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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Technology advances provide Daniels with opportunity

January 17, 2005

Indiana's new governor will obviously have the opportunity to shape a new government and plans to do so. But what has been unsaid about what the new structure may look like is how our assumptions about government and the delivery of government services have changed so radically since the last party change in the office in 1988, and even since the last election.

The growth of the Internet and public acceptance of doing business online has Hoosiers now expecting that virtually every interaction they have with government should be available online.

The bulk of motor-vehicle-related transactions can be conducted online. People can file payroll taxes electronically and their income taxes online, which is something no one even contemplated in 1989. In fact, the concept was still radical eight years later when Gov. Frank O'Bannon, a Democrat, observed in his first State of the State Address that-unless you grew up in Corydon or lived in the state capital, as he did-government was mostly an abstraction.

Today, such varied items as campaign finance reports and corporate filings are accessible online instead of only in-person in Indianapolis, court dockets will soon be online, and all kinds of data can be accessed and acted upon online, usually at no charge. At least 117 agencies are represented on accessIndiana, the state's Web site, and 177 software applications support specific agency information services.

The new governor will be the first to seize upon the opportunity to take government closer to the people through Internet options (even as the Kernan administration, through the Peak Performance Project, was moving in this direction in answering much the same question: What would state government look like today if we were starting from scratch?).

Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, spent much of his campaign outside of Indianapolis listening to how people felt detached from the big city and state government. He learned how an increased reliance on automated options combined with a promise of greater broadband access for rural areas can tie people in Vevay or Selma to state government in a meaningful and productive manner. Now, government is not an Indianapolis-based monolith that people must come to in order to be served.

Heck, even Daniels' inauguration was held at the State Fairgrounds and not at the Statehouse, as tradition holds.

This week, you should see a House committee restructure the state's information technology functions. What you will likely see resulting from this is a philosophical shift in emphasis to favoring data-processing-related solutions.

With that transformation of government comes new questions and concerns, among them how costs should be borne, both internally and externally; how secure systems can be and how private some data can-and should-remain; whether we may be approaching technological over-reliance; and how this affects state workers and what type of employees may need to be recruited (and their cost).

On top of all this opportunity and change is increased transparency of government actions.

The state has posted all kinds of information about lobbying activities, some legislative personal financial disclosure statements have been posted online, and floor action has been broadcast to the masses in streaming audio since 2001.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, is expanding online floor coverage to include streaming video of action at the front of the chamber from a balconymounted camera. (Don't expect to see rubber-band fights and lawmakers pinning clothespins on one another in the traditionally less-staid back of the chamber.)

Bosma is also planning to extend audio coverage to committee meetings. And you can look for a TiVo-like "video on demand" option to debut in a few weeks so people can go back and watch the proceedings on their own schedules. There simply will be no excuse-save time constraints-for people not to be fully informed about the actions of their elected officials.

Changing distributive assumptions about government can mean cost savings and personnel cuts. At the same time, service delivery can be improved; activities can be accomplished on a timely and, perhaps, even real-time basis; and government can become more favorably viewed because of the ease and convenience of interacting with it via www.in.gov.

You'll likely find out more about the future of state service provision when the accessIndiana portal proposals are due later this month. Almost 15 entities have expressed an interest-ranging from smaller in-state operations in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Carmel and Lafayette, to recognizable major international names-as the governor gets his own online priorities in line, one of which will be placing the new chief information officer in charge of accessIndiana.



Feigenbaum publishes Indiana Legislative Insight. His column appears weekly while the Indiana General Assembly is in session. He can be reached by e-mail at edf@ingrouponline.com.
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