Monday, November 2, 2009

Realizing Savings Through the Implementation of a Technology Strategy

Last year as part of the House Modernization agenda, House Bill 1170 introduced the important step of requiring the state Chief Information Officer to consider the incorporation of innovative and low cost technology components in Oklahoma's IT strategy. The bill seeks to recognize the fact that the days of state government being forced to expend millions on expensive licensing agreements are in fact limited.

It is important for us to build on this momentum and advance additional legislation that encourages taxpayer cost-savings through the implementation of low cost technology options. Needless to say, some technology special interest groups may be very opposed to innovative low cost solutions. However across other government entities and inside of private corporations, low cost technology solutions are becoming more and more prevalent as these groups seek to save money.

These types of technology innovations can not only provide cost savings capabilities to state agencies, but also add convenience to those who need to interact with state government. For example, Oklahoma purchasing officers have in the past sometimes been hesitant to engage in private communications with prospective vendors once those vendors were committed to bidding on providing services to state government. Understandably, the purchasing officers did not want to be seen as providing a preference to a specific vendor and did not want to be accused of providing the vendor with information that allowed them to have an inside track on developing a successful bid. This unfortunate communication block may have been responsible for costing the taxpayers money, as other qualified bidders did not compete for state business because they were not sure about the bid details and did not want to risk incurring obligations they could not make a profit on.

Now, however, shared documentation could provide the solution to this type of problem at almost no cost to the state by allowing purchasing officials to respond to vendor inquiries in a public manner through a collaborative application that allows everyone to see the questions and the responses and eases the favoritism concern.

For example, all requests for proposals (RFPs) for contracts could be posted in a series of public collaborative documents with all bid specs having available attachments. Supplementary data such as attendee lists from any relevant public hearings could be posted, along with videos of hearings and RFP presentations. Most importantly, communications with the potential vendors on the RFPs would also be posted.

This type of openness would make it very hard for secret deals to ever be made behind closed doors.

In addition, I believe next year's modernization legislation should enable Oklahoma's Chief Information Officer to encourage a concept known as crowdsourcing. This effort begins when state agencies make sets of data easily available to the public. The use of these data will enable third-party application developers to analyze the data and produce informative applications that will allow the citizens to hold government responsible like never before.

These are some of the concepts I hope we are able to advance with next year's modernization legislation.

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