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State CIOs still feeling the economic crunch

Last week, the TANDBERG public sector team attended the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Midyear Conference at the Baltimore Inner Harbor and had some very interesting conversations with state CIOs.

This year’s midyear conference was very appropriately located just miles north of the nation’s capital. The location made it easy to have representatives from the federal government present as guests and speakers. This is especially important due to the significant impact the federal government is currently having on IT decisions being made by the states.

One of the largest recurring themes that we heard in multiple breakout sessions and conversations that we had was a continued emphasis on IT departments and CIOs to do more with less. State CIOs have had two negative annual spending decreases in a row for the first time ever because state revenue is still down substantially. In 2009, state revenue was down 4.1% at the end of the year, and the budget for California alone was down by $20.4B over the past two year period.

The result of this need to accomplish more with less has been an emphasis on virtualization, cloud computing, video teleconferencing (VTC) and other technology implementations that can save money over time while making states more efficient and effective.

The federal government’s stimulus funding has the potential to significantly aide state CIOs and IT departments in their implementations of money-saving technologies through the introduction of grants and other federal dollars. Federal grants for green technologies, electronic records and other technological advances could play a large part in helping states foot the bill, but many states are hesitant to accept these funds and pull the trigger.

Many of the state CIOs we talked to cited volatility and the temporary availability of these grants as one of the main reasons why they were hesitant to take advantage of these opportunities. Despite the ability to use grant money to purchase and implement these new technologies, many CIOs expect the money to run out by 2012. This leaves the state on the hook for the maintenance, service and broadband access needed to ensure that the technology continues to operate into the future.

However, when you analyze the savings that these technologies, specifically VTC, can have across the state, you quickly realize that the money saved will more than make up for any future expenditures.

VTC implementations can cut down on education expenses by allowing multiple schools to share the same teachers and resources. It can reduce corrections expenditures by allowing medical evaluations and court appearances to be conducted without the added expense of transporting and guarding an inmate outside of prison walls. It can even allow for increased telework, which makes government employees more productive and cuts office costs.

VTC solutions are increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of governments across the country and enabling them to spend less both today and into the future. Now that’s a new way of working…and doing more with less.

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