BY JENNIFER CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING – A new fund has been launched to attract technology innovation projects for making state government better serve its citizens.
Gov. Rick Snyder has created a board to manage nearly $2.5 million form the general fund in loans to advance technology within government departments.
“We’re now taking Michigan to the next level by providing start-up funding to encourage greater innovation and efficiency,” Snyder said. “These improvements will lead to new best practices that will drive Michigan’s success in the global economy.”
It would be the first such program in the country and allows government to integrate at both state and local levels.
The funds will be loans for selected projects, according to Kurt Weiss, public information officer for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
“The fund will give life to projects that normally would not see the light of day. For example, an administrative process that can benefit from information technology innovation to save time and money now has an avenue for funding,” he said.
The five-member board, headed by the director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, John Nixon, includes the state chief information officer, an agency director and two other members.
The state government has been recognized as a national leader in information technology (IT) for the past decade. It uses a centralized IT environment, which means IT is housed in one department as opposed to in each state agency.
Also, the state has been able to standardize many IT functions, such as one standard email system for all agencies rather than numerous different systems, Weiss said.
While IT has successful achieved savings and efficiency, those savings have not been reinvested in technology to generate more innovation, he said.
The board will select projects that have the promise of increasing efficiencies in government that haven’t been previously applied in the state. It will consider how the project will streamline, enhance and improve government business processes and how the project will bring about new and practical changes in government services, according to Weiss.
The submission deadline is Feb. 24, but no application has been made yet, Weiss said.
Loans are generally limited to $100,000, with a maximum of $1 million for any one project.
The venture is a good use of tax dollars, said Chuck Hadden, the president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
Hadden said he is concerned that the money might lay idle. “You can offer the money and nobody shows up.”
As a member of the Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said that he would support similar funds for rewarding technological innovation.
However, he said, “I am not aware whether the fund would benefit the information technology companies.”
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
BY JENNIFER CHEN