Excellent overview of the state’s difficulties finding congruence with its current technology, its future technological needs, and the new demands waiting in the wings.
Dan Walters: Computers, prisons and health care
By Dan Walters – Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Members of the Senate Budget Committee were plainly irked last week during a hearing on the state’s long-stalled efforts to upgrade and merge its computer systems.
Why is it, they asked repeatedly, that the state keeps spending millions, even billions, of dollars on computer schemes, only to be told that it will take many more millions of dollars and many more years to have something that works? “Where are we from where we were before?” an obviously exasperated Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, asked at one point as Clark Kelso, a veteran troubleshooter who currently heads the Office of the Chief Information Officer, tried to explain what was happening.
Kelso handed out copies of a glossy book called the “California State Information Technology Strategic Plan,” chock-full of good intentions to streamline and improve state agencies’ multiple hardware and software systems, many of which are antiquated and incompatible with other state systems.
“Much of our fundamental planning has now been completed, and we are beginning to move into sustained execution of major portions of our strategic plan,” Kelso says in his plan’s cover letter. But the senators were clearly unconvinced that the state, after countless false starts and some spectacularly expensive disasters, is really on the right track. There were several allusions to the Oracle fiasco, when the state signed a $100 million software contract that had political connotations and became a major embarrassment to former Gov. Gray Davis.
If anyone can solve the state’s computer woes, it’s probably Kelso, but the jury is still out. At the very least, the chronic difficulty in getting the job done implies that when it comes to large, complicated service delivery programs, state government is scarcely a model of efficiency.