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State IT director outlines plans for a state "app," and getting rid of mainframes

North Dakota’s Information Technology director said his agency is working on an app that would be a one-stop portal to the state of North Dakota.

Shawn Riley said this app will improve the customer’s experience in dealing with state government agencies. Riley outlined the plan to the Legislature’s Information Technology Committee. He said it should make the citizens’ experience a lot better.

"They don't have to worry about which agency does what -- who helps me here, helps me there, send me here," Riley said. "If you have someone who has to worry about LIHEAP (Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program),  first of all, they have no idea what LIHEP is -- they just know they need assistance with their utilities. All of that could be integrated here."

Riley said once you log into a portal like that, it will automatically connect you with the correct agency. He told the Committee this could also mean some cost-savings for state government.

"If the citizen doesn't have to stand in line, then maybe we don't need a facility there to manage people standing in line," Riley said. "Maybe we don't need someone there as a receptionist, or someone typing documents back and forth."

And Riley said this will allow state employees to have a vastly different experience.

"I have yet to meet a government worker, or anybody, anywhere, who says, 'I want to do the same thing everyday,'" Riley said. "That's boring, and your mind goes to mush. They want to do engaging work."

Riley also said he has a goal to get rid of some older “mainframe” computers in state government – and updating them to modern and scalable computers. He said one of the examples of an out-of-date mainframe system is the MMIS – which stands for Medicare and Medicaid Information System.

"We are about to spend $7 million to bring the MMIS architecture up to 2002 levels," Riley said. "That's something that is 20 years old."

Riley calls these “monolithic systems,” that are not easily updatable.

"We're spending $7 million to bring a piece of crap technology to more piece of crap technology, instead of spending $7 million to be able to keep it up to date all the time," Riley said. "Unfortunately, we have dozens of those across the state."

Riley said it’s going to take some time to convert those older systems.

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