Technology has changed our lives in many tangible ways. It has changed how we communicate with each other, how we watch TV and listen to music, how we buy things and pay our bills, how we learn about things and how we find our way from point A to point B.
It’s not because Apple, Google and your bank are interested in you having a better life. It is because they realize that innovative ways of doing things are essential to maintaining a competitive edge. Consequently, industry makes huge investments in technology that end up making life better and more convenient for all of us.
But for governments and policymakers, the value of technology is often under-appreciated. Technology investments and improvements in government systems do not win many votes. Consequently, it is easier for them to pay more attention to other things.
Governments don’t have to invest in innovative ways of doing things to keep your business. If you need a Florida driver’s license, you can’t go to Amazon or to Georgia to get it quicker. If your business is in Florida and you need a permit, it’s the same thing. There are simply some things residents are required to go through government channels to accomplish.
Some governments, though, realize the value of making it easier for citizens and businesses. Some realize that innovative processes can attract industry, better jobs, and more visitors. These governments tend to view technology as an investment in making their state a better place. Others tend to view it as an expense – and endless fertile ground for cost-cutting.
Our state government has pockets of emerging leadership in technology, but far too many are still hesitant to make the investments necessary to modernize Florida systems. Some of our critical state systems are decades old. There are redundant processes across many agencies that exist because they just do. There is a somewhat apathetic view toward innovation and a general sense that the fewer things you try to do, the greater the chances of not failing.
It is time for our state government to recognize and acknowledge the tremendous amount of talent and technology investment that is currently driving every industry in Florida. It is time for our state government to do the same and to become a national innovation leader among all states.
Our Legislature wisely created the Agency for State Technology a few years ago. Its structure was a good beginning for the elimination of redundant processes across government entities, and to lead our state to modern, citizen-friendly systems. This agency should be the vehicle that allows Florida’s government to catch up with the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, the agency was not given the full responsibility, authority or funding necessary to make substantial changes. Now its original mandate and charter have been challenged and reduced. Further devaluation of technology leadership in our state will only ensure that Florida remains lacking in terms of the taxpayers’ return-on-investment. We deserve better.
We call on our new administration to commit to a technology purpose. It’s time to begin this discussion in a serious manner and to turn the discussion into action.
Chuck Cliburn is founder and president of New Capitol IT, LLC. Dominic M. Calabro is president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by the Tallahassee Democrat on Jan. 11, 2019.