Florida: Bring Back the State CIO

Carol Henton photo

Nearly two years ago, in June of 2012, the legislature and governor of the fourth largest state in the union eliminated and defunded the State of Florida’s Agency for Enterprise Information Technology –and it did away with the position of its State Chief Information Officer (CIO).  At the time, politicians felt that the agency was an unnecessary public expenditure – one which the state could not afford to fund. Considering we live in an age where mobility, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and social media are all converging to deliver better, more efficient and effective constituent services, Florida's action to effectively eliminate technology leadership from state management was a disturbing decision – and particularly so for a state of its size.  Their decision meant that information technology (IT) investment decisions would be made in decentralized, disconnected silos, which wastes both time and taxpayer dollars.

The good news is that state officials now realize they cannot afford to be without a centralized department overseeing IT investments for the citizens of Florida.  Led by State Senator Jeremy Ring, and with the support of the leadership in both the Florida House and Senate, House Bill 7073 will establish an Agency for State Technology with an empowered State CIO who will have responsibility for the state’s two main data centers and the authority for IT decision-making, along with a new Technology Advisory Council that will provide much needed input and expertise to state officials charged with governing Florida’s IT operation.  The new agency will have more staff and additional resources than its predecessor agency, including a modest budget to hire outside experts for much needed advice and strategic direction.

And this legislation can’t come fast enough. In fact, the non-partisan organization Florida TaxWatch found last year the result of the department’s elimination was “a fragmented system that has lead to inefficient use of millions of tax dollars annually.”  Their brief went on to conclude that “a centralized IT agency – with appropriate policy and implementation authority – will improve services to citizens by standardizing processes across all agencies (therefore removing duplications), increasing accountability, and allowing for better purchasing through economics of scale”. 

Adding to that dire message, when the Center for Digital Government conducted its biennial survey of states – rating states on their efforts to employ best practices, policies, and progress in their use of digital technologies to serve citizens and streamline operations – it gave Florida the grade of “D”, the lowest grade possible.

We at the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) fully support Florida’s legislative plan to establish an Agency for State Technology.  Now is the time for Florida’s elected officials to support this proposal that will save resources, taxpayer dollars, and deliver more efficient and effective constituent services. 

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