(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll follow through on a campaign promise to improve Vermont’s information technology. Douglas says he wants to create a new position in state government to oversee the state’s Internet and computer services.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) In his inaugural address last week, the new governor said Vermonters should spend less time in line and more time online when they deal with state government. This was a theme in his campaign as well. On Monday, Douglas began to flesh out the campaign rhetoric.
He told a breakfast meeting of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce that the state’s e-commerce and broadband Internet services will help attract high-tech companies:
(Douglas) “And it’s because of these goals that I’m going to recommend to the Legislature that we upgrade the chief information officer position in state government to a commissioner of information and innovation. Someone who provides some leadership not only in terms of making state government more technologically current, but to develop some strategies for economic growth that will serve the wider state as well.”
(Dillon) The state now spends about $50 million a year on information technology and related services. Yet there’s been persistent problems with the state’s computer and data processing systems. The Tax Department, for example, was recently hit with software problems that stalled state revenues. A new government-wide electronic accounting system has also fallen far behind schedule.
State Auditor Elizabeth Ready has investigated these issues. Ready says she’s pleased Douglas wants a new commissioner to oversee information technology:
(Ready) “It’s one of a suite of recommendations that we made last year, that the chief information officer should be strengthened and elevated. The other two recommendations that we will be asking the governor to consider is that there be a strategic plan for information technology for the state of Vermont and, number two, that there be an IT investment board made up of business leaders and other technology experts.”
(Dillon) But before the state and private businesses can do much more work online, the Legislature needs to pass a law that allows for digital signatures. These electronic IDs use computer encryption to protect data and verify that the information actually came from the person who signed it. Secretary of State Deb Markowitz has pushed for the change:
(Markowitz) “A digital signature isn’t just a scanned signature. It’s really a code, a computer code that’s linked to a particular individual. For example, in our office, we do thousands and thousands of license renewals every year. Each license renewal form requires a signature of the applicant. Until we can accept the form, either without that signature at all, or with a digital signature, we can’t develop a web site that would allow with one click of the button, that filing.”
(Dillon) Markowitz says she hopes lawmakers will move quickly on the digital signature legislation.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in South Burlington.