LB&FC Study of Computer Interoperability Within Pennsylvania State
Computer interoperability refers to the ability to link different types of
computers together so that they can readily communicate and share data and
software applications. Pennsylvania, like many states, has established at least
an informal goal of achieving computer interoperability between its state
agencies. Also like many states, the Commonwealth's computer infrastructure has
developed over many years with little regard for the need for interoperability
between state agencies. We found:
- Greater computer communications and interoperability within state
government can yield many advantages. These advantages include: expanded
electronic mail, improved hardware and software purchases, shared equipment and
resources, shared databases and reduced database redundancy, implementation of
electronic data interchange, and improved linkages with other levels of
government and the public.
- Computer networks exist between many state agencies, but many
opportunities for productivity improvements remain. The Commonwealth's
networks include the SNA CORENet, the FDDI, POSNet, CLEAN, JANET, Penn*Link,
PREPnet, and Healthnet. Despite these noteworthy efforts, additional electronic
communication and interoperability within and between governmental units would
improve their productivity. The report cites some of the needs reported by 19
different departments and offices.
- Many obstacles and issues need to be addressed before the Commonwealth
can realize the full benefits of computer interoperability. These obstacles
and issues include: establishing technical and data standards, additional EDP
staff and training, capital budgeting for automated technology purchases,
establishing policies for public access to data, and establishing policies for
agency responsibility over data management and integrity.
- Key policies have been slow to develop and have not been finalized.
A 1993 policy statement entitled Pennsylvania Open Systems Interconnection
Policy was drafted but never made official. In 1994 a proposed Commonwealth
Computer Interoperability Standards Policy was developed and forwarded to
the Secretary of Administration with the recommendation that it be issued as a
management directive. As of mid-January 1995, no such management directive had
been issued. Similarly, in April 1993 a proposed set of policies for access to
automated public records was submitted to the Governor's Policy Office, but no
action was ever taken.
- The Commonwealth has not had a clear goal, direction, or organizational
structure for achieving greater computer interoperability. A 1988 Executive
Order established the Governor's Committee on Automated Technology consisting of
high-level executive branch, legislative, and private sector members to provide
advice on automated technology in the Commonwealth, but the Committee has not
met for at least 5 years. The 1988 Executive Order also created a Steering
Committee on Automated Technology which meets only about once a year. The role
and responsibilities of the Special Assistant to the Governor for
Telecommunications and Technology Systems, whom some have viewed as the
Commonwealth's chief information officer, have shifted in recent years and have
never been clearly defined.
- The General Assembly should consider creating
in statute the position of Chief Information Officer to be the central point of
accountability for the management of the state's automated technology resources.
The CIO should be appointed by and report to the Governor.
- The General
Assembly should also consider creating a broad-based Information Resource
Advisory Board to help establish a strategic vision for the use of automated
technology within state government.
- We recommend that the day-to-day
operations of the Central Management Information Center remain with the
Secretary of Administration and not be transferred to the Office of the Chief
- We also recommend that the automated technology
purchasing function, which is in the Department of General Services, not be
included under the Chief Information Officer.
- The General Assembly should
consider amending the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act to clearly allow
major automated technology purchases to be included in the Capital Budget.
Response to the LB&FC Study of Computer Interoperability
Within Pennsylvania State Government
Response of the Director of the Bureau of Automated Technology
The Director of the Bureau of Automated Technology Management, a Bureau
within the Office of Administration, submitted a five-page response. The
Director stated that his Bureau is in conceptual agreement with the study's
findings and recommendations. The Director agreed with the recommendation to
create a Chief Information Officer position. However, the Ridge Administration
believes the CIO function should be under the Office of Administration as the
Deputy Secretary for Computer Operations and Technology. This Deputy Secretary
would have responsibility over the Central Management Information Center, state
government automated technology plans and policies, and would take the lead in
developing policies for improving the public telecommunications infrastructure
in Pennsylvania. The Bureau also recommends a strong preference for IPS as the
best standard for achieving an open systems, interoperable environment in the