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Broadband a Key Part of Michigan's Shared Services Push

Chief Data Officer Eric Swanson is overseeing a new information management program that will bring together Michigan's resources.

Photo: Eric Swanson, Director of the Michigan Center for Shared Solutions and Technology Partnerships and state Chief Data Officer/Photo courtesy of Eric Swanson

A few years ago, Michigan Shared Services Director Eric Swanson noticed something that grabbed his attention.

Technology solutions for delivering shared services -- like a BusinessObjects enterprise reporting solution; a customized and homegrown extract, transform and load (ETL) technology; and address cleansing technology -- were underutilized because they were embedded (some might say buried) within the state's mature GIS and data warehouse platforms.

So Michigan CIO Ken Theis tasked Swanson, the director of the state's Center for Shared Solutions and Technology Partnerships, with transforming those back-end tools into front-end services that could be shared by state and local agencies across Michigan. For the past few years, Swanson has been leading the construction of a set of sharable enterprise tools.

It proved to be one of the foundational steps in Michigan's efforts to build out shared services and to improve collaboration. Now the state is aiming to push that sharing of data and services to the next level. In mid-July, the Department of Technology, Management and Budget announced its new Information Knowledge Management Program.

"Creating this program provides [the department] and the state with a comprehensive portfolio of modern information, connectivity, communications and technology management strategies and tools," according to the department. The initiative builds upon what the state has been doing for years, Theis said. Swanson will lead the effort, taking the role of chief data officer.

Collaborating through data sharing and making tools available for shared services will be among the primary goals.

"The bottom line is there's a major bundle here in which we've been putting these foundational pieces together," Swanson said about BusinessObjects, the ETL technology and address cleansing solution. In the future, the state will institutionalize those kinds of shared solutions even further, he said.

The state also intends to construct a common "citizen index and master address file." In time, the program will also identify redundant data sets, bring disparate data sets together, cleanse data and support health IT projects that are under way.

For those projects and others, Michigan will utilize the state's data warehouse, which offers 3.8 terabytes of data supplied by seven state departments, as well as Michigan's $30 million GIS data library that's publicly available.

Swanson has taken on another line of business that may at first seem unexpected. For the past year, he said, he's been traveling throughout the state to listen to the needs of local governments, public safety and private companies. He's realized that there's a big need for high-speed broadband and demand for 24/7 services online. So another component of the Information Knowledge Management Program will be to develop "shared network partnerships" that use stimulus grants, public-private agreements and other sources to improve connectivity.

Among many reasons, broadband is vital, Swanson said, because without it the state can't effectively deliver the shared solutions and services.

"For example, the state could conduct business off a local system if we have the right interconnectivity; locals could operate off a state system. So the bottom line is the transformation in terms of data sharing -- a foundational component is this integrated high-speed network.

Swanson will be leading these projects as the chief data officer, a position that more governments are creating. He said the post is recognition that data sharing is important and has business value.