finance and administration; energy and transportation; and citizen engagement.

In addition to the overall grades, top finishers were announced in each category:

Adaptive Leadership – Georgia

Enterprise ICT (information and communications technology) – Michigan

Public Safety – Tennessee

Health and Human Services – Utah

Commerce, Labor and Tax – Utah

Finance and Administration – Utah

Energy and Transportation – Oregon

Citizen Engagement – California

Focus on Results

The Digital States Survey, launched in the mid-1990s, is the nation’s only sustained assessment of how well state governments are using technology to streamline operations and improve service delivery. It initially focused on the number of online services offered by state governments. Later, the survey expanded to analyze IT architecture, infrastructure and policy, where some structural models — such as a consolidated IT environment — were deemed to be more valuable than others.

“What was evaluated in the 2010 survey was, ‘Tell us what you did with what you’ve got, however you’re constructed,’” said Paul Taylor, the chief strategy officer of the Center for Digital Government.

The survey’s new focus resulted in some states rising up the ranks. “There were a number of states that popped really high that may not have performed as well in previous rounds because of what they viewed as structural disadvantages,” Taylor said.

One example is Oregon, Taylor said, which earned a B+. “For years and years they’ve been doing good work, but their IT structure is unique. They have been able to achieve results, and they’ve been able to document their results.”

California and New York also earned B+ grades, an impressive performance, given that “those two states are enormously challenged through the fiscal crisis and the issue of sustaining big states,” Taylor said.

Reacting to Crisis

In general, budget pressures — and how state leaders reacted to them — played an important role in determining how states were graded in the 2010 survey. Judges awarded top grades to states that used IT modernization to boost efficiency, change entrenched practices and protect priorities. In an unprecedented fiscal downtown, nearly all jurisdictions faced tough decisions about where and how to make budget cuts. But top-graded states tended to make strategic cuts, rather than across-the-board reductions.

On the other hand, low-graded states made cuts that hindered technological progress. They also have failed to implement meaningful IT collaboration among multiple agencies and often have neglected to deploy effective performance measures.

Although the fiscal landscape has changed, the same states continue to lead on government IT. Utah, Michigan and Virginia ranked 1 through 3 in the 2008 Digital States Survey. Michigan and Virginia ranked 1 and 2 in the 2006 survey.

Flat is Up

Even states that received a C grade should be commended for holding their own while working on structural changes in a tough budget environment, Taylor said. One of the new watch phrases in this economic downturn is, “Flat is the new Up,” he said.

There is also more evidence in the survey that collaboration among public agencies is on the rise, he added.

Interactive Digital States Results

Visit to view interactive grades for all 50 states. Selected examples of best practices also are included for many of the states. Click on the map below for full state-by-state results.

Digital States Survey Map

The 2010 survey was underwritten by Accenture, EMC, Microsoft, NIC, SAS and Verizon. For more Digital States Survey results, visit the Center for Digital Government.

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Michael Clark    |    Commented September 28, 2010

Just wanted to let you know that the link to the grades for all 50 states is broken. Michael Clark Georgia Technology Authority

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