Kurt Snyder started with a clean slate when he took over IT operations for the Indiana Supreme Court in 2000. That's because Indiana's judicial branch was in the Dark Ages when it came to technology.
Now, thanks to Snyder, judges statewide have Internet and e-mail access, free computer training should they need it, and a modern case management system. And all judicial employees have access to an online legal research system.
"I have an entrepreneurial spirit," Snyder said. "This is a way to take advantage of that entrepreneurial spirit in a government job because there is so much room for growth."
In the Indiana Supreme Court, there's been plenty of progress in a branch of government where growth can be slow and painful. Snyder said his toughest task may be convincing powerful government officials to work differently.
"Getting elected officials to work together can be difficult at times, and judges are some of the most independent-minded elected officials you could have," he said. "Getting those things changed [standardization, centralization] is difficult to do. So a county [court] that has never been told what do to by someone else -- it's difficult for them to change."
Snyder oversees a staff of nine as director of the Indiana Judicial Technology and Automation Committee project office. He said getting judges from 92 counties to work together is like herding cats. The solution is good communications. "You talk to them," he said. "You really have to figure out what makes them tick and show them how you can help them by working together."
It helps that Snyder set up a program where judicial employees can get computer training through a local community college. "At our expense, we have trained literally hundreds of people," Snyder said. "It's been enormously helpful to bring up the level of understanding of computers. We have some people who have never used a computer."
Snyder holds a doctorate of Jurisprudence from Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis. He was the assistant consultant on Legal Education to the American Bar Association (ABA) and took its Legal Education Section's Internet presence from one Web page to the most visited site on the ABA network.
Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers," who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.