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Government-Focused Information Exchange Goes Live

A new information network is putting the collective wisdom of public sector IT agencies within reach of their colleagues and trying to solve some of the big problems that vex government.

A new online portal aims to ease the innovative process and empower collaboration by creating a place for government to share projects and best practices in a format adapted for use by all.

The government Digital Transformation Exchange (DTE), an online platform powered by ProudCity, went live on Jan. 30 and is believed to be the first such partnership in the nation.

It’s the brainchild of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an independent 501(c)(3) science and tech policy think tank, and a partnership with a collection of state and local governments. 

Founding DTE members include the states of Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wisconsin as well as Montgomery County, Md., and the Illinois villages of Hinsdale and Wilmette.

The platform, which is free for agencies to join and to submit projects, evolved from conversations in late 2016 with the state of Illinois around how better to learn from others and realize its own IT modernization, ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro said.

As the two entities discussed the issue, they realized they wanted to enable the kind of information-sharing that was freer than at industry institutions, less specific than vendor solutions and quicker than what was typically found in journals.

“We wanted something that was fast, open and vendor neutral. We said, ‘Why don’t we just try to do something ourselves?’” Castro said, describing the portal as a way to share not just best practices, but also lessons learned.

Kirk Lonbom, acting secretary for the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), said via email that the state’s hope is that sharing success stories between governments will “allow public-sector entities to realize digital transformation options and best practices,” and avoid “early adoption missteps" and "ensure that taxpayer dollars are used more efficiently.”

“The DTE allows for unified collaboration among government entities in a way that is not presently available. In the current environment, the public sector has limited options to find best practices such as paying consultants to provide the material and/or individually contacting governmental units to access information,” he said.

The DTE, he added, is a “conduit to collectively and easily share information,” and its launch is “only the beginning of what we hope will grow into a strong and vast digital resource for the public sector.”

Arizona also saw the opportunity to not only share their own experiences with others in government, but also to draw from the collective knowledge of the greater public sector.

“Being a part of the Digital Transformation Exchange is a logical next step and incredible opportunity to collaborate with other states who are also doing pioneering work that we can learn from and, of course, share what we have learned as well,” said Megan Rose, director of communications for the Arizona Department of Administration.

Not too far in the future, ITIF plans to establish working groups on topics including participation and content generation, to give members a louder voice and let them drive the conversation, ITIF research analyst Alan McQuinn explained.

“Right now, with governance, what we’re trying to do is spin this off so states and localities have a more active role than where they’re planning now,” he said.

The effort also included help from founding members Government Technology and Governing, which are part of the e.Republic family of publications.

Paul Taylor, e.Republic's chief content officer, described the platform as a “shared resource” that is a "sort of variation on crowd-sourcing,” built and run by those who care about it.

“There is good stuff happening in states, and rather than reinventing wheels, steal [ideas] from a neighboring or a far-away jurisdiction that has gotten their wits around an issue or a problem that you’re facing. This allows for that free exchange in an organized way,” Taylor said.

The website currently features seven initial case studies from state and local agencies that are founding members themselves, and are written to include problems they focused on, solutions found and the ultimate impact.

“The approach that we took with this is to standardize a template for these best practices. So that way, we can start to compare these different approaches that states and cities are using as they try to address these various problems across the country,” e.Republic Chief Innovation Officer Dustin Haisler said.

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.