If you seek to create a consolidated e-government service network, coveting your neighbour’s IT assets may be a good way to begin, according to one high-profile American CIO. Teresa Takai, CIO of the State of Michigan, said one way she keeps her network up to date is by “stealing [ideas] from others, especially the Canadians.”
During her keynote at 2006 Showcase Ontario, held recently in Toronto, Takai said Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal governments are leaders in consolidating automated services. She described challenges to e-services consolidation faced by the state of Michigan in a talk titled: The Road Less Traveled — How Centralized IT is Making the Difference.
“Canada is able to offer larger and broader access to its networks because officials view services not as isolated offerings of separate governments, but as a consolidated asset that crosses boundaries,” she said. Among Canada’s notable achievements, Takai included Nova Scotia’s secure services portal for the province and Ontario’s increasing adoption of self-service kiosks.
Takai praised Nova Scotia’s initiative in offering its citizens a one-stop portal for information and access to government. And she said that Ontario could be considered a leader in the use of self-service kiosks, citing the success of kiosks located in malls that are used to update driver’s licenses and plates. She also extolled what she called the “PayPal concept” of providing citizens a single online channel to pay for government services.
“Throughout the world, I see a movement towards consolidation of automated services, and I look to emulate some of the advances in Canada.”
Michigan launched its consolidation program in 2002 and Takai was recruited to head the initiative the following year.
She said the program, so far, has brought together 19 separate IT organizations under one umbrella and has shrunk the workforce by as much as 15 per cent. “We were able to reduce staff with zero layoffs by offering early retirement options.” One of Takai’s greatest challenges was to explain to employees the rationale behind such an amalgamation. “A lot of people were upset because they didn’t want to move out of their comfort zone. They were used to providing services through multiple organizations and couldn’t see the need for consolidation.”