Idaho agencies go to bat for IT shop

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Idaho government needed to modernize its core network infrastructure and core security systems, but with a declining general fund the state’s information technology projects had a difficult time competing for scarce fiscal resources.

Fortunately, leaders in the state’s agencies stepped forward to support central technology projects to the governor and legislature,” said Idaho Chief Technology Officer Greg Zickau.

“We really appreciated them coming forward,” Zickau said in an interview with StateScoop. “We’ve seen a positive change in culture and my peers in the agencies have just been fantastic to work with. They acknowledge the improving dynamics, leading in turn to more trust and collaboration.”

He continued,” It’s been a really healthy thing. We’ve been able to pursue central IT projects based on meeting needs rather than twisting arms.”

Idaho recently went through some governance changes in technology, altering the resource management council that had been in place for the past 17 years to the new Idaho Technology Authority, which focuses more on policy and projects related to internal operations.

The ITA, established in statute effective July of this year, was created by the state’s legislature to provide oversight for technology investment, recognizing technology as the primary means of meeting citizen’s needs.

As for projects, Zickau highlighted a number the state is working on, but he is most proud of the Idaho Education Network. That project, which started four years ago, expanded the state’s expanded broadband infrastructure to create a high speed networking connecting all Idaho public schools.

A big focus of the IEN program is linking teachers offering advanced courses to students in some of the state’s rural areas.

“In some of our rural districts, students were seeking higher-math courses like advanced calculus, but there wasn’t a qualified teacher,” Zickau said. “The IEN makes it possible to connect those students with qualified teachers to provide the courses the students need regardless of geography.”

The IEN project recently won an award from the National Journal for Digital Innovation, beating out projects like Google Fiber in Kansas City.

The project has helped students meet entry requirements for prestigious schools like MIT and Cal Polytechnic University.

“Obviously, the students and teachers made it happen because of their hard work, but I’m proud to know we helped,” he said.

Zickau said the state is also undertaking a large telephone initiative to tie some of its phone systems together to reduce costs.

“This is an area where we believe we can get better service for less cost,” Zickau said.

The basic strategy has been to collapse older, less capable systems onto the modern systems provided by larger departments.

“Thus far, we’ve eliminated about 25 unnecessary phone systems,” he said.

Zickau added that some agencies that are experimenting with a bring your own device policy for mobile services. He said a basic mobile device policy is in place with few restrictions on users, allowing individual agencies to tailor policies to their specific needs. Zickau clarified that appropriate policies and management systems will be a continuing topic of discussion.

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Greg Zickau, Idaho, Idaho Education Network, Idaho Technology Authority, Mobility, States, Tech News
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