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Best Practices Rise to the Top in Digital States Survey

States honored for tech leadership in eight categories.

by / October 19, 2012

The 2012 Digital States Survey, conducted every two years by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), amasses an impressive inventory of strategies employed by states across the country to advance state priorities using technology. Entries received are analyzed by a CDG panel of analysts, executives and Senior Fellows, who score responses in several categories. Weighted scores generate an overall grade for each state, as well as a list of the highest achievers in individual categories. The notable examples of best practices are:

Adaptive Leadership | Iowa
Enterprise ICT | Utah
Finance and Administration | West Virginia
Public Safety | California
Health and Human Services | Michigan
Transportation | Tennessee
Commerce, Labor and Taxation -- Economic, Business, Community and Workforce Development | Louisiana
Citizen Engagement | Michigan


Best Practice: Adaptive Leadership
State leadership is engaged in redefining the role of the state CIO, and encouraging IT consolidation to ensure disciplined budgetary choices. Projects include consolidation of the state’s email systems and an application to support transparency of all state financial data. A website standardization committee is streamlining content management systems and site design across executive branch agencies. The Iowa Innovation Council, formed by the Iowa Economic Development Council, is charged with crafting concrete plans to support the state’s innovators in bringing their ideas to market.  


Best Practice: Enterprise ICT
Utah has an extensive catalog of IT assets in the cloud, following the large-scale consolidation effort that began in 2005 with the creation of the Department of Technology Services. Completion of the state’s migration to Google Apps for Government is targeted for fall 2012, cutting per-employee email costs by nearly 50 percent and furthering collaboration goals through the use of document sharing. The state released an updated iPad User’s Guide in 2012 to support increasing numbers of mobile tablet users. Effective state support of a BYOD policy is evidenced by the fact that 23 percent of all mobile devices now in use by the state workforce are owned by employees.

A robust, statewide network also supports all school and university facilities. Business continuity is boosted by a comprehensive backup data center established in Richfield, linked to the state’s primary data center via a 10 GB network backbone. The Great Utah Shakeout event in April 2012, a large-scale emergency preparedness exercise, tested the readiness of systems involved in emergency communications and response. Utah has single, integrated systems, hosted in its private cloud, to handle the state’s financials, payroll, and human resource functions. Migration to this single sign-on system brought significantly improved processing times for the state. Payroll for the state workforce is now complete in 3.5 hours, as opposed to 39 hours.

Through a partnership with NIC-USA, Utah offers citizens a way to conduct more than 1,000 types of transactions with the state online. The state has also made significant additions in the number of sets of open data it publishes, through a concentrated effort by data-intensive agencies to provide GIS information in standard formats. In 2012, 126,000 such data sets are available, up from 2,000 in 2010.

Oversight of the state’s technical architecture is carried out by the Architecture Review Board, which meets frequently and publishes related updates online. The group has set more than 100 standards intended to reduce costs and maximize the effectiveness of technology related spending. Utah measures the performance of its technology services and systems with a sophisticated evaluation and reporting structure. A variety of criteria are continuously measured and compared with targeted metrics. Recent results from June 2012 reveal that 100 percent of projects were completed on time, and 97.5 percent of projects were within their allotted budget.   



Best Practice: Finance and Administration
West Virginia
The Delinquent Citation Collection System represents a partnership between the state tax department and local governments to recover millions of dollars in unpaid traffic fees. This self-funded Web application was instrumental in recovering $180,000 in delinquent fees for 58 West Virginia cities in 2011. Another 100 cities are currently deploying the system, with full adoption statewide expected in the next two years. 

West Virginia is also engaged in a comprehensive modernization of the state classification and compensation plan. Working with an external partner, the Department of Personnel has obtained more than 17,000 employee questionnaires on current responsibilities and qualifications. Outreach and communication include a website and call center to help encourage understanding and participation. Targeted for completion in December 2012, the project aims to improve the current system of state job classification, standard evaluation methods as well as establish a sound philosophy for employee compensation.



Best Practice: Public Safety
The 911 division in California confronted a staggering challenge. Mandatory routing of emergency calls to the state’s Highway Patrol, coupled with the rapid growth of mobile phone use resulted in nearly half of all 911 callers getting busy signals. The cross-jurisdictional Routing on Empirical Data (RED) project created a statewide online, GIS-based database that unified millions of records, enabling much more efficient call routing. The system easily offset its costs by enabling 911 centers to answer 98 percent of emergency calls within 10 seconds without hiring additional staff.

The Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS) is combining more than 50 California databases and paper-based processes for the Department of Corrections into an automated offender repository that will standardize processes across facilities and regions of the state. Other improvements include a new automated victim notification system which communicates inmate release information and a registry which streamlines the protective and restraining order process, providing coordinated information for court and law enforcement officials.


Best Practice: Health and Human Services
Mi-Bridges Self-Service application, launched originally in 2009, allows Michigan citizens to apply online for food assistance programs. As of 2011, using this successful model, the state added the ability to apply for the full range of available benefits, including energy assistance, cash, medical and daycare assistance. Clients of the system can now create a case management account to make adjustments and maintain their benefits from anywhere they can get online, saving trips to agency offices. The state partnered with the United Way to register and train more than 700 community organizations involved in service delivery throughout the state on the application.

This year, Michigan also became one of the first states to implement a Health Care Information Exchange, which automates health data sharing throughout the state. The state’s Medicaid provider network and its human services management system operate on the same role-based identity management system, allowing providers to access only the beneficiary data they need.



Best Practice: Transportation
Automatic Self-Service Electronic Terminals (ASSETS) are helping the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security improve service by cutting down wait times for drivers renewing or replacing drivers' licenses at driver service centers across the state. A total of 72 iPad kiosks are available for onsite customer use at 26 facilities, allowing them to complete their transaction using a custom application, submit payment and receive their license within minutes. The iPad’s small form factor, touchscreen keyboard and wireless connectivity made them the best choice to replace legacy machines. 


Best Practice: Commerce, Labor and Taxation -- Economic, Business, Community and Workforce Development
The Louisiana Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive program offers significant tax credits to specific types of technology companies to encourage the growth of these innovative sectors in the state, and bring related economic benefits. Credits offered include 25 percent for digital media production expenses, and 35 percent for in-state labor. The state’s efforts have been successful in recruiting and retaining major communications and technology companies. Support extends to higher education, which is reaping dividends: nearly 5,000 software development students have graduated from Louisiana universities like Louisiana State University and Shreveport in the past five years.  


Best Practice: Citizen Engagement
Demonstrating a strong commitment to open government, Michigan offers regularly updated dashboards measuring government performance in major service areas that span multiple agencies. Users can also view more granular data, down the program level. Much more detailed state spending information is now also available. Open data efforts include the addition of APIs and multiple data formats. Since 2010, Michigan has launched 70 new websites and applications for citizens. The state’s website receives 58 million monthly page views, where visitors now enjoy an enhanced search function, and more a more uniform design. New standards on both design and security simplify the development of new Web features. 

The state has established guidelines for the development of mobile apps, and added auto-detect features given a documented jump in traffic originating from mobile devices. New mobile apps offered to residents include a GIS-based camping and recreation locator, mobile fishing licenses and 511 travel info. On the employee side, iPhone and iPad devices are making more than 3,000 Human Services field staff more productive. Their gains of four hours per week in productivity are helping inform best practices that can be used for other mobile workers in the future.

Michigan engages its citizens via 137 social media platforms, stretching far beyond Facebook and Twitter. Gov. Rick Snyder conducted a Town Hall meeting in July that drew 8,000 visitors, and a state-sanctioned “Social Media Day” aimed to further inform citizens on how to interact with the state. Across platforms, Michigan has a captive social media audience of 2.5 million people. 

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Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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