The following article recently appeared on Government Technology Magazine's Web site as part of the publication's continuing analysis of the 2006 Digital State Survey, which was released in October 2006. As one of a series of interviews with CIOs from the top-ranked states, Kentucky CIO Mark Rutledge talks about some of the factors that propelled the commonwealth into the Digital States top 10. The article is republished here with the permission of Government Technology Magazine.
By Chandler Harris
Contributing writer, Government Technology Magazine
In 2004, Kentucky’s Gov. Ernie Fletcher launched the Prescription for Innovation plan with far reaching technological goals for the state and its citizens.
Two years later, the plan won the 2006 Excellence in Innovation Award from the United States Economic Development Administration. It’s also landed Kentucky the state’s highest ever ranking in the Digital States survey at number eight.
Kentucky’s top 10 rank is due to executive leadership, partnerships and an enterprise approach to IT, said Mark Rutledge, the state’s CIO and commissioner of technology of the Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT).
Kentucky’s rise as an IT innovator started with the launch of the Prescription for Innovation plan — a comprehensive approach to bring the state into the new technology economy by increasing and accelerating technology growth in the state, especially in the areas of broadband deployment, technology literacy and usage.
One of the plan’s primary goals is full broadband deployment by the end of 2007 to dramatically increase all Kentucky citizens’ use of computers and the Internet. Other goals include creating a meaningful online presence for all Kentucky communities; improving citizen services; and promoting economic development through e-government, virtual education and online health care. The plan also calls for creating local technology leadership teams in every community to develop and implement technology growth strategies for public and private entities in the state.
Successfully implementing the plan will require a methodical and efficient approach, Rutledge said.
“We refer to it as the 5 A’s,” Rutledge said. “Those five A’s are key components of the plan — they are adoption, awareness, application, affordability and availability. Each one of those five A’s we focused on as a state, both public and private [sectors], and how we can advance the plan.”
A key component of the Prescription for Innovation is advancing the availability of broadband access across the state.
A national study done in 2002 and 2003 found that Kentucky ranked 44th among the states in its proportion of high-tech businesses, 45th in personal computer use and 43rd in residential internet use, Rutledge said. The same study found that 4,300 university graduates leave Kentucky each year.
Since the Prescription for Innovation plan was put into place, statewide broadband availability increased by 36 percent and usage increased by 45 percent, according to Connect Kentucky, an alliance of government, universities and technology companies, and broadband Internet access is available to 375,000 households that previously had no such access.
The goal of making broadband access available to all households in Kentucky by 2007 is nearing completion, with 83 percent of Kentucky homes with access currently.
“That transformation has put that much more presence behind — and made us much more aware of — what we are doing as a government to make services available to our constituents,” Rutledge said. “We feel that’s been a huge success.”
Accessing the Future
The second key to Kentucky’s success Rutledge said is building partnerships that connect government, business and the public. ConnectKentucky has been integral to building partnerships that provide computer and Internet access throughout the state.
ConnectKentucky conducted a survey in 2005 and found that 24 percent of Kentucky’s residents have a broadband Internet connection at home, which was 11 percentage points below the national average. This spurred Connect Kentucky to create the No Child Left Offline program to help children from low income families get computers and Internet access.
“Even with our broadband deployment, with Kentucky not being a rich state, computers and Internet access were not considered common but more a luxury” Rutledge said. “One of the things that [ConnectKentucky] does is help school-aged children get computers so they have a better chance in the new economy.”
State agencies in Kentucky typically operate under a two to three-year life cycle for computers. ConnectKentucky tapped state government’s refresh cycle for computing equipment, working with state agencies and business sponsors to create desktop computing packages comprising a refurbished computer, printer, supplies and broadband access for eligible eighth grade students in Kentucky.
The program won numerous awards, including the 2006 Southern Growth Policies Board Innovator Award, beating out more than 200 nominees in the southern region.
The third key component of Kentucky’s successful IT transformation is an enterprise approach to IT, in which the COT functions as a governing structure with oversight of IT initiatives, infrastructure and agencies.
The enterprise approach played a key role in Kentucky’s broad IT consolidation effort to make services such as network access, telephony, storage and desktop computing more efficient by consolidating IT infrastructure, Rutledge said, while also saving money.
“We have seen those dollars go into new applications which have essentially turned into online government solutions. Citizens have benefited from IT consolidation,” Rutledge said.
Other broad changes include the COT’s current consolidation of the management of desktops and servers throughout state government to improve efficiency, reduce IT infrastructure costs and provide better services to Kentucky citizens. That consolidation is producing a broad transformation of Kentucky’s IT infrastructure by offering shared services delivered by a single provider, rather than each state agency developing and supporting its own IT services.
Yet for Rutledge and the rest of the leaders in Kentucky, there is always room for growth.
“We’re very proud of our ranking … but I will tell you we’re not satisfied with number eight,” Rutledge said. “We’re number one in broadband deployment and adoption, and we want to be recognized nationally. Kentucky is changing its culture. Kentucky is going to compete in the new economy. Kentucky is investing in its youth and investing in education, and Kentucky is trying to be a catalyst in economic development.”