State CIOs clamor for enterprise IT

NASCIO calls on federal government to help states modernize to deliver services like Medicare
By Anthony Brino
03:30 PM
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Interoperability, IT funding and the yet-to-be-built public safety broadband network are a few of the national issues weighing heavy on the minds of state CIOs in these early days of 2013.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) is urging the federal government to prioritize information exchange, cybersecurity and, more broadly, what the group calls a modernization of regulations and funding streams for state IT.

“It’s past time to modernize how federal agencies work with states to deliver key services, from Medicare benefits to homeland security," NASCIO President and Nebraska state CIO Brenda Decker said in a media release of the association’s 2013 federal policy priorities. "Current federal requirements and directives mean that states must spend hundreds of millions to build and support duplicative systems. Cloud services are something our children are using and lightning fast information exchange is a simple click away.”

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Several states, like Virginia, are planning or implementing enterprise IT projects across state agencies, with cloud-based data management, virtualization and shared services. Generally though, NASCIO says that some of the “foremost barriers” to states using enterprise IT stem from the Office of Management and Budget’s federal program rules for state IT funding.

The result has a been a siloed funding approach, NASCIO explained, “where each grant funds IT infrastructure separately,” leaving “no incentive for states to seek enterprise solutions and shared services models."

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Beyond that, NASCIO says federated information models could help solve local interoperability problems — especially in health and human services. Each state uses “its own complex and expensive eligibility and benefits management system to support Medicaid and other publicly-funded financial assistance programs,” NASCIO said. “If coordinated, this could be a standards-based national development effort — delivered at the state level through a ‘federated’ model, saving billions and resulting in more consistent service delivery outcomes.”

NASCIO is also hoping to break ground on the public safety wireless broadband network, created as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The network gives a dedicated broadband spectrum to first responders and public safety agencies, and it potentially offers public safety “the radical innovation that mobile applications provided average citizens over the last five years,” NASCIO said.

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The 44,000 tower wireless broadband network will be planned, built and operated by the First Responder Network Authority, which is tasked with offering reliable coverage in both rural and urban areas with a starting budget of $7 billion.

NASCIO wants to help streamline and shape the network, offering input on governance and business models. Specifically, state CIOs are interested in “co-locating equipment on existing towers and sharing the spectrum on a secondary basis with private entities, public utilities and other public services and citizens.”

And looking back to the states, NASCIO is encouraging the adoption of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), an XML-based information exchange standards model, across state, local and federal governments. “NIEM should be integrated into state government enterprise architecture and data management strategy specifically for planning and implementing intergovernmental information exchanges,” NASCIO said.

All 50 states and 19 federal agencies are committed to using NIEM, to various degrees. With version 2.1 currently in use, from 2009, NIEM is set to release version 3.0 in fall 2013. NASCIO is encouraging NIEM to expedite version 3.0, “to sustain the progress we have made in gaining adoption of NIEM by state government and our industry partners.”