It’s been a couple months now since the entertainment industry finished up their awards season and as usual there were a slew of movies nominated that I have never seen or even heard of (sadly the ratio of “unknowns” to “knowns” increases proportionally with my age). This doesn’t bother me too much though because the entertainment industry isn’t the awards announcements I watch the closest. I have an interest in something much closer to my heart – the state IT awards.
State IT programs are usually not on the bleeding edge but the implications of what they provide for large sections of the citizen base and that the work is accomplished given the staggering budget cuts seen across all states make the work that is completed that much more impressive.
There are a variety of awards sponsored by a number of different organizations that compare state to state and also competitions internal within the states as well.
While there is no guaranteed salary increase for a state IT winner like an Oscar gives, there are considerable bragging rights for finishing first or at least near the top. From a citizen perspective the transparency award might be one of the most important. The U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) ‘Follow the Money’ report (http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/following-money-2012) The 2012 report is the “third annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.” This report is important because citizens of a state need to have a level of confidence that the state is utilizing their tax dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible. That’s not possible if you can’t get to the data to search and see how much is being spent on what from whom.
Internally, state IT organizations may be more interested in the ‘Best of the Web’ award sponsored by the Center for Digital Government. This award compares the offering, content, ease of use, functionality and other criteria of all 50 states and then ranks the top 10. Naturally every state wants to rank in the top 10 and the competition gets tougher every year as states offer more and more services on line. The 2012 results are not due until September but the results for the last 10 years can be found here - http://www.centerdigitalgov.com/survey/88/2011. The CDG has a similar awards program for both cities (by various size categories) and also county governments.
The CDG also sponsors another highly competed for award – the Digital States Surveys. The digital states survey goes beyond just the state website and is a “comprehensive study that examines best practices, policies and progress made by state governments in their use of digital technologies to better serve their citizens and streamline operations.” The award is biannual in even numbered years and traditionally ranked the states from #1 to 50 but in 2010 switched to a new format of given a letter grade. This is a somewhat kinder format that appears to take away bragging rights for being ‘Top Dog’ but there are still 1st to 5th rankings in eight separate subcategories.
For internal system to system competitions, Digital Government magazine sponsors ‘Best of’ events and awards in many states. The awards themselves may vary state to state but state agencies compete fiercely for recognition for the projects they have completed during the previous year.
While these government awards may not be as flashy or draw the attention of the print and news media, be assured that your state and/or their IT department finds them worth the time to compete for. I suggest you check the reports listed above to see where your state ranks nationally in Information Technology.