Madison, Wis. — Developing an improved IT infrastructure and enterprise plan for Wisconsin is critical to both economic development and government efficiency, according to presenters at the second annual Digital Government Summit held Monday at the Monona Terrace.
Discussion focused on how public and private entities can coordinate efforts to increase access to broadband networks, educational services, and business technology. In addition to technology sessions, conference speakers discussed how Wisconsin can promote the state’s economic future by developing a more cost-effective, integrated, accountable and balanced portfolio of government IT services.
“Economic development must be discussed at all levels if we are going to succeed,” said Gina Frank-Reece, deputy secretary for Wisconsin’s Department of Administration.
According to state Senator Ted Kanavas, Wisconsin wants to provide incentives to companies to deploy broadband technologies throughout the state. “We have a tremendous state to build on in Wisconsin, and our higher education systems are a big component of that,” Kanavas added.
New direction in state IT
The Department of Administration organized the conference, attended by an estimated 400 IT professionals and government officials, along with Government Technology magazine. The department used the conference to introduce a comprehensive enterprise IT plan for Wisconsin that was designed by the state’s chief information officer, Matt Miszewski.
The plan is a cross-agency approach to improve the state’s management and investments in IT resources. It will represent a change in thinking and activities for information technology development for the state’s various departments and agencies. The goal is to better direct IT efforts that support business strategies and desired outcomes with a mission to create a unified system of accountability and performance measurement.
Miszeksi told the audience that the state has many IT initiatives that are more cutting-edge than efforts in the private sector, but there have been no performance metrics in place to measure these improvements. The problem is compounded by the fact that divisions such as the Department of Electronic Government, which Miszeksi was formerly in charge of, can look like “political footballs” with a history of being handled wrong.
“It’s important that the system enable us to track and communicate IT information clearly in service to the business,” Miszeksi said. “Clearly they’re insufficient for us to be successful in government and business … We have a good story to tell in Wisconsin and we’re not getting it told right.”
According to Miszewski, the DOA will be scheduling a series of meetings throughout the state to brief government IT professionals and officials about the initiative and to get their input.
On the grid
The conference opened with a keynote address by Larry Landweber, internet pioneer and professor emeritus of computer sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Landweber discussed how optical networking and grid computing are contributing to Wisconsin’s future.
Grid computing is intended for efficiently processing massive volumes of data by using existing computing resources, including mainframes and common desktop computers. UW-Madison grid-computing researchers receive millions of research dollars a year.
Landweber suggested that this technology holds tremendous potential to help further economic development in the state. Landweber said the technlogy is being proven and used in genomic, aerospace and semiconductor research and is currently used by companies such as Micron, Oracle and Boeing.
One of the first grid-computing initiatives, started in the 1980s, is the Condor project. Landweber said Condor was developed by faculty and students at UW-Madison to use otherwise idle workstations to solve complex problems, sometimes without the user even knowing it.
“Most of the grid projects in the world today are based on the Condor platform,” Landweber said.
Nationally, grid computing receives hundreds of millions of dollars in research funding. Miron Livny, Condor’s founder and a professor of computer science at UW-Madison, leads a team of 40 staff and students that uses more than 3,500 CPU’s on the UW-Madison campus and receives about $5 million in research dollars from the federal government.
Robert Gold, the vice president of IT strategy firm Balanced Scorecard Collaborative, offered his advice for building IT. From Gold’s point of view, the key to moving forward with an IT network is responding to the growing demand for services while at the same time battling the idea that it can be done without additional funding.
“I believe you can’t assign a value, since IT enables value creation in an organization,” Gold said. “IT is simply part of the whole strategy. Perceptions of quality are managed so they’re no longer part of the managing dialogue.”
John Amundson, IT director of administrative services for the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, said networking and the study of how IT can take the state economy were good reasons to attend.
“It’s always nice to hear what people have on their minds on the issue of technology moving closer to a shared infrastructure,” Amundson said. “There’s a lot going on in the state. We’re always looking for a little detail on what’s going on and what’s going to happen.”