Metcalfe's law is basically an adoption curve of networked things. You have a low adoption rate until you hit a certain point, a critical mass. The way you get through that early part, in this particular case, it almost has to be by commitment.

For the state employee part of this, as we roll out our HR/payroll [this] year, we'll cross that adoption curve. We're in that phase of being committed and just grunting it out. But I believe that by this time next year, it will be default for new things having to do with state citizens.

We're working on ways to engage our universities and local governments because they use our services a lot. There has to be an engagement with them that you validate who's who. And then, there's a whole series of processes of how you use this with citizens, which is where your real payback comes from eventually.

Do you have any citizen-facing applications?

We have some. I know the secretary of state's office is using it for corporate citizen kind of functions in some ways. The Department of Revenue [DOR] is preparing to use it first for corporate taxes and then citizen income taxes.

Just because you have an identity-management system does not solve your need to relate, for example, a set of income tax filings and an income tax account to a particular ID. A citizen may be able to come into our portal and register for and get an NCID, but then if they want to associate that ID with their income taxes or their DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] record or something like that -- so they can log on and do business that way -- there's still a subscription process you have to go through that's very much like what you would do if you created an independent ID for that user in that agency.

We can't say this guy's registered, therefore he can see his taxes and he can see his motor vehicles records, etc.

We can say he's registered, then he has to go through a process at DMV or DOR and answer some secret questions about that account, and then they could link the two together.

We can authenticate the person, but then [the agencies] need to authorize them in a way to use their systems. The connectivity between those two things is an interesting process, and it's different for different services.

Would you say the project was partly driven by the state's general IT consolidation efforts?

Sure. You sort of have architectural vision for where you want to go. We, like every other state, would like to make much more use of the Internet and electronic access through whatever means to serve our citizens. But to do it in some sort of fashion that doesn't cut that citizen up into a different person for each agency they touch is much more difficult.

We have about 8 million citizens in North Carolina. We have 100,000 state employees. If we just take those 100,000 employees, and each of them needs to use five business systems during their work, if they have one password, that's 100,000 passwords to take care of; if they have five, that's 500,000 passwords to take care of. The cost of taking care and maintaining name and password pairs in sync so someone can use them is linear with the number of passwords.

Will NCID include a single sign on?

We are not trying to do single sign on. We're trying to do a single name and password.

As a service provider, the benefit is just to lower that number of name and password pairs. If we have 8 million citizens and each of them

Chad Vander Veen  |  Editor, FutureStructure

Chad Vander Veen is the editor of FutureStructure.com