Warner, JLARC propose sweeping tech overhaul
Gov. Warner wants a sweeping overhaul of informational
technology in state government.
A consolidated Virginia Information Technologies Agency would
replace the Department of Information Technology, the Department of
Technology Planning and the Virginia Information Providers Network
The VIPNet and Virginia Geographic Information Network boards
would be abolished.
IT divisions would be pulled together from 91 agencies in the
executive branch, leaving only the universities, courts and
legislature outside the consolidation.
Improved use of new technologies and net savings of about $23
million through mid-2004 were predicted.
A week after Warner unveiled his plan, the Joint Legislative
Audit and Review Commission, the General Assembly's watchdog
committee, blamed lack of planning, oversight and funding for the
state's IT failures and cost overruns.
A study of 15 major state computer systems projects found that
some of the failed projects were launched lacking a clear vision of
functions the system would perform. The failures cost the state $75
The state spent an additional $28 million on cost overruns to
salvage wayward projects, the 200-page report said.
The legislature in some cases aggravated the problem with spotty
funding for major enterprise projects, said Hal Greer, the JLARC
project leader who presented the findings to the commission.
Both JLARC and the governor called for appointing a statewide
chief information officer to direct future projects, planning for
and funding approval for projects by an investment board, IT
specialists to oversee and manage enterprise systems projects and
information systems built to the same standards.
The 104 data centers state government operates statewide —
34 in Richmond alone — and the costs of updating and
maintaining them is reason enough for consolidation, JLARC said.
One system the state still operates was out of date 20 years ago,
the report said.
Among the successful computer projects, JLARC said, were a $18.3
million inventory and product sales system for the Alcoholic
Beverage Control Department and the Department of Motor
Vehicles' $25.6 million infrastructure replacement
The report said that some of those projects, however, exceeded
their projected costs — the DMV project by nearly $5 million,
and the ABC system by about $1.3 million.
State's Internet portal ranked #1 in the nation
"My Virginia," the state's official home page,
was awarded first place in the Center for Digital
Government's annual Best of the Web competition.
The portal <http://
www.-myvirginia.org > provides a variety of services, some
of which are the first of their kind in the nation to be offered by
a state government Web site:
" Live Help: online, real-time customer service assistance
via the state home page;
" My Mobile Virginia: wireless state portal and government
services available via wireless and hand held devices;
" Online driver's license renewal service;
" Real-time election results for both the Web and wireless
" My Virginia Personalized Home Page: allows citizens to
customize their government home page; and
" Consumer Assistance Portal: complaint topic selector
allowing citizens to identify the government entity with which they
file a consumer complaint.
The Virginia portal placed fourth in the Best of the Web
competition in 2001 and fifth in 2000. The Virginia Department of
Motor Vehicles placed third in 2000.
"My Virginia" was designed by VIPNet, a state entity
that assists other Virginia government agencies in providing
information and services via the Internet.
"This recognition is substantial and reinforces the
overall plan for Virginia to improve our reputation as a technology
leader. We will continue to improve the portal by expanding the
number of services. It really will improve the experience of
interacting with government for any Virginian with access to a
computer," said Gov. Warner.
Maine came in second in the competition; Pennsylvania and
Washington tied for third.
For the second year in a row, Roanoke has been named one of the
country's top "digital cities" with populations
The "Digital Cities Survey" gave Roanoke high marks
for the city's Web site: <http://www.roanokegov.com> .
Areas of note included the wide variety of municipal services
that can be conducted online, the number of electronic forms
available, the scope of public information on the site and the
ability for citizens to send online feedback to city officials.
Survey officials were also impressed by the city's
development of a new internal web site that gives employees greater
access to forms, documents and customized benefits information.
Roanoke was lauded for its advanced integration of technology
and public safety, including a computer-aided dispatch system, an
automatic Fire-EMS alerting system and computerized police and jail
records managements systems.
The study further noted Roanoke's development of a
geographic information system (GIS) and the city's
application of technology to improve operational efficiency.
"Roanoke is proving that we are making real progress in
using technology to provide our citizens with convenient and timely
access to information and services," City Manager Darlene
On-line list of sex offenders raises tangle of legal
Virginians will learn by mid-year whether the state's
on-line listing of sex offenders meets the U.S. Supreme
Court's principles for privacy, due process and double
The court will rule on the constitutionality of two such
registries, one in Alaska and one in Connecticut, which is
identical to Virginia's.
Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore has filed a brief in
support of Connecticut's case.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a
journalists' group based in Arlington, also filed a support
RCFP argued as a "friend of the court" that to
declare unconstitutional the publicizing of accurate criminal
records "could result in over-broad restrictions on the
dissemination of truthful information."
Virginia's Internet registry has been visited more than 2
million times in the four years it's been online. Proponents
of the so-called Megan's Law sites say they give parents a
tool for safeguarding children against predators.
Those challenging the registries argue they violate
offenders' rights: everyone must register even if the
government has not proved that an offender remains a threat after
release from jail.
Many of the registries are self-reported, which means convicts
must be trusted to provide reliable information, including all
changes of address and employment.
"It's not necessarily accurate. It's not
necessarily current," argued Nina Ginsberg, a Northern
Virginia lawyer representing four registered offenders in a suit
attempting to shut down this state's registry.
The Virginia suit is on hold until the Supreme Court rules in
the Connecticut case.
Statistics show that sexual offenders have low re-arrest rates.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics tracked prisoners released in
1994 for the following three years. Those convicted of sexual
assault and rape had among the lowest rates: 41.4 percent and 46
percent, respectively, were rearrested in three years.
Conversely, those who committed property crimes had
substantially higher recidivism rates: 78.8 percent of those
convicted of motor vehicle theft, for example, were arrested again
during the study period.
Virginia maintains a statewide database of all criminal records,
but only the one listing sex offenders is publicly accessible.
Just recently, however, a commercial vendor advertised a new
Internet service permitting anybody to check a person's
criminal record in nearly any courthouse in the state.
There's one hitch: Each "look-up" costs
Health agency to post restaurant inspections
The Virginia Department of Health is preparing to put restaurant
inspections online. Inspections already are public records but must
be viewed at a local health department.
Such a Web site would enable consumers to click a computer mouse
and view official evaluations of sanitation and food preparation
practices in snack bars, restaurants, school kitchens and food
service areas of hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers.
The Roanoke Times said editorially, "Putting the documents
on the Internet is a bonus for consumers, because the public record
should be open to the public — through the most efficient,
effective means available."
Users of the Web site should keep in mind, it said, "that
restaurants seldom pass inspection without a violation. The
eateries are seldom shut down, but inspectors will allow them to
operate with one or more non-critical violations, such as a torn
floor tile that catches dirt. Appropriately, the caveat is that the
owners plan to correct the infraction."
Non-Internet users can still visit a local health department
unannounced during regular business hours and wait for a staff
member to help them inspect a restaurant evaluation, or they can
call ahead to make an appointment to see the records.