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W.Va. Legislature technology committee hears plans for residents’ ‘Digital I.D.’ and digital government transformation

By Matt Young, WV Press News Sharing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Committee on Technology met on Tuesday for the final time during April’s Interim Session. The first item discussed was Senate Bill 527, intended to “supplement and amend appropriations to the Department of Administration, Office of Technology.”

Mark Scott, cabinet secretary of the Department of Administration, provided testimony before the committee. 

“The goal of SB 527 is to enable robust digital government transformation,” Scot began. “One of the things we hear over and over again is that the citizens need an easier way of accessing data. One of the things that we can do for that is what’s called ‘Digital I.D.’ – one user I.D., one password allows you to do all your governmental services.” 

Scott explained how the ability to complete multiple transactions simultaneously, such as renewing driver’s, hunting or fishing, and home-businesses licenses, will make for a far more “user-friendly” experience. 

“Also, we want to ensure that West Virginia is a good steward of technology funding – we’re going to get an unprecedented amount of federal funding,” Scott added. “We’re going to make sure it is utilized right – in a structured and organized way.”

Scott cited “use of technology through enterprise services,” and “holistic cyber-risk management” as the intended usage for a portion of the federal funding. According to Scott, the most obvious challenge lies in maintaining the technology that the state is using.

“That’s what folks see everyday,” Scott said. “But in addition to that, there are a lot of other things that go into the technology – customer support, security risks, liabilities, end-of-life systems. Staffing also increases cost.”

“The objective of this is to build and maintain technological-capabilities to provide third-party strategies,” Scott continued. “As you all know, our funding for technology comes from special revenue – not from general revenue – so having a robust system will allow us to help other departments.”

When Del. Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, asked whether an analysis had been performed regarding what data should be archived in order to reduce the risk of a security-breach via cyber-attack, Scott said “That’s a part of record retentions, and that’s a big push that we’ve done as a department since I’ve come on board – to make sure that we’re retaining the right data for the right period of time. We don’t want to have data just hanging around that we don’t need.”

Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, then stated “A year ago we passed a bill that gave the Office of Technology authority over all the various agencies. Up until that time, there was no coordination. It was my opinion that the IT infrastructure of state agencies in general was just woefully out of date.”

Swope further explained that, through last year’s bill, a $2 million supplemental-fund had been made available to the Office of Technology.

“Is that program going to give you the funding?” Swope asked. “It was my understanding that the $2 million was needed to bring in extra staffing, or consultants – or whatever – to do an audit. Is that going to dovetail into this mission that you’ve got defined here? That gives you the funding you need to start implementing?”

“The funding we need to start, yes,” Scott replied. “Mainly that money will be used for the study, and realizing what it is that we need from a technology standpoint.”

Scott further stated that, on average, the State of West Virginia spends $9,000 on technology for each employee. 

“That may even be a light number,” Scott added. “We want to make sure the money is used properly.”

“So that gives you the resources to analyze the situation and get a good statewide plan together?” Swope asked. “I have no delusion that that kind of money is going to fix the IT infrastructure. But in my opinion, investment in IT is the highest rate of ROI of anything you can do. – and to bring our 20,000 state employees up to somewhere near current is a great thing.”

The conversation continued for several more moments, with Scott noting: “Certainly the goal is to make sure that we study thoroughly enough to know we’re getting into something that, long term, can be updated instead of replaced.”

Next to appear before the committee was House Counsel Brian Castro, who provided a brief review of 2022’s technology legislation. The six bills reviewed by Castro, which he described as “major bills that became law during the session,” were primarily related to administration and infrastructure. However, one of the bills, HB 4667, dealt with autonomous aircraft.

“This created a whole new section of law for un-crewd aircraft systems,” Castro explained, “with the order to develop comprehensive strategies by the un-crewed aircraft systems advisory council, for the promotion of R&D, education, economic growth, and jobs within that new industry. It involves looking at business planning, and the management of West Virginia air space, and integration with national air space guidelines from the FAA and other federal entities.”

With no further business on the agenda, the Joint Committee on Technology now stands adjourned until the next scheduled Interim Session in May. 

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