Since 2002, Government Technology's March issue has honored individuals who are redefining and advancing technology's role in government and society. This year's Top 25 showed that change is possible despite the age-old belief that institutional barriers impede government reform. Congratulations to our 2005 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers.
California Technology Services Department
IT consolidation is a goal envisioned by many, attempted by some and accomplished by few. The task is difficult enough in a single agency; some say it's nearly impossible on a statewide level in a jurisdiction the size of California. But P.K. Agarwal, director of the California Department of Technology Services (DTS), is close to achieving that objective.
Agarwal has a long history of IT leadership in the public and private sectors. Formerly CIO of the California Franchise Tax Board, he pursued a private-sector career before returning to government work in September 2005. Agarwal said his past experiences prepared him to consolidate IT in California.
"[The] California Franchise Tax Board has a culture of getting things done -- in IT as well as in other areas," he said. "A clear vision, strong leadership, internal teamwork and collaboration within government as well as the private sector drive this culture. Couple all this with a passion for innovation, and you have a recipe for success. I fully intend to use a similar recipe in my approach to managing DTS and effectively serving our customers."
Agarwal believes that California is uniquely positioned to accomplish such a monumental undertaking.
"History tells us that the word 'impossible' does not exist in California's lexicon -- the Golden State is a place for dreamers, and the dreams are big," Agarwal said. "I believe California is blessed with extremely talented and dedicated professionals. I'm convinced we have the building blocks for intelligent consolidation, and we will utilize private-sector skills and resources as needed."
Like any good leader, Agarwal knows the initiative depends on people more than hardware and software. "A number of consolidation challenges are not technological but surround people -- their interests, biases and perceptions of the right and wrong approaches to resolving issues," he said. "Getting past these differences is what presents most challenges to consolidation, and change through brute force almost always assures failure."
Agarwal's singular motivation is to allow customers to drive every aspect of business. "This is the sole reason we exist."
-- Chad Vander Veen
The Maine Event
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."
-- Tod Newcombe