October 2, 2006 By Steve Towns, Editor
Conducted by the Center for Digital Government, the Digital States Surveyis a comprehensive biennial study of technology use by state governments. The survey measures progress in deploying online services for citizens and businesses, developing strategic plans and policies, and adopting effective IT architectures and infrastructure.
Michigan, which also topped the Digital States in 2004, scored well across all survey categories this year. A massive IT consolidation effort launched several years ago continues to pay off in the form of efficient enterprise applications and shared resources.
The state retired or consolidated more than 1,000 servers in 2005, and shut down eight data centers. And more than 30,000 of Michigan state government's 55,000 e-mail accounts have been moved to an enterprise-messaging infrastructure.
At the same time, Michigan launched innovative electronic services such as the Michigan Timely Application and Permit Service (MiTAPS), a Web-based application that allows citizens and businesses to apply electronically for approximately 100 different types of permits and licenses. Applications such as MiTAPS earned Michigan's Web portal a top ranking in the Center for Digital Government's 2006 Best of the Web Survey, which was released in August.
Michigan CIO Teri Takai attributed her state's IT success to tech-friendly state agencies and steadfast support from Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
"Michigan has a long history of being technology interested and technology savvy, so we don't have to convince agencies to use technology. They're dying to use it," said Takai, a former technology executive at EDS and Ford Motor Co. who joined Michigan state government in 2003.
"And we continue to enjoy the full and open support of the governor," she added. "That means everybody pays attention to us as we drive for change in the way the state uses technology."
Michigan was followed in this year's Digital States Surveyby second-ranked Virginia and third-ranked Ohio. Utah and Arizona rounded out the top five.
The top finishers tended to be led by governors who understand the importance of technology, said Paul Taylor, chief strategy officer for the Center for Digital Government. They also had CIOs who are skilled at aligning technology projects with business and policy objectives.
Both Michigan and Virginia have maintained a consistent focus on using technology to improve government. Michigan's Granholm made technology a key part of her efforts to boost government efficiency and resuscitate her state's lagging economy. And former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was widely recognized as one of the nation's most technologically literate chief executives.
The ability of both states to continue these efforts could be tested in 2007, however. Granholm faces a tough re-election bid in November, and Warner left office in December 2005, a victim of Virginia's one-term limit for governors.
An administration change can have significant impact on IT progress if technology isn't a priority for the new chief executive, said Taylor, noting that Washington state, a perennial top finisher in the Digital States Survey, fell from the top 10 this year after Gov. Christine Gregoire replaced Gov. Gary Locke in 2005.
"Washington went from No. 3 in 2004 to No. 16 this year," he said. "That's because the new administration had different priorities."
Like Michigan, Virginia spent several years consolidating and centralizing its technology resources initiatives. But the two states took different operational approaches. Where Virginia widened its use of outsourced services, Michigan increased its reliance on internal staff.
And although wholesale centralization played a key role for the top two Digital States finishers, it's not the only path to success, Taylor said.
"You don't have to do that level of consolidation to score well," he said. "We have
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