first. If Philadelphia and San Francisco prove building a municipal wireless network isn't an insurmountable challenge and doesn't mortgage the future, other cities may well follow suit.

The debate over government involvement in communitywide wireless services spawned a flurry of legislation. At the state level, active bills in 14 legislatures sought to expand existing restrictions on municipally owned broadband networks, though 12 states completed their respective legislative sessions with no action on the bills.

Nebraska enacted a substantial new barrier, though the state already had a significant barrier on the books to begin with. Congress introduced three bills on municipally backed wireless networks, but the federal legislation deals more with whether states have the power to prevent municipalities from creating their own wireless networks.

Consolidation Continues

State and local governments continued consolidating IT functions throughout 2005. Although state budgets eased somewhat over the year, cost savings remained a key motivator in these efforts.

Legislators in California and Texas passed bills consolidating IT functions in central technology shops to degrees never before seen in those states.

In California, the proposal to consolidate data centers into a centralized IT agency was tossed around for years with no attempt to make it a reality. Lawmakers seemed leery of taking the step, knowing full well such a consolidation would save the state plenty of money.

California's consolidation initiative finally came about via executive order from Schwarzenegger, making him the first governor in a long time to take an active role in technology issues facing the state. The impetus for the consolidation came from the California Performance Review.

To operate the combined data centers, the governor created the Department of Technology Services in July, and named a familiar face in California IT, P.K. Agarwal, as director.

Texas also took dramatic steps this year to consolidate IT functions. By passing HB 1516 in May, the Texas Legislature showed its willingness to gamble on IT consolidation, a move that can quickly blow up in politicians' faces if the state agency given the job fumbles the ball.

In September, more than 200 state agencies began ceding control of their IT environment to the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR).

Under HB 1516, the DIR possesses some important new powers: It can now force agencies to buy hardware, software and IT services from DIR-negotiated statewide contracts; it oversees the state's consolidated data center equipment and operations; and it will create and operate state technology centers to consolidate agencies' IT infrastructure in such areas as network security, electronic grants and telecommunications.

The continuing focus on consolidation sparked interest in IT management. As jurisdictions centralized IT resources and responsibilities, they began implementing management techniques designed to turn old-school IT shops into reliable technology service providers.

Chief among these techniques was a British import known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Developed by the UK government in the 1980s, ITIL is a collection of best practices for technology organizations. These techniques had been widely adopted nearly everywhere -- except in the United States.

That changed in 2005. Companies such as HP, IBM, Procter & Gamble and DHL invested heavily in ITIL. At the same time, a number of government agencies started their own ITIL implementations. From Oklahoma City at the local level to Virginia and Wisconsin at the state level, American government began adopting ITIL principles.

A New Direction

Another consolidation trend seen in 2005 -- which could become more common over the next few years -- is the merging of government and education IT systems. Only a handful of state and local governments can boast IT mergers of this sort. Sarasota County, Fla., took the unusual step of designating one CIO for both county government and the Sarasota County School District (SCSD).

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor