Missouri "discovers" dark fiber

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2005 - 08:55

GovTech has an article on Missouri's new CIO (Chief Information Officer), who was given the daunting task of improving state government IT services, in part by consolidating 16 separate IT fiefdoms. IT folks are notoriously resistant to service aggregation, because it usually means smaller staffs and smaller budgets. Some IT folks like big, complicated, hard to use systems because it justifies big IT staffs and budgets.

Dan Ross, the new CIO, has his work cut out for him. Statewide IT consolidation is fraught with its own problems. All the IT spending becomes concentrated in one place (usually the state capital), so it often cuts out small and medium-sized businesses as the contracts are rolled up into massive specifications that only big companies with large expense accounts can go after. And those big contracts often have hidden gotchas that end up being more expensive than several smaller contracts distributed among several agencies. And a big IT operation in the capital can become loaded with patronage jobs--you end up with underqualified people making unjustifiably large salaries, and that always ends up being expensive.

But the most interesting thing that has already emerged from Ross' short tenure is the discovery that the state highway department had fiber running up and down every interstate highway in the state. Can you say, "Statewide Voice over IP system?" If nothing else, the combination of a statewide fiber backbone for the government, combined with an overhaul of the existing phone contracts, should lead to some impressive savings.

But the story still begs one question. When did the highway department start putting in fiber, and why didn't they tell anyone about it? It boggles the mind. Were they saving it for something? If so, what exactly? It looks like the CIO of Missouri has already earned his pay.

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