Photo: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm
Michigan government continues to be among the leaders in the drive to streamline government operations while improving citizen service delivery. This year, Michigan took 2nd in the 2008 Digital States survey, a biennial survey of technology use by state governments, conducted by the Center for Digital Government.
Michigan's effort to consolidate its information technology infrastructure helped maintain its status as a top Digital State. And that consolidation has allowed the state to increase the quantity and quality of services delivered to citizens while reducing cost. Since 2006, over 100 services have been added to Michigan.gov. The state currently provides 300 services online through a single portal, which has seen nearly a 30 percent increase in visitors since 2006.
Michigan is also focused on increasing citizen engagement through mobile devices and social computing. The state is utilizing IT consolidation to aggregate data, such as test scores from 25,000 schools, as well as health care and public safety information.
Infrastructure consolidation and use of flexible technologies (such as service-oriented architecture, software-as-a-service and shared services) is key to making this possible. Over the past six years, MDIT has reduced IT expenditures 24 percent -- saving the state nearly $100 million, according to Michigan Chief Information Officer Ken Theis.
When it is fully implemented, Michigan/1, Michigan's statewide central IT platform, will be at the center of nearly every strategic initiative and will transform the foundation of technology statewide.
Initiated 18 months ago, the consolidation effort is standardizing file and print services, desktop installations and security solutions. So far, seven of 19 agencies have been migrated to the system. By 2010 the state plans to complete conversion of all 55,000 desktops and 900 applications to the common platform. When completed, the consolidation will cut the number of servers supporting state offices from 2,612 to 670.
The statewide IT platform will also give state workers more flexibility regarding where they may work. New laptops will provide broadband and Wi-Fi access over a secure network allowing employees to work in any state office and find the same technological capabilities. In its response to the Digital States survey, MDIT noted this will help prepare the state for pandemics and other emergencies and that the approach has already proven successful. In 2007, the state Department of Environmental Quality lost its entire storage system after a hardware failure. However, since Michigan/1 was in place, the department was up and running again in a single weekend.
Currently, the support desk has increased first-call resolution by 15 percent and this is expected to grow with increased call volume. In the future, more than 80 percent of desktop problems will be resolved remotely.
At the end of the day, though, all this consolidation and cost-saving is about increasing service delivery in a tough economic climate. Michigan currently provides 300 services on its Web site. The most popular include fishing license applications, online state parks and campsite reservations, traffic information, criminal history background checks, real time alerts (including weather, AMBER, virus and PC exploit alerts), online certificate (birth, death, marriage and divorce) ordering, professional certification look-up, state medical benefits look up, business licensing applications, job search, unemployment insurance applications, vehicle registration and driver's license renewal, as well as online procurement.
Michigan.gov currently sees 44 million visitors annually, while the segment of those visitors accessing the site on a mobile device is growing by 20 percent per year. Currently 350,000 users visit the site through a mobile device each month.
Tourism is a large part of the Michigan economy that brings in $1.1 billion in tax revenue and contributes $18.8 billion to businesses in the state. An important part of that tourism is fishing, and charter boat operators reported they were losing money. Most charters in Michigan begin at 5 A.M., long before bait shops open. As a result, new or one-time anglers were showing up
at the docks for their charter without a fishing license; either not realizing that one was needed or assuming it would be provided. This omission put both the angler and the charter operator at risk, while the state was missing out on licensing revenue. The solution: fishing licenses in the form of a text message stored on the angler's cell phone. The angler visited a Web site specially designed to be viewed on a mobile device, and within three minutes could obtain a license. As a result, thousands of anglers in Michigan have used the service to obtain a license, and neither users or licensing officers have reported any problems.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources was the first agency to pilot a major policy shift toward accepting text messages stored on a mobile device as proof of licensure, balancing the need for a paper license with the convenience of buying a license online. And neither DNR licensing officers or applicants for the licenses reported any problems with the system.
Michigan sees mobile devices as "the emerging channel of choice for the next generation of citizens," according to the state's Digital States 2008 entry. Michigan sees DNR's success with issuing fishing licenses via a mobile device as an opportunity to issue other licenses (e.g. special permits for building trades) via a cell phone as well. In fact, there isn't an agency in state government involved in licensing an activity that could not benefit from DNR's mobile licensing solution, according to the state's survey response.
Clearly, Michigan deserves the mantle of a Digital State. As technology implementation continues in Michigan, the rest of the country may yet see the possibilities of living digitally, while elected officials will see the benefits that working digitally can bring to state government efficiency and their residents' quality of life.