What happens when voters elect a former tech executive to the statehouse? Something very much like what’s going on in Michigan.

Gov. Rick Snyder, who spent six years in senior management for Gateway, took office in 2011 — and has since led a massive effort to modernize technology in Michigan government. Last year, he signed a state budget that established annual funding of nearly $50 million for upgrades to IT systems. Earlier, he backed a new grant program to nurture small, innovative projects, and another that incents local shared service initiatives.

At the heart of this activity is a simple concept: Government should treat citizens better. “In a lot of ways, we haven’t done the best by our customers,” Snyder said, pointing out how fragmented programs and services make government miserable to deal with. Modern technology, he says, is fundamental to improving the customer experience.

Ultimately the governor envisions a state portal and mobile apps that guide users through common government transactions — or better yet, performs them automatically. Snyder calls the concept MI Page — and perhaps more so than any of his statehouse peers, Snyder understands what it’ll take to get there. Thanks to his real-world IT project experience, Snyder knows the technology and grasps the importance of training and change management for the state workforce.

After two years in office, he’s left his stamp on how Michigan approaches technology. And by the time he’s done, citizens may look forward to their next digital interaction with state government.

Photo by Jessica Mulholland

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Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.