Colorado invests in IT in proposed 2014 budget

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During the recession, Colorado made significant cuts to its information technology budget to combat the decrease in revenue coming into the state government, but now the state is starting to reinvest in the state’s technology resources.

In an interview with StateScoop, Kristin Russell, Colorado’s secretary of technology and chief information officer, said Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget released last Friday includes a number of large technology investments, both in back-end systems that run state government and public-facing projects that directly impact citizens.

“IT is a big deal in this budget,” said Russell, noting the budget still needs to be approved by Colorado’s state legislature before taking effect. “We are very, very happy that the Hickenlooper administration understands the value of investing in IT and are starting to put money back into it. As I have always said, IT is like a garden — if you don’t tend to it, then it will die.”

The state proposed budget for Colorado is $24.03 billion, of which $9 billion is from the General Fund. Relative to the expected FY 2013-14 appropriation, these amounts represent increases of $1.02 billion (4.4 percent) in total funds, and $389 million (4.5 percent) in the General Fund.

Russell said the information technology spend is typically around $300 million and is expected to increase this year. She said the proposed budget includes investments in both back-office technology and public-facing programs aimed at directly impacting the lives of citizens.

Some of the projects around internal IT include investments in Secure Colorado, the state’s first comprehensive security strategy; reducing the more than 1,200 applications currently in use, many of which are redundant; bolstering network resiliency; and an increased use of shared services.

“We’re in the stage of where we know that we need to spend money to save money,” said Russell, the state’s secretary of technology since February 2011. “We want to move to more of a service portfolio model for IT, where we create a service catalog for agencies that they can pick what they need from.”

One of the biggest, and most public projects, is a modernization of the state’s information system at the Division of Motor Vehicles that is being tackled via a two-prong approach: first, Colorado will invest in a new back-end system to replace the more than 20-year-old one currently in place and prone to outages. The second is investing in new mobile technology that will allow citizens to do more transactions, such a renewing a driver’s license or a registration, on their phone as opposed to coming into an office.

The goal is to get the average wait time of citizens from 60 minutes to just 15 minutes. The new system would cost $93.4 million, with the cost being split over two years starting in 2014, if funding is approved.

The state is also looking to make improvements to its public safety communications network, which integrates the radio signals of first responders across the state so they can communicate during an emergency, such as the floods that hit the state earlier this year.

The system handled millions of transactions in the first primary days of the flood and was due for improvements so it could work at an increased level.

Russell said Colorado is also modernizing its business systems, implementing a new enterprise resource planning system. While the system was officially included in last year’s budget, it shows the continued effort the state is making in improving its information technology.

“All of this is very exciting,” Russell said. “It’s a huge acknowledgement from the administration to me and my team that we have the credibility and the ability to manage this increase in funding.”

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Colorado, John Hickenlooper, Kristin Russell, State & Local News, States
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