State upgrade crucial, Glendening aide says 5-year cost expected to top $200 million

January 27, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The Maryland state government needs to spend between $200 million and $250 million over the next five years to upgrade its information technology infrastructure, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's top aide said yesterday.

Major F. Riddick Jr., the governor's chief of staff, gave that estimate as the state prepared to release its comprehensive new Information Technology Master Plan next week.

That money, more than the cost of building a football stadium in Baltimore, would come on top of the $359 million a year the state plans to spend this year on computer systems, telecommunications and other information technologies, Mr. Riddick said.

"Education needs to be the principal beneficiary," said Mr. Riddick, who said that more than 50 percent of the $40 million to $50 million a year should go for that purpose.

Mr. Riddick, acting chairman of the state Information Technology Board, said an aggressive investment in information technology is essential to the administration's goals of improving the delivery of services while cutting the size of state government.

"We have to spend some money to save some money. We have to spend some money to survive the future," he said.

Mr. Riddick said the money spent on education would go more toward improving the quality of education than toward saving money. But he said the estimated $112 million to be spent for noneducation purposes would save the state about $30 million to $40 million a year -- thus paying for itself within four years.

He said the first budget that would significantly reflect the increased spending would be the one for fiscal 1998, which the General Assembly would consider next year.

Since taking office a year ago, the Glendening administration has contended that a sophisticated use of modern information technology is essential for economic development and improved education and public safety.

The master plan, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun, details the administration's technology strategy.

The plan provides new details about the administration's proposed Technology Investment Fund, Mr. Glendening's most important technology-related proposal facing the General Assembly this year.

Under the plan, the fund's administrator would coordinate all information technology spending throughout state government.

In addition to the $2 million in seed money the governor is requesting, the fund also would receive money from such sources as rentals of state property for cellular towers, savings realized by renegotiating information technology contracts and commissions from pay phones in state office buildings.

Among the specific goals the plan sets are to let taxpayers file income tax returns through kiosks, to let state inspectors file reports from laptop computers, to conduct criminal suspect lineups through a teleconferencing network and to let some state employees telecommute.

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