28 Sep WTN Interview with Governor Doyle
Editor’s Note: We recently had the opportunity to discuss the role of technology in state government to deliver more efficient information technology based services – internally and externally for constituents. The Governor also commented on programs to help entrepreneurs with investment funding and health insurance. He also shared his thoughts on the challenges government faces as it attempts to limit unsolicited e-mail.
WTN: How can the state use technology to run a more effective, efficient state government?
Governor Doyle: We are in the process of many unified efforts to upgrade the states computing backbone with BadgerNet2. We need to really modernize the communications systems by which we as a state communicate with each other. And how we communicate with the public. We’re focused on dealing with a system that I came into that has, at last count, over 1100 different servers – many of them are unable to communicate with each other.
The citizens of Wisconsin may have to enter data repeatedly or go to different offices or web sites repeatedly. If you buy a boat; you need to register at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but the trailer for the boat is registered the Department of Transportation (DOT). The information gathered in both those applications is almost identical. We are really looking to create the kind of system in Wisconsin with which a person will be able to deal with the state and not have to worry so much if they’re in exactly the right department or not and where they will not have enter identical information multiple times. The goal of the exterior communications is that citizens will have greater ease in dealing with the state government on the Internet.
On the other hand, in the interior communications within state government, we are finding there are vast efficiencies in both enhanced productivity and savings by modernizing our system and by making it more cohesive and responsive. So there’s a lot of effort going into this effort (utilization of technology) in state government.
WTN: How does the modernization of the state IT system fit with your other initiatives?
Governor Doyle: I want to make sure in my real drive that Wisconsin competes in the “high end economy.” One of the things that we have to demonstrate to the state, the country and the world is that we are a high tech state. How a state government operates is one of the major signals of how high tech a state is. I am really committed to getting this done.
WTN: In enterprise computing we’re experiencing a return to a centralized managed computing environment. Since you believe in the streamlining of electronic government, why did you abolish the Department of Electronic Government? What happened to the department’s function?
Governor Doyle: The concept of centralized computing is a good idea. The pc explosion created all these separate IT centers throughout the state and we need to bring much more central cohesion and coordination to this environment. This doesn’t have to be accomplished at a state department level. We are keeping and maintaining and we’re, in fact, strengthening a much more centralized system. We’re doing it at the Department of Administration. I don’t want people thinking that computers and technology is some special thing – we don’t have a department of state telephones or a department of state pencils and paper.
This is something that should be infused in everything we do in state government and how we communicate with each other and how we communicate with the public. I really didn’t see it as something that needed all of the expense that comes with having a cabinet secretary and deputy secretary. I need to have the people that are actually doing the work involved at the department level and that’s better done in the current organization that we have established. The general direction needs to make sure that we are pulling a lot of these services together and making them much more consistent. I’m very much committed to that direction.
WTN: Why did you veto the motion that Senator(s) Kanavas and Welch put forth to streamline Wisconsin’s government by the use of IT last June? What did you find unacceptable in their plan to set up enterprise portals for HR management, data warehousing and a streamlined purchasing and state wide budgeting system?
Governor Doyle: I think that those initiatives are largely accomplished in the budget I signed. The legislature cut the money for IT significantly which means that we’re going to have to do much more centralized work. I don’t find any of those proposals objectionable. This is what we’re working toward is streamlining and making it easier and more accessible to all.
When I was a department head at the Department of Justice when the pc explosion hit and every one was for decentralization and linked networks instead of centralization with big mainframes. That was an important milestone. The fact was that there was a lot of good that came from it – much more flexible systems compared at least to the state in those days dealing with a couple to big mainframes. So I guess I see an ebb and flow that goes on here and we followed that one to an extreme and it set up all these independent centers all over state government.
WTN: SPAM inundates us all. So many people lose so much productivity. Are there are any initiatives or legislation that you’re looking into that would help?
Governor Doyle: We are definitely looking into it. It is a mix of law and technology and I’m not sure if anyone has found the right answer. The Do-Not-Call list kicked around for a long time and really only just became effective. (Although the Federal government weakened it and I’m afraid that’s going to happen in Wisconsin also, but that’s another story.) With the use of computer technology we were able to list the telephone numbers and put them on the Do-Not-Call lists. Before that, the technology really didn’t permit us to have a Do-Not-Call list because there was no way for a telemarketer to know whether a number was off limits or not. So in many ways we had to wait for the technology to catch up with what was a good legal idea. Usually we’re waiting for the law to catch up with the technology but the same is true with Spam at least as it’s come to my attention The basic concept is a valid one for the notion of a Do-Not-Call list to be applied to spam. Obviously it isn’t quite as irritating although it frustrating to open up your e-mail box thinking that you have seven nice letters from friends to find that none are from anyone you know.
I would guess that we’re going to see a pretty good law put together in the next couple of years. We really need the ability to get on a Do-Not-Email list and have that list centrally posted and hold anyone sending out spam responsible. There’s another problem with the Internet in that it’s hard to impose a Wisconsin law on someone that’s sending out spam from the Caribbean.
WTN: Your efforts to grow the state economy and stimulate entrepreneurship address the issues of investment capital, infrastructure, and entrepreneurial programs. How are you proposing to deal with the issue that health insurance is expensive for small business and new entrepreneurial companies?
Governor Doyle: It’s a huge problem. One that I have in the budget a proposal that was passed so we’re moving on it, although it’s difficult to do. These initiatives will permit small businesses and farm families to purchase into the state pool. And the idea here is that when the state goes out on behalf of state employees and state institutions to purchase healthcare coverage that it would bargain also on behalf of small businesses and farm families. The state wouldn’t be paying the cost of that insurance, but it would be bringing its bargaining power on behalf of small businesses to the table. That’s one initiative we have underway and we’d like to put together as big an insurance buying pool as we can. It isn’t just new high tech businesses; it’s true of someone running a small retail operation. Anyone that is a small employer is just really stuck right now.
WTN: What are you doing for the technology service industries that help to build a high-end economy that don’t necessarily qualify for some of the existing grant and loan programs? Are there any state programs that aide these entrepreneurs’ and/ or IT consultants?
Governor Doyle: Well, I hope so. Under my Grow Wisconsin proposal, we have programs for investment capital funds that are really designed to help a small high tech business get off the ground. I hope that we’re not going to see tight little restrictions on who can get it. We want that fund to go out to private venture capitalists for management and distribution.
It should not be a bureaucratic state government agency running the fund through a whole lot of state mandates and criteria. It would be venture capitalists that make the hard business decisions of where that money is best spent. I personally believe the market will sort this out better than state regulation would.
WTN: Small to medium size IT consulting shops and IT developers do not always qualify for state grants, loans and venture capital investments. How can the infrastructure business that helps support high tech growth but doesn’t have something that’s of interest to a VC, get some help from the state government?
Governor Doyle: That’s a good point and something that we’re more than willing to look at. Maybe with some of this fund that we’re talking about we would have direct grants to help people get up and get going where there isn’t an intellectual property interest that someone is investing in.