BIT charges each state agency a fee and, in turn, provides them with a standard computing platform.

Getting Real

Although Illinois Reynolds intends to propose more centrally funded projects this year, she expects a mixed bag of IT funding models to linger for the foreseeable future. She said new undertakings, such as the states PKI effort and other e-government initiatives, are easy targets for centralized funding, but altering financing methods for entrenched programs presents a more difficult task. Furthermore, some applications -- multi-agency or not -- are so intertwined with one departments core mission that funding changes are unlikely.

"Anybody who thinks they can reengineer government based on the tools of IT is dreaming. It takes time and hard work," said Reynolds. "You have to be realistic about the structures and the history involved in terms of the agencies."

And while funding represents a key issue, much of e-governments success rests on the use of strong interoperability standards and long-term planning, according to Kentucky CIO Aldona Valicenti.

"I think there has to be an understanding that whenever we fund something, it obviously is going to have to interact with another system, another agency, another department," she said. "In our state, we drive standards very hard. We do ongoing surveys on an annual basis to see how standardized we are in our hardware and software."

Valicentis office reviews IT projects for compliance with state standards as part of the purchasing process, she said. "Any state that wants to provide long-term investment to the citizen is going to have to do something about the variety of implementations that do not communicate well or send data back and forth well."

Well-established organizations -- both public and private -- face the task of re-examining IT policies to see if they fit the Internet environment, she added. Ultimately, changing the funding model for enterprise-wide projects and adopting standards to ensure these systems interact with others demands significant commitment from state decision-makers.

"If you have a long-term company that has done business a certain way, you tend to take a process and embellish it with 20 years of tradition," Valicenti said. "I think leadership has to continuously challenge why were doing something the way were doing it, how does it benefit us and how does it benefit the citizen."

INNOVATION FUNDS DRIVE COOPERATION

Nearly half of the states have financed IT projects through special funds created to pay for innovative technology, according to a study conducted earlier this year by the Center for Digital Government.

Results of the national Digital State survey, released in July, indicate that so-called innovation funds have become a significant source of money for unconventional and multi-agency technology initiatives. In all, 23 states had IT projects under way as a result of innovation funds. Another five states had approved such funds and expected to begin using them in 2000 or 2001.

In Illinois, innovation funds provide an incentive for agencies to both try something new and work together, said state Chief Technology Officer Mary Barber Reynolds. Illinois sets aside special funds to promote workforce development, foster technology research and help communities link to the statewide Illinois Century Network.

In general, these funds require cooperation from multiple agencies or government jurisdictions, said Reynolds. "They have brought people together who werent used to working together because they are a centralized [funding] source."

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.