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Virginia Government Agencies and Schools Honored with Technology Awards

Twenty-four municipalities, state agencies and schools were honored at the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium.

Twenty-four municipalities, state agencies and schools were honored this week as recipients of the Governor’s Technology Awards in Virginia. The awards were presented at the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium (COVITS) on Monday, Sept. 26.

The award-winning projects were chosen from nine categories, ranging from online citizen services to IT projects in higher education.

Lynchburg, Va., was one of two winners recognized for using IT to improve efficiency. Lynchburg implemented an enterprise work management system (WMS) to handle work orders, sharing of work request information, and tracking assets and related costs.

Previously the city’s Public Works Department was operating on an obsolete and unsupported legacy system, as was Lynchburg’s 311 call center. The WMS is now being used by a majority of the city’s operating departments, increasing efficiency and automating processes.

There were some challenges in developing the WMS, however.

Mike Goetz, Lynchburg’s IT director, said that because the system was being used throughout all departments, reaching consensus for a set of common business rules wasn’t easy. In addition, there were some technical obstacles that had to be overcome.

“Another challenge was in developing the software interface between the core work management application (Lucity) and the application used by our Community Development Department (TrakiT from CRW),” Goetz said in an e-mail to Government Technology. “This interface had to be custom developed.”

But the project turned out well, he said, particularly for 311 calls. Goetz called the system “a seamless workflow” and explained that service requests are generated in the WMS by staff taking phone calls, or from submission via Lynchburg’s website. Work orders are generated in the WMS and sent directly to the appropriate city department.

“Our reaction to winning the award has been one of gratitude for being recognized, with a small bit of pride for accomplishing what we know to be a large and complex project,” Goetz added.

Another of the honorees was the Virginia Department of Education (DOE). The department took home the top prize in the category of “Innovation in K-12 Education,” for its Interactive Chinese Language/Culture Game Module.

The course, developed by the DOE’s online virtual school program Virtual Virginia and Alelo Inc., involves using “virtual humans” that interact with a learner using automated speech recognition and multimedia content. Students learn numbers, dates and times in the abbreviated course.

Tammy McGraw, director of educational technology at the DOE, told Government Technology in an e-mail that the department was excited to receive the award, particularly given the number of technology projects going on in Virginia.

She said one of the biggest challenges Alelo had in developing the Interactive Chinese Language/Culture Game Module was designing virtual humans to behave in a culturally appropriate way.

To solve the issue, the company created automated speech recognition technology that’s optimized for how learners speak Chinese, instead of native speakers.

“This takes into account not only the learner audience, cultural and linguistic norms of the target culture, but also best practice drawing from theories in the learning, socio-behavioral and computer sciences,” McGraw explained.

She also said the Department of Education has submitted a proposal requesting funding to complete the entire course; if successful, the department would like to implement it next year.

A full list of award program categories and the winners is available on the COVITS website. Entries were evaluated by an independent group of government executives from Virginia, including representatives from the state executive branch, localities and higher education.

“This year’s technology award recipients continue the state’s traditions of using the best and brightest ideas from our employees and state agencies to improve customer service, make government more efficient and better conduct the taxpayers’ businesses,” said Jeff Caldwell, press secretary for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“By annually recognizing the important efforts that our agencies do to use technology to improve the operations of our government, we are able to encourage entrepreneurial ideas, foster a spirit of innovation, and save taxpayers money through innovative adaptations of available technology,” he added.

Editor’s Note: COVITS is organized by Government Technology Executive Events, a business division of e.Republic Inc., Government Technology magazine’s parent company.