Chris Cummiskey

CIO, Arizona

by / November 1, 2004
Chris Cummiskey spent 12 years in the Arizona Legislature before becoming CIO of Arizona. In his eight years in the Senate and four years in the House, Cummiskey earned a reputation as an e-government advocate.

He is in the middle of Arizona's effort to push the IT envelope by implementing a 211 call center system that will provide citizens with access to human services information, and serve as a link between Arizona citizens and the state's Office of Homeland Security during an emergency.

Tell us about the 211 call center implementation.
We're trying to accomplish statewide, three-digit dialing, as well as Web-based access, which would allow citizens to get up-to-date information germane to them on a wide variety of health and human service nonprofits and services. Ideally it will be easier for citizens to get connected to resources they need using this pathway.

The second component is the benefit of having a system like this -- that is accessible by the Web and can push messages out surrounding homeland security or a natural disaster.

How will the call centers help in organizing the public during a disaster?
To the governor's [Janet Napolitano] credit, she recognized it doesn't make sense to just have a bunch of state agency heads talking about this. You need to make sure you involve the community from around the state.

She created an advisory committee of stakeholders from local government, as well as community groups -- including the Salvation Army, local information referral groups, the United Way -- and pushed hard for two components: One was a volunteer management aspect to 211. In times of need, people who wanted to volunteer, there'd be a way to manage that resource.

What other notable IT projects in the offing will be a challenge for you?
We're working hard on a series of licensing related e-government initiatives. We have about 67 different licensing entities in the state. Rather than having each one go out and do an RFP and spend all sorts of money for their own customized e-license application, we're trying to bring these all under one roof -- similar to what Florida has done.

How has your experience in the Legislature helped you most as CIO?
It has, in a number of ways, manifested itself in terms of understanding citizens' interest in having things provided in an easier fashion and utilizing technology to make navigating the government labyrinth a little bit more positive experience for folks. People can get lost in those systems pretty quickly.

What we're trying to do with those e-applications and efforts is simplify and standardize in a way that's much easier for the citizen to make their way around state government and get access to important services.
Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor Justice and Public Safety Editor