Rauner bringing Illinois government into 21st century with new tech agency

Austin Berg

Director of Content Strategy

Austin Berg
January 25, 2016

Rauner bringing Illinois government into 21st century with new tech agency

The Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology will tackle one of the state’s most important management problems – an outdated IT system that wastes taxpayer money.

When Illinois’ Chief Information Officer Hardik Bhatt was tapped by Gov. Bruce Rauner to modernize the way state government uses technology, he knew the Land of Lincoln was behind the times – but he didn’t know exactly how far.

That is, until he found the Department of Human Services using a mainframe-based system that went online more than 40 years ago.

“We have [systems] that were built in 1974 when I was two years old,” Bhatt said.

Now, Rauner has selected Bhatt to head a new state agency created via executive order on Jan. 25: the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology, or DoIT.

While Illinois’ dozens of state agencies had previously been managing their own technology solutions, Illinois will now join 29 other states and the city of Chicago in centralizing and consolidating all information technology decisions and spending in a central department.

“[DoIT] will modernize our aging technology systems and lead to better, quicker and more efficient service for taxpayers,” Rauner said in a press release.

Though Illinois spends less than 3 percent of its budget on technology, a share in line with other states of its size, it lies in the bottom 25 percent of states in terms of quality of digital services, Bhatt has previously said.

“I don’t know when last time [was] I walked into a bank physically to transact anything,” Bhatt said in a press conference.

“Unfortunately, the Illinois taxpayer does not have the same experience when they interact with state government.”

Modernizing the state’s IT systems has the potential to bring considerable savings in a cash-strapped state.

First, modernization that enables one to easily see spending across every agency can empower the state to negotiate lower prices with vendors. This kind of purchasing power was previously hidden beneath a patchwork of different systems.

Second, old systems are often cumbersome and take longer to do simple tasks. Modernization saves staff time. For example, centralizing the state’s inefficient grant-making process can save time and money by preventing multiple on-site visits from different agencies to the same applicant.

And more efficient management of the state’s various online licensing processes could lead to greater licensing revenues for the state.

Commonsense reforms such as these are what Illinoisans endorsed when they put Rauner in the governor’s office.

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