States Show Technological Prowess

The five Federal Technology Leadership Awards that were given to state information technology projects were nominated by the Intergovernmental Enterprise Panel (IEP) working in a partnership with the National Association of State Information Resource Executives. IEP was chartered by the Government Information Technology Services Working Group to improve intergovernmental service delivery to the public by removing barriers and developing incentives for excellence. Here are five such examples:

PROCESSING CLAIMS

The Winners: Pennsylvania

In response to Social Security Administration research predicting a 60 percent increase in the volume of disability claims by 2000, Pennsylvania's Bureau of Disability Determination agreed to become part of a national demonstration for network automation. From 1992 to 1994, the bureau received $7.4 million to implement a local-area network (LAN) architecture linking branch offices in Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre and Greensburg.

Development of the 200-node network involved a mainframe, 486 workstations, a LAN operating system and special software. After conducting business process reengineering, the bureau modified commercial claims-processing programs to adapt to the new processes.

The LAN provides access to e-mail, CD-ROM reference libraries and desktop faxing capabilities. It also provides on-line access to the Social Security Administration's eligibility files. Last year, the LAN enabled the bureau to process 25 percent more claims than the previous year without having to increase staffing. (Gil Intrieri, information systems manager, Department of Labor and Industry; 717-783-3620 gilbert.intrieri@ssa.gov)

DIGITAL SIGNATURES

The Winners: Utah

Utah's Department of Commerce recently embarked on a program to implement technology for digital signatures, which are encrypted data digests only accessible via special electronic keys.

Digital signatures help certify that participants in electronic commerce programs are who they say they are.

In addition to implementing the technology, the state also enacted legislation that eliminated legal hurdles blocking the use of digital signatures. As a result, 16 other state governments and many private-sector organizations have enacted similar legislation. Utah's Digital Signature Legislation has been adopted as the national model by the American Bar Association, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and several international trade organizations. (George Danielson, legal counsel, Utah Commerce Department; 801-530-6701)

ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS

The Winners: North Carolina

Until recently, North Carolina's Office of the State Controller had a labor-intensive job trying to pull together all the appropriate financial information required to draw a clear picture about the state's economy. Workers did not have access to automated reporting tools and consolidated statewide views of data were assembled manually.

In an effort to improve management of its accounting system, the state migrated to a client-server system in which a mainframe serves as a central repository for financial data that can be easily accessed from desktop computers. The system is used for a wide variety of applications, including purchasing, accounts payable, project tracking and inventory control.

By last summer, client-server technology had been implemented at 66 North Carolina agencies supporting more than 3,500 users. It has resulted in better access to information and more effective management of financial activities. The controller's office estimates that the system enabled the state to avoid a one-time charge of about $42 million by implementing the technology on a statewide basis instead of agency by agency. In addition, the standardized technology is expected to save the state about $20 million annually. (Chuck Cooper, assistant state controller; 919-715-2858 ccooper@controller.osc.state.nc.us)

IMPROVING CASH MANAGEMENT

The Winners: Massachusetts

The 1992 Cash Management Improvement Act requires that states measure and pay interest to the federal government on funds drawn prior to disbursement and clearing. Shortly after the law was enacted, the Massachusetts State Treasury began reengineering its business processes to create an automated drawdown of funds from the federal government.

All state programs using federal funds were registered in a database that automatically calculates the amount of federal financial participation. At the end of each day, the State Treasury executes a single, comprehensive drawdown for all departments and programs. Upon receipt of the draw, confirmed accounting information is automatically posted to the system.

This centralized system has eliminated a significant amount of manual labor and data-entry errors. Cumulative interest from Massachusetts to the federal government has been less than $150,000 in the three years the program has been operational-compared to what the state projects would have been $2 million a year without the system. The state estimates the return on investment on the project-measured as interest expense and labor saved as a result of the centralized draw-is 818 percent. (Kathy Sheppard, director, Payee/Payments and Operations Bureau, Office of Comptroller; 617-727-5000 ksheppard@state.ma.us)

REGISTERING CONTRACTS

The Winners: California

Bidding opportunities for contracts handled by the state of California used to have to be advertised in the California State Contracts Register, which was published twice a month and mailed to 7,000 subscribers. Two years ago, California's Department of General Services replaced that publication with an Internet version called the Electronic California State Contracts Register (www.dgs.ca.gov).

The electronic version of the register reduced lead times for placing bid advertisements from an average of five weeks to two days. It also eliminated printing and distribution costs, and significantly reduced the publishing workload.

Bid advertisements on the Electronic California State Contracts Register can be updated daily and accessed by anyone with a computer and a modem. (Susan Hogg, manager, electronic commerce, California Department of General Services; 916-324-0544 shogg@dgs.ca.gov)

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