North Carolina is heading up a new collaborative – with at least half the nation’s states aboard so far – to improve the integration of modern technology at the state government level.
Gathered at the Innovation Center on Raleigh’s Jones Street Tuesday morning, Gov. Pat McCrory and top administrative officials cheered the so-called National Innovation Community, in which member states will replicate the work of the iCenter, a N.C. government facility trying new technologies to gauge their performance, a concept relieving the state from purchasing questionable, unproven products as the tech sector churns out options en masse.
McCrory said it’s like “getting to drive the car before you buy it, as opposed to just hoping for the best. Now, before we buy a new technology, we’re testing it out.”
That’s possible through the participation of private vendors – and a change in state law that allows the government to test products for free without that arrangement being categorized as a gift. Spokeswoman Stephanie Hawco said the state’s budget gives no funding to the iCenter.
“All of the technology we test is on demo from vendors, and even the furniture is on loan,” she said.
Twenty-five states, including Texas, are part of the National Innovation Community so far. McCrory said Texas Gov. Rick Perry and staff viewed the iCenter method during a recent visit here, “and they’re going to basically steal the concept and take it to Texas, which is fine,” McCrory explained. “It means it’s more efficiency for the country. And we’re going to see what they’ve learned and then steal their ideas and bring it back to North Carolina.”
Officials said more than $6 million in products have been tested at the iCenter in the year since its opening. They include a new cloud system that the state ended up integrating, that’s expected to save taxpayers $1.4 million a year in storage costs.
It’s also been an eye-opener, said the state’s Chief Information Officer Chris Estes. “We found interestingly enough that several companies, once we give them the offer to test the technology, they disappear,” he said. “Because they don’t really necessarily have technology that works.”
Asked about other states’ interest in the new collective, Estes said: “As we make this announcement today, I’m sure more states will be participating.”