Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter last week announced the launch of a comprehensive initiative that will consolidate and reform state government's information technology operations and establish the state's first Innovation Council to spur advances in Colorado's technology sector.
 
"In state government and in the private sector, the digital age of the 21st century means Colorado must be ambitious, innovative and effective when it comes to maximizing the use of technology," Ritter announced Thursday.

"We can vault Colorado into the nation's technology elite," Ritter declared, "and we'll do it by using technology to save taxpayers millions of dollars and more effectively deliver services to people all across Colorado. We also will utilize the Innovation Council to expand and grow opportunities for the 3,800 high-tech businesses and 175,000 IT/software employees in this state."

Ritter issued an "Improving State Information Technology Management" executive order in May, elevating the state's CIO to a Cabinet-level position as the first phase in the reform plan.

The second-phase initiatives announced last week call for a multi-year IT consolidation that folds state government's decentralized operations into the Governor's Office of Information Technology. This will allow for centralized technology purchasing, spending, planning and asset management. It also will create a statewide enterprise structure, compared with what the Governor's Office termed "today's ineffective department-by-department model."

An "IT Consolidation Bill" will be introduced in the 2008 legislative session by sponsors Reps. Andy Kerr, Bernie Buescher and Bill Cadman and Sens. Ron May and John Morse to enact the reforms.

"Because of a decentralized information technology structure, Colorado state government uses information technology systems inefficiently," Ritter said. "This approach has led to redundant purchases, failed or under-performing IT applications, and an inefficient operating environment. Not only does the failure to pool purchases of IT goods and services create significant inefficiencies and unnecessary costs, it leads to greater risks related to security and reliable project performance."
 
Among the IT redundancies: state government has 38 data centers, while many states have just two or three, the governor noted.
 
"Currently within the state's many information technology groups we have a wealth of talented employees who are ready to rise to the challenge," CIO Michael Locatis said. "As we undergo a significant change from a highly decentralized and fractured IT environment to a consolidated enterprise model, our goal is to restore and improve basic operations and project performance. I look forward to carrying out Gov. Ritter's vision of transforming state IT into to a highly agile and innovative delivery organization."

Gov. Ritter also established the state's first Innovation Council, bringing together 34 leaders from around Colorado. The Council is composed of experts from large, small, urban and rural technology businesses, as well as leaders in the venture capital, government, academic and nonprofit sectors. The council will have three primary subcommittees that will:

  • Assist the state as it reforms and improve its use of information technology
  • Develop a strategy for spurring broadband deployment throughout the state
  • Support state government's economic development efforts for the technology sector.

The council will be co-chaired by venture capitalist Brad Feld, managing director of the Foundry Group; entrepreneur Juan Rodriguez, who founded StorageTek and Exabyte; and national telecommunications policy expert Phil Weiser, who teaches law and telecommunications at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Program. 

In addition to Feld, Rodriguez and Weiser, three other tech-industry leaders also will serve on the Council's executive committee: Cathy Fogler of Charter Communications; Su Hawk, president of CSIA; and Lee Kennedy, founder of TriCalyx.
 
The Innovation Council is expected to hold its first meeting this fall, with periodic recommendations submitted to Gov. Ritter beginning in 2008.