Mr. Purpose

Gov. Mark Schweiker is pushing his technology agenda to the fullest.

by / June 3, 2002 0
When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was called to national service after the events of Sept. 11, Mark Schweiker, then the state's lieutenant governor, was the constitutional officer designated to assume the governor's post. In the months since that timely transition, Pennsylvania has not skipped a beat. And, although Gov. Schweiker has made it known that he would not be a gubernatorial candidate in this year's race, he also made it clear that his administration would be big on accomplishment.

"In Pennsylvania, we've got plenty of wildlife," he said in his budget address. "We've got wood ducks and mallard ducks. All kinds of ducks. What we don't have are lame ducks."

Schweiker then went on to outline an agenda that will guide the state to the end of his term based on a budget that includes aggressive implementation of information technology.

Pennsylvania, like many states, has experienced financial challenges. Nonetheless, the proposed budget includes funding for significant IT projects that he hopes will make Pennsylvania a model state government for the 21st century.

History of High-Tech

Schweiker, 48, was first elected to public office in 1979 and spent most of his public-service career in local government. This grass-roots experience drives much of his governing style at the state level as he keeps technology front and center. "I see ourselves at this late date in our administration, much like the Wal-Mart of government," he said "We are big, we're customer-minded and facing diverse needs. And I think when you look at what we have expended in the last seven years, it represents a tremendous financial commitment. We are adding to it by virtue of the budget I presented to the legislature several weeks ago."

That budget contained $11.2 million for an advanced, statewide public-safety radio network. Schweiker also proposed continued funding of $72 million for his "Imagine PA" initiative, an enterprise resource-planning project aimed at overhauling state government operations. Supporting these IT investments in the presentation of the budget, the governor said, "Perhaps more than any other single factor, technology will help keep Pennsylvania competitive well into the 21st century."

Schweiker carries forward a legacy of technology accomplishments. Former Gov. Ridge spearheaded the state's integrated Justice Network (JNET), which has become an internationally recognized program. As lieutenant governor, Schweiker was charged with facilitating such projects and says the experience prepared him well for the role of chief executive. "As the governor's top innovator, as he often termed me, even though I wasn't in the limelight, it was essentially my job to oversee these endeavors," he said. "That role afforded me complete understanding of all that was under way and so it was a seamless transition as far as administrations go."

It also allowed him to enter office with relationships already built and working. "My comfort and rapport with a lot of our managers had already existed," Schweiker said. "Having direct experience and oversight allowed me to do that."

In addition, he also took charge of emergency management functions. Schweiker himself finds it interesting that he inherited office because of the "infamy of Sept. 11," so ready to take on the challenge. This, he credits to the state's structure.

"It is a testament to the successor clause in our constitution," Schweiker observed, "that a lieutenant governor, with proper running room and an endowment of trust that Tom Ridge had given me, guaranteed that I was good to go."

Security Statement

Also ready to answer the call of homeland security was the state's plan for the statewide, public-safety network, featuring advanced wireless applications with both voice and data communications. According to Schweiker, only Michigan has a similar system that runs on Motorola products. Both states use 800 MHz technology. The governor says the state takes the program one step further by providing data communication along with voice. Pennsylvania's communications system will be implemented by M/A-Com, a division of Tyco Electronics. The system should be fully operational by the end of the year and enable law enforcement personnel from multiple jurisdictions to interface. Schweiker said this kind of direct communication, bypassing the need for a dispatcher, will significantly enhance public safety and response times in the field.

"The passage of time may mean that you may lose lives and if you act more quickly you can save lives," Schweiker said. "These are additional steps that we are going to take that are consistent with our notion of Pennsylvania as a safe state; and we are using technology to guarantee that it's an even safer place."

The radio network will also support GPS tracking.

"The system that's being deployed in Pennsylvania is unique in that it uses Internet protocol," said Tori Dillon, M/A-Com's marketing director. "This is important because it provides incredible interoperability on a single backbone for all of the state's communication."

The radio network and JNET make Pennsylvania a risky place for miscreants. Even the simple act of registering for a driver's license can turn up outstanding wants and warrants on an individual. And after the 9-11 attacks, JNET was one of the first integrated justice systems used by the FBI to troll for terrorists. JNET, implemented by KPMG Consulting, is also available to law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania's cities and counties, with statewide deployment expected in 2004.

According to state CIO Charles Gerhards, over 2,800 state and local justice professionals throughout the state are using the Justice Network.

Experience in Security

Schweiker underscored the state's focus on security with his appointment of Earl Freilino to the post of statewide director of homeland security. The governor previously worked with Freilino in 1996 on the formation of a counter-terrorism task force. After 9-11, Schweiker says he considered what kind of biography would be most appropriate to head homeland security efforts in the state. "It was my belief that we needed someone who understood that 51 percent of the homeland security job will be tied to an interpersonal effort and rapport with those who provide security at the community level, like police and fire departments and emergency responders," Schweiker said, adding that Freilino's 30 years of FBI experience and knowledge of the intelligence community was an added benefit.

"In this high threat environment since Sept. 11 and the prospect of WMD -- weapons of mass destruction -- the effectiveness of our response and deployment goes right to the hands and the minds and the technology of your first responders," Schweiker said.

This awareness drives the effort to include local governments in the state's technology future. There are active programs in the law enforcement and justice arena, education and economic development, where Pennsylvania led the charge to bring technology companies and investment to communities.

"We were undertaking a global branding effort, to use a marking term, to rid ourselves of the 'what was' image and install the 'what is' image," Schweiker said.

He explained that Pennsylvania had traditionally been known for its smoke stacks and factories, a picture that no longer fits reality. "We are an affordable place to do business," he said. "We have more technology jobs than North Carolina, statistically. We made determinations that one way to succeed at global branding was to cast Pennsylvania as the state of technology."

The re-branding effort has paid dividends. According to the American Electronics Association's 2001 "Cyberstates Report," the state has added 50,000 technology jobs since 1994. "Companies can go anywhere and invest in this digital economy," Schweiker said. "It behooved us to say that the state government is savvy and talk about the immense amount of fiber that's in the ground. If you want to grow and grow rapidly, we have the community infrastructure to support you. When it comes to the rate of installation [of fiber] I don't think anyone can outdo us."

The internal effort in the state has been equally intense and reflected in the Imagine PA project. The ERP program is deploying a fully integrated business information system developed by SAP and based on input from an 18-member private-sector advisory council. "It is the largest state government project of its kind in the country," Schweiker said. "It is going to guarantee that internally it will be real quick for employees to serve each other and our customers."

The governor recalled a conversation with a Cisco employee who demonstrated how his company handles travel reimbursements. Calling Cisco the "one big company that exemplifies the virtual corporation," Schweiker said he watched with interest when the employee submitted his travel expenses using his laptop and an hour later saw the reimbursement reflected in his personal checking account.

"When I am able to share with employees this story about the rapidity of travel reimbursement, they are thinking, 'Wow, I could be reimbursed in hours, rather than in weeks,'" Schweiker said. "Suddenly, one doesn't have to labor over the details of a software package called mySAP. [Employee] buy-in is likely."

Imagine PA improvements are scheduled to debut in July with completed implementation by January 2004.

Tom Shirk, president of SAP Public Services, said it is the state's strong leadership that is putting it up front in e-government. "One of the things that makes the project so leading edge is the approach the state has taken," he said. "They see it as an enabler for future generations. They are rapidly moving down the road to success."

The new system will manage accounting, purchasing and human resources functions to create a technology friendly internal environment to complement what the governor hopes is an equally successful effort aimed at citizen-customers. One popular program is the Tax-Free PC shopping week that occurs on a biannual basis. State residents can purchase computer hardware and peripherals without paying the state's 6 percent sales tax.

"This is just one thing that governments can do to foster the purchase of equipment and grow the literacy of its residents so that they become more comfortable and savvy with the presence of technology that makes their lives a little bit easier," Schweiker said. "It narrows the so-called digital divide."

According to the governor, computer stores throughout the state are thrilled with the program that brings in revenues comparable to strong holiday shopping figures.

Other economic incentives include tax credits for IT research and development, trade missions to other countries to attract high-tech companies and investment and a database of the products made in the state.

The approach is producing dividends. The Commonwealth Connect project -- a partnership with Microsoft -- created a common e-mail system for state employees and compatible desktop software that enables collaboration and data sharing. A study conducted by Xerox estimated a savings of $9.2 million over the next three years. And, more than one million residents electronically filed tax returns using either telephone or Internet services, logging even more internal savings.

Passing the Torch

Schweiker likes the idea of leaving state service with a legacy rich in IT wins that he feels will permeate the entire state. Coming from county government, he is aware of the impact of state decisions on local jurisdictions and wants the decisions made in his administration to have positive impacts. "I am not a legislator turned lieutenant governor then governor. I am someone out of county government and by your schedule, you spend more time with citizens in communities," he said. "Back in the early '90s the clamor was on for citizens to get the same kind of service they got from their supermarket. And that intensified with the Internet after '92 -- the idea that we have to give citizens and residents what they want. That is quicker and more effective service. It's a matter of being customer-minded."

When Schweiker steps down from public service in Jan. 2003, he says he will focus on his wife, Kathy, and the couple's three school-age children. He has no concerns about passing the baton to a new administration at the close of the year. "I think the transition will be a smooth one because I have been able to use entrepreneurial energy here and not just use the traditional mode in guiding the ship of state," he said.

Schweiker added that e-government required a lot of private-sector thinking and innovation, a quality that he'll carry with him as he becomes citizen Schweiker.
Darby Patterson Editor in Chief