Nov 95 Level of Govt: State. Function: ? Problem/Situation: Georgia wants to improve delivery of services by expanding its use of technology. Solution: Their efforts have begun to pay off and have elevated the status of the state to a technology innovator. Jurisdiction: Georgia, Florida. Vendors: Scientific Atlanta Inc., BellSouth, IBM, America Online, Prodigy.
By Tod Newcombe Contributing Editor In 1987, J. B. Matthews was hired by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to be the first full-time staff member dedicated to managing information technology. One of Matthews' first priorities was to do something about the aging computer network that served the university system. "It was an old-style network," recalled Matthews, "aimed primarily at sharing the use of a mainframe computer located at the University of Georgia." On his desk was a proposal from a staff member to drop the hierarchical network in favor of a peer-to-peer system that linked computers to each other. The proposal was based on a new trend that was beginning to emerge, known as the Internet. Matthews quickly determined that the proposal was on the right track. A modest amount of funding was channeled toward the project, and by 1991, the state was able to connect all of its 34 higher educational institutions to each other. Soon the universities and colleges were supporting common administrative functions statewide, as well as communicating via electronic mail. They were sharing library resources as well as global resources over the emerging Internet. In fact, Georgia was one of the first states in the country to link all of its public universities and colleges to the Internet on a systemwide basis. Today, that system - known as PeachNet - is one of the jewels in Georgia's technology crown.
EMPIRE STATE OF THE SOUTH With its economy and population growing at a fast clip (the state grew by one million people between 1980 and 1990) and as the host of the summer Olympics in 1996, Georgia has become what its motto always proclaimed it to be: "Empire state of the South." Indicative of its position as one of the more economically vibrant states in the south, Georgia's government is taking an aggressive stance toward delivering services to both citizens and businesses. This includes expanding the use of technology to enhance service delivery and using public-private partnerships to meet that goal. One year ago, Gov. Zell Miller, with the backing of the state Legislature, created the Office of Information Technology Policy and a 12-member council that governs the office and recommends IT policy for the executive branch. Five members of the council are from the private sector, including Dr. H. Allen Ecker, chief technology officer for Scientific Atlanta Inc., a global communications firm. According to Ecker, the council's mission is to help the state maximize its use of technology for promoting economic development as well as delivering services. Recently, the state took a major step in this direction when it acted on the recommendation of the council and appointed Mike Hale, the former head of information technology for Florida, as its first chief information officer. Breaking from the traditional state government mold of doing everything by itself, Georgia has begun relying on the private sector to support its use of technology. "Public-private partnerships benefit state agencies by fostering exchanges of both information and experience," said Ecker. They can also provide states with valuable assistance and give IT projects credibility in the eyes of state legislatures, according to a leading government official. With Ecker from Scientific Atlanta and Clyde Manning from BellSouth sitting on the council, Georgia stands a good chance of gaining valuable experience from a host of prominent communications firms in the Atlanta area. In fact, the crown jewels in Georgia's technology infrastructure are all communications-related. Besides PeachNet, there is the Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System, a two-way video system for distance learning and telemedicine and GeorgiaNet, a state