Government Agencies: Adapting to the Changing Times

Mark VanOrden, CIO, Department of Technology Services, State of Utah
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Mark VanOrden, CIO, Department of Technology Services, State of Utah

The Department of Technology Services in the state of Utah provides technology services to the executive branch agencies. Our vision is to enable our partner agencies to securely leverage technology to better serve the residents of the State of Utah. How can we use technology to do that?

“The world of technology is changing and government agencies must adapt to ensure quality services are provided via mobile devices and applications”

The State of Utah provides thousands of different services to its residents. Just 20 years ago, it typically required the public to go to a physical office building to acquire these services. Technology has changed the way we do business, and has also created a paradigm shift for government entities. Approximately 15 years ago, we realized a need to change the way state government operated. The internet was exploding and we knew we needed to better utilize this technology.

Companies like Amazon, eBay, Monster, and many others have led the way to using the internet to do business. We wanted to learn from these successful businesses. We challenged the 22 different state agencies to each put three services online. This turned out to very successful, as the public demanded more and more online services. We delivered. Today in Utah, we provide over 1,100 different online services. Virtually all services the state provides to residents can now be transacted via the web.

Providing these services via the web is a huge benefit for the residents of Utah because they can now transact business with the state without taking the time to travel to a state office building or being put on hold when trying to talk to a state employee at a call center. However, this is not the only benefit to the taxpayers of Utah. The Center for Public Policy at the University of Utah completed a study on government online services. Results indicated that Utah saves over 13 dollars for each transaction completed online. Utah residents completed over 34 million transactions in 2013.

We are always looking for techniques we can use to improve remote transaction processes. One way of doing that is via mobile devices. Over 50 percent of all web access in the United States is done via mobile devices. Utah requires all new web applications to be developed using responsive design. This ensures that services are also available on tablets or smart phones. The State of Utah has also developed over 100 mobile applications. The Division of Wildlife’s hunting and fishing mobile application recently won the Web Marketing Association’s Mobile Web Award for Best Government Mobile App.  

Our goal is to eventually transact over 90 percent of all state services via the web. There are a number of services where we have implemented this. For instance, 100 percent of weekly unemployment insurance claims are transacted online, 95 percent of business renewals are completed via the web, and 90 percent of state income taxes are filed electronically. We also save the taxpayers millions of dollars by reducing the amount of paper correspondence sent to residents. Utah’s Medicaid system was sending up to three million letters to clients each year. This has been reduced by 50 percent by providing access to electronic correspondence. Today, Medicaid clients can access state correspondence via their smart phone. This is easier for clients and cost effective.

The world of technology is changing and government agencies must adapt to ensure quality services are provided via mobile devices and applications. We are constantly looking at how to improve the quality and availability of government services. It is incumbent on us in government to be flexible enough to change with technology.

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