Georgia’s Information Technology Excellence
The state of Georgia has taken bold steps to modernize its IT enterprise over the past decade. In doing so, it has earned a national reputation as a leader among states in the use of technology to transform government operations. At the same time, Georgia’s pioneering approach to partnering with world-class technology companies has become a model for other governments. The following accomplishments and honors from 2019 document Georgia’s continuing successes.
NASCIO State IT Recognition Award Finalists
Two projects in Georgia state government were named finalists in the State IT Recognition Awards sponsored by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). The Department of Agriculture's Mobile Field Data Collection mobile app was one of three finalists in the category of Information Communications Technology Innovations. The app was developed to help state inspectors ensure the safety of Georgia's food supply. For more information about the project, see Georgia Technology Innovation Showcase below.
In addition, the Georgia Cyber Center, www.gacybercenter.org, was among three finalists in the category of Cross-boundary Collaboration and Partnerships. The center's primary focus is on developing Georgia's cybersecurity workforce.
Georgia Earns Highest Grade in National Survey
Georgia earned a letter grade of A, the highest ranking possible, in the most recent Digital States Survey, which evaluates states’ use of technology to improve service delivery, increase capacity, streamline operations, and reach policy goals. Georgia is one of only five states to receive an A in the survey.
Under the Digital States Survey criteria, a letter grade of A indicates a state “is trending sharply upward. They show results across all survey categories. Modernization is used to realize operational efficiencies and strategic priorities. There is evidence of meaningful collaboration, and performance measures and metrics are widely adopted.”
Recognition for Innovative Sourcing of IT Services
GTA received the 2019 Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award from IAOP, an association of customers, service providers, and advisors dedicated to improving business service models and outcomes. The award honored GTA for its Market Test and Rebid (MTR) approach to sourcing technology services for state agencies. GTA ensures access for state agencies to the latest technologies at the most competitive price possible by regularly rebidding service contracts. Since its inception in 2017, MTR has helped reduce overall technology costs by 20 percent and increased the number of service providers by 300 percent.
Calvin Rhodes Receives GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year Award
Georgia’s State CIO and GTA Executive Director Calvin Rhodes was one of eight people nationwide to receive StateScoop’s GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year award. Thousands of IT leaders across the country, primarily in state and local governments, were nominated for awards in one of six categories as part of StateScoop’s 2019 awards program. StateScoop narrowed the nominations to 180 people, and readers cast more than 2 million votes to select the final winners.
NASCIO Honors Nikhil Deshpande with State Technology Innovator Award
GTA’s Nikhil Deshpande was honored with NASCIO’s 2019 State Technology Innovator Award. The award honors outstanding state government workers who have advanced technology policy by promoting best practices, adopting new technologies, and advancing service delivery. As Chief Digital Officer of Digital Services Georgia, Mr. Deshpande leads the team responsible for managing Georgia.gov, the official online portal to Georgia state government, and GovHub, the state’s official publishing platform for delivering state-of-the-art, secure, accessible, and compliant websites. His team’s many design and technical innovations have resulted in a robust platform with a mobile-first approach for supporting current and future online services. GovHub hosts 85 state websites.
Technology Innovation Showcase
Mobile Field Data Collection for Food Emergency Response
Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA)
GDA is responsible for ensuring that unsafe food doesn’t make its way to consumers. Following Hurricane Michael in October 2018, GDA’s Rapid Response Team (RRT) used the agency’s GIS app for the first time to inspect food facilities affected by the storm, such as grocery stores and food-processing plants. The app replaces blank paper survey forms with electronic surveys that are accessible on mobile devices and prefilled with data about the facility under inspection. Data are stored in the cloud and accessible for real-time dashboards. GDA staff can download data to create advanced reports, which are used to identify facilities that require follow-up actions and to monitor enforcement decisions, such as embargoes on unsafe facilities.
The use of GIS technology increased the number of facilities inspected from 400 following Hurricane Matthew in 2016 to 1,400 following Hurricane Michael. The enhanced operational efficiency made possible through leading-edge technology helped GDA inspectors maintain the safety of Georgia’s food supply.
Online Road Test Reservation System
Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS)
DDS needed to replace its customer queuing system, which could not adequately handle the high volume of calls from customers wanting to make a reservation for a road test. DDS chose the online appointment software Ventus from Nemo-Q. It allows customers who have set up an account with DDS to schedule their own appointment by simply clicking the “Schedule a Road Test” link on the agency’s website. Customers can view available dates, times, and locations, and select those most convenient for them. After the appointment is made, the system sends a confirmation email. Customers are also able to reschedule or cancel their appointment. The new system makes it possible for customers to take control of their own schedules while also freeing staff at the agency’s contact center to respond to other types of calls.
Retirement Online Application
Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia (ERSGA)
The ERSGA team recognized the opportunity to deploy state-of-the-art technology to enhance the level of service it provides state workers while also streamlining the outdated and complex process of the paper retirement application.
The goal of the Retirement Online Application (ROLA) project was to enable a target demographic group of retirement-eligible state workers to apply for retirement online. The scope of the process included comprehensive data and interactive upgrades, which were by nature impossible with the paper application. Actual calculations for options such as the purchase of additional service, partial lump-sum payments, and more are done in real-time using master of record data.
ROLA was designed to be a simple, step-by-step wizard that guides a retiring worker seamlessly through the retirement process with an easy to understand, visually appealing interface.
College HOPE Eligibility Calculation Service
Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC)
The College HOPE Eligibility Calculation Service (CHECS) provides a central calculation system for Georgia’s Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) programs. CHECS calculates the academic eligibility of HOPE scholarship, Zell Miller scholarship, HOPE grant, and Zell Miller grant students attending Georgia’s 83 HOPE-eligible, postsecondary institutions.
Prior to the implementation of CHECS, educational institutions were solely responsible for creating and using their own technology for calculating ongoing HOPE eligibility for their students, and they employed various methods to share the information with students.
The Georgia General Assembly transferred the responsibility for calculating ongoing eligibility to the Georgia Student Finance Commission. Launched in 2018, CHECS calculates HOPE GPA and Checkpoint status for about 320,000 college students in Georgia, thereby determining their academic eligibility for lottery-funded scholarships and grants, which totaled $671 million in FY 2018. CHECS provides students with their HOPE status through the GAfutures.org website.
Child Labors/Minors in Entertainment Automated System
Georgia Department of Labor (DOL)
The entertainment industry adds billions of dollars annually to Georgia’s economy. Employers must obtain approval from DOL before they can hire minors. The Child Labor/Minors in Entertainment Automated System replaced an outdated, manual process for approving minors to work in Georgia’s entertainment industry.
The old process required employers to submit written applications for each minor they hired, a process that was burdensome for employers and time-consuming for DOL workers. The number of applications related to minors doubled from 2016 to 2018, and before the new system was implemented, applications were only approved during regular business hours. In addition, it could take as long as five days to review an application seeking approval for a minor to work on a film location.
The new, automated system allows employers to quickly and easily add productions for which they are hiring. The entire registration process for an employer can be completed in less than one hour, including employer, production, and location registrations. Meanwhile, minors can be registered in the system by their adult representative in less than 30 minutes. After the employer, minor, production, and locations are approved, employers enjoy 24/7/365 access to add minors to work locations.
The new system provides immediate approval, even during nonbusiness hours, for a minor to work on a location and gives employers the capability to maintain an online, printable record of their minor hires. The system also provides DOL workers with data for tracking and reporting various statistics and allows for seamless cost recovery, thereby making this DOL business unit self-supporting.
Unclaimed Property eClaims Processing
Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR)
Unclaimed property refers to accounts held by financial institutions and other businesses that have lost the owner of record. Each year, cash, stocks, bonds, securities, and insurance benefits are turned over to DOR by entities that are unable to contact the proper owners. With the Unclaimed Property eClaims Processing project, DOR provided a self-service website where claimants can search for their property and file claims online.
Prior to implementation of the Georgia Unclaimed Property website, claimants requested claim forms by email or called DOR’s Unclaimed Property Program team. All requests were manually reviewed and verified, and once approved, claim forms were either mailed or emailed to the claimant, who completed and returned them to DOR.
The new website matches and verifies the claimant’s identity in real time. Claims meeting fast-tracking criteria are automated from claim initiation to payment processing without the submission of any written forms. If the claim cannot be approved electronically, the system lets claimants print required forms to complete and return to DOR for processing.
The system has significantly increased the number of claims and payments made to property owners.
September 2017 – February 2018
Total claims: 2,761
Total payments: $11,967,734
September 2018 – February 2019
Total claims: 7,735
Total payments: $16,885,541