Using Technology to Bridge the Gap Between the Public and Private Sector

Monday, October 15, 2012, by Samantha Surles

In early October, the Digital States Survey for 2012, conducted by the Center for Digital Government, gave North Carolina a B- in government technology practices. The Digital States survey is released every two years and stands as the longest-running measure of state use of technology. The criteria used to determine rankings include technological advances to improve state services, return on investments in savings from these new programs, new initiatives and improvements to existing technological programs, the quality and efficiency of new solutions, and collaboration between local jurisdictions and across multiple state departments. Twenty three states received higher grades, six states received equal grades, and twenty states received C’s and D’s. In general a B grade signifies that survey information shows the state technological practices and promotions are generally improving, old and inefficient methods are steadily giving way to sustainability and modernization.

Park and the Center for Digital Government represent the new movement in state technology investments to save taxpayer money and to promote collaboration between government and business.
 
The push for a new kind of government leadership in technological innovation has grown at all levels. In 2009, President Obama selected the first U.S. Chief Technology Officer for the White House, Aneesh Chopra. He was recently replaced by Todd Park in March, whose mission is to make government data more accessible to entrepreneurs in health, energy, and education. Park has attempted to redefine the government’s role in finding the most efficient new technologies to deliver services, and in generating data (such as weather, tax, education, and GPS information) for private business innovation. Park and the Center for Digital Government represent the new movement in state technology investments to save taxpayer money and to promote collaboration between government and business.

In the North Carolina gubernatorial elections, the issue of state development of technology for businesses, and services is receiving somewhat uneven attention from the two candidates. Walter Dalton’s Jobs Plan touches on specific technological issues, including high speed internet access in North Carolina and growing the strong biotechnology sector. Both Dalton’s plan and Pat McCrory’s principles for economic reform acknowledge the need for new energy technology, education initiatives in technological fields, and tax reform for small businesses. In mid-September, both candidates addressed the North Carolina Technology Association at the annual ThinkTech Conference in Charlotte. They took the opportunity to reiterate the role of technology in implementing their energy and economic plans. In energy, they differ primarily on the fraction of the budget they are willing to allocate to renewable energy initiatives like smart grid programs and wind production tax credit, favored by Dalton while McCrory advocates off-shore drilling and exploration for natural gas.

State use and accommodation of new technologies to improve services and attract businesses may become a more explicit issue in the 2012 elections. In North Carolina, where the economy, energy, infrastructure, and education have been named as the key issues, both candidates have made an apparent effort to acknowledge the influence of technology on the need for reform. This is a promising sign that states may begin to follow Washington’s lead in bringing technology forward as a separate and critical issue, and acknowledging the necessity of collaboration in order to both encourage and keep pace with the private sector.