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Vendors gearing up for 10th Annual National Child Welfare IT Managers’ Meeting

Registration is open for the 10th Annual National Child Welfare IT Managers' Meeting, an event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Children's Bureau. The event will take place May 23-26, 2011, and will be held at the Waterview Conference Center in Arlington, VA. The theme of this year's event is "Profiles in Progress: Applying the Results after a Decade of Collaboration," in which vendors, state leaders, and other health and human services stakeholders will discuss a variety of topics including:

  • Improving accessibility and mobility through data warehouses and other technologies
  • Innovative projects in child welfare and how to leverage technology to support business practices
  • Business continuity planning and human services integration in view of state or local budget deficits and staff furloughs
  • Innovative ways in exchanging data within and among systems
  • Cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Virtualization
  • Transforming the delivery of health and human services with national standards
A handful of states are mirroring these topics of discussion and are involved in modernization efforts for antiquated child welfare information systems. The Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services is performing an alternatives and analysis study to determine the feasibility of replacing its 2001, legacy Mississippi Automated Child Welfare Information System (MACWIS). The state's system supports financial transactions, caseworkers on cases, and tracks child welfare services from the intake report to adoption finalization. California's Department of Social Services is procuring for child welfare Web solution Services. The contract is expected to be worth approximately $130 million and will enhance and support the effectiveness of the California's Child Welfare Services Program. The state envisions an interoperable solution that will allow CWS workers and public health professionals to manage the safety, well-being and mental health of a child.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) released a request for proposals (RFP) in December 2010 to implement an enterprise system that will integrate various information systems. Better known as the MOSAIC Project, OKDHS will be transitioning to an enterprise business process model with a supporting technology infrastructure. The contractor will also be able to demonstrate additional software solutions in areas including unemployment benefits, WIC, and mental health that compliment MOSAIC enterprise system. Proposals for the solicitation were due last month and are now under evaluation.

Kansas is another state that recently solicited for services related to their child welfare program. The Kansas Health Policy Authority (KHPA), a Medicaid agency responsible for administering the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the State Employee Health Plan (SEHP), is in the process of reviewing proposals to create a new, integrated benefits and eligibility system. The system is expected to open new service channels for easier access to medical coverage applications and information, maximize investments, and improve workflow. The award is expected to be determined by the end of May 2011.

Furthermore, this year's Child Welfare IT Managers' Meeting will include a federal update session with a discussion of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), several panel discussions, and a vendor symposium hosted by the State Information Technology Consortium (SITC) and TechAmerica's Human Services IT Advisory Group (HSITAG), supporters of ACF. Presentations will be given by vendors including Accenture, Curam Software, Adobe, Unisys, Oracle, IBM, and Gartner. There will also be representatives from Wisconsin, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington, Minnesota, Georgia, California, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Utah and Oklahoma in attendance.

GovWin's Take

This year's conference is expected to cover an array of topics pertinent to child welfare IT and other technologies. The vendor symposium will be held on May 23, 2011 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. PST, and will be an excellent opportunity for vendors to network and share information on various IT solutions. For that, vendors can expect for this year's conference to draw attention back on child welfare and illuminate innovative avenues for streamlining and improving business processes in both health and human services.

GovWin will be attending this year's event and providing a report to recap major topics of discussion. A summary from last year's Annual Child Welfare IT Managers' Meeting can be downloaded here.

Be sure to follow GovWin's Health and Human Services Team at @GovWin_HHS for future announcements of upcoming events our analysts will be attending!

Recap of New Jersey NENA state conference

Last week, the New Jersey chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA) held its annual spring conference, which covered a variety of topics, including a session hosted by GovWin on federal public safety grants and local state grant programs within New Jersey. The goals of the conference included providing a refresh and information on the status of 9-1-1 throughout the state, using dispatchers to "catch the bad guy," updates on next generation 9-1-1 (NG911), and the importance of 9-1-1 technology.

The conference began with former New York firefighter Captain Alfredo Fuentes giving a chilling recollection of his experience on 9/11 nearly a decade ago. Captain Fuentes has been a consultant and provided his expertise on a number of emergency situations including the Oklahoma City bombing and natural disasters like Puerto Rico's Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Captain Fuentes' account of 9/11 provided a stirring realization that dispatchers have a significant job to do in times of crisis, and improving 9-1-1 response and capabilities will only make those jobs easier. With new technological capabilities like NG911 on the horizon, it will be more important than ever to hire dispatchers who are capable and able to think outside the box.

One of the first sessions was hosted by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services' (OETS) Director Craig Reiner, who provided an update on the state's 9-1-1 systems as well as radio communications system. New Jersey recently established two new boards: the Public Safety Communications Commission and the Public Safety Communications Advisory Council. The commission has approximately 12 members and will likely meet sporadically throughout the year, while the council is scheduled to meet more often and discuss both NG911 and statewide radio communications. The creation of these two groups will be important for the future of the state's NG911 planning and development, though due to the costs of NG911, the state does not plan to replace each public safety answering point's (PSAPs) customer-premise equipment (CPE). Essentially, the state would like each PSAP to complete upgrades on its own and then move forward with a statewide NG911 system. Future meetings of these new groups will determine how the state will proceed, including the possibility of a request for information (RFI) for an NG911 system.

Other sessions included an NG911 update and technology details from Chris Galahan of NICE Systems and Jeff Visger of VPI. VPI is a NENA Next Generation Partner Program (NGPP). NGPP was created in order to work with NENA on emerging 911 services technologies and provide a way to discuss these new technologies. The ultimate goal is moving toward NG911 across the country. VPI is joined by nearly 50 members representing service providers, allied public safety associations, several 9-1-1 authorities, and state 9-1-1 offices and vendors.

GovWin's Take

Next generation 911 is something everyone at the NENA conference can agree is a future necessity. Implementing NG911 across New Jersey will be essential in allowing every citizen to submit pictures, videos, text messages and other data. All of this additional data will enable dispatchers and first responders to obtain every bit of information possible on a given emergency. The main issue with moving forward with implementation is money. Funding is only available through grants, and GovWin presented a number of these options during the grants session. If agencies can make a case for these public safety grants, the agencies can begin local upgrades to PSAP locations in hopes that the state eventually obtains funding on its own to connect and develop a statewide system. Funding for 9-1-1 will continue, but in order to move toward NG911, even more funding will be needed.

Privatization Recommendations and Business Opportunities for North Carolina's State IT

North Carolina CIO Jerry Fralick has quickly followed up on his announcement at the GovWin Raleigh State and Local Executive Breakfast on 4/14/11; the state looks to be moving forward on INSA recommendations for privatizing portions of the state's IT infrastructure with upcoming RFPs and RFIs. The INSA recommendations from Technology Partners International (TPI) and initial plans for soliciting information and following through with projects were published today by CIO Fralick. This is great news for the state, which projects to save roughly $76.2 million through the potential implementation of the top four projects. However, the news is notably sublime for contractors interested in doing business with the state, as the scope of these top four potential projects is now on the table ($446.6 million in current state operations and capital expenses as a base case, with $18.74 million in one-time implementation and transition costs). The initial four projects and related processes are outlined below.

The Projects

Recommendation #1: Outsourcing Mainframe Services. $206.15 million base case (current operating and capital expenses over the next 5 years). $37.21 million in projected savings over the next 5 years. $10.08 million in projected one-time project costs. The procurement and transition phases of this project are estimated at 9 months. Details: External service provider provides mainframe services from their facilities and data centers using their equipment and staff, including all hardware, software, associated support functions, and mainframe disaster recovery. The project's intended benefits are upgrading of service levels to market norms, eliminating challenges of staffing, and elevating operational maturity and process discipline.

Recommendation #2: Outsourcing WAN Services. $107.73 million base case (current operating and capital expenses over the next 5 years). $6.25 million in projected savings over the next 5 years. $4.96 million in projected one-time project costs. The procurement and transition phases of this project are estimated at 6 months. Details: External service provider provides managed networking services including the following: 1) network monitoring and management; 2) planning and design services; 3) network connectivity and operations; and 4) network provisioning management. The project's intended benefits are upgrading of service levels to market norms, enhancing network monitoring, improving detection and resolution of network issues, enhancing network security, eliminating staffing challenges, and the evolution of embedded technology.

TPI's Critical Success Factors to Sourcing Recommendations (#1 and #2): Support for outsourcing must be evident in both the Governor's Office and the General Assembly. In addition, a comprehensive communication and change management program must be developed and implemented from the start of the procurement activity. Staff responsible for delivering the services to be outsourced must remain accessible through the services transition period (for improved knowledge transfer to an external service provider). A dedicated procurement core team must be established (e.g., subject matter experts and key stakeholders). A formal vendor and/or sourcing management organization (SMO) must be established well in advanced of contract award.

Recommendation #3: Consolidate into ITS Service Desk from Selected Agencies (Dept. of Revenue, Employment Security Commission, Wildlife Resources Commission, Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, and Crime Control and Public Safety). $13.39 million base case (current operating and capital expenses over the next 5 years). $8.99 million in projected savings over the next 5 years. $0.94 million in projected one-time project costs. The procurement and transition phases of this project are estimated at 7 months. Details: The project will consolidate service desks to a common framework. Also, it will utilize existing processes to affect consolidation. The project's intended benefits are leveraging existing ITS resources, consolidating staff, optimizing staff skill sets, and increasing volume of incident and service request data to serve as GovWin to continuous improvement programs.

Recommendation #4: Consolidate into ITS Servers from Selected Agencies (Employment Security Commission, Crime Control and Public Safety, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Dept. of Transportation, and Wildlife Resources Commission). $117.39 million base case (current operating and capital expenses over the next 5 years). $23.77 million in projected savings over the next 5 years. $2.77 million in projected one-time project costs. The procurement and transition phases of this project are estimated at 18 months. Details: The project will transfer service management responsibilities to ITS including: 1) server monitoring and operations management; 2) planning and design services; and 3) server provisioning management. The project's intended benefits are to leverage existing ITS resources, aggregate staff, create opportunities for optimizing requisite staff skill sets, and enable physical consolidation into an ITS data center.

TPI's Consolidation Recommendation Success Factors (#3 and #4): All participating agencies' IT infrastructure services must be consolidated to achieve the benefits. In addition, existing consolidated agencies' customer satisfaction levels must be improved. Larger agencies must be consolidated first. Non-consolidated participating agency staff must remain accessible through the services transition period. A comprehensive communication and change management program must be developed and implemented prior to starting consolidation

TPI's Cross-Cutting Implementation Considerations: While there are no identified and inherent interdependencies across the recommendations, synergies may be achieved in sequencing the implementation of the recommendations. One suggestion is concurrent execution of the mainframe and WAN outsourcing procurements may lower transaction costs and enable the possibility of a single (or multiple) external service provider solution.

An overarching governance framework for IT shared services should be established, either through the reconstitution of the Information Technology Advisory Board, or the creation of a successor body, to provide advice and guidance to the CIO and ITS with regard to planning, implementing and delivering IT services.

Finally, in conjunction with implementing the recommendations, a comprehensive communication and change management program must be developed and implemented to facilitate organization alignment with recommended goals and affect the changes needed to attain identified benefits

GovWin's Take The potential business impact of the privatization of large portions of the state's IT functioning is significant; a good prognosis for IT business with the state seems warranted. CIO Fralick's announcement at the GovWin Raleigh State and Local Executive Breakfast about upcoming RFIs and RFP's is materializing in the near future. Despite the possibilities, interested vendors should still approach these opportunities intentionally and with the understanding that these recommendations are just that, recommendations. The distinct likelihood exists that the finalized funding for these projects will never materialize. As CIO Fralick indicated at the GovWin event, one of his most important jobs moving forward will be securing funding for these projects through legislation. As identified previously by GovWin and by the INSA recommendations, opportunities exist for both large and small vendors; partnerships will likely be important in developing the creative solutions necessary to capture this business. Even in recessionary times, state government is still conducting business and procuring goods and services. To maintain a competitive advantage, follow GovWin's upcoming additional research and content on the INSA recommendations that will include Pre-Opportunities, Tracked Opportunities, and in-depth analysis of other potential projects to come (available to GovWin State and Local subscribers).

Read More In-Depth Analysis Here

(Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

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Colorado Bureau of Investigation releases RFP for AFIS replacement

On April 14, 2011, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) released a solicitation for a new automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). The current Sagem Morpho AFIS was purchased in 1992, and the maintenance costs are increasing due to the system's age. Replacement parts are also becoming more difficult to find, which makes the equipment expensive to maintain. Future support of older platforms by the current vendor cannot be guaranteed and maintaining the system represents a significant operational risk.

The CBI understands the need to expedite and improve background checks. These checks, which are used to determine whether an individual should work in sensitive areas such as with children or handling money, involve searches of Colorado and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal history records. However, under the CBI's current technology and practices, these checks can take several weeks to complete.

It is the goal of the CBI to acquire a new AFIS to provide an online database of latent fingerprints, palm prints, mug shots, scars, marks, tattoos, and demographic data. The AFIS records will be searchable by authorized agencies statewide for positive identification, criminal investigations and background checks. An enhanced automated AFIS would dramatically increase both public safety and crime solving capabilities of all law enforcement agencies throughout Colorado.

The CBI's primary goals and objectives are:

  • Workflow process and performance improvements
  • Support for automation of civil fingerprint submissions
  • Expanded identification services
  • Improved record access
  • Improved reliability and maintainability

The state will hold a pre-proposal conference for the AFIS replacement project on April 27, 2011. Vendor questions are due April 28, 2011, and proposals are due May 31, 2011. Vendor interviews and demonstrations are scheduled for June 21, 2011. A notice of intent to award is scheduled for June 30, 2011, with a contract finalized by September 1, 2011. For more information on this project, please see GovWin's tracked opportunity report HERE.

You can put 'e' in front of anything

Bringing legislators, policy experts, and lobbyists together, the National Conference of State Legislatures' Spring Forum convened last week in Washington D.C. One panel focused on transforming rural health through technology and aptly illustrated the role technology will play in policy formation and improved health care in the not-so-distant future.

I say future, but in fact the technology is being used every day in rural communities throughout the nation. A speaker from a South Dakota provider lauded the role futuristic-sounding things such as e-stroke, e-ICU, e-consult, e-nursery, and e-urgent care have in the lives of thousands of rural residents. As the provider succinctly stated, the goal is to put 'e' in front of anything and fundamentally transform health care in the hardest to reach locations of our country. This goal is both admirable and realistic, but not without challenges.

The most daunting of these challenges is broadband access. Outlined by a representative of the Federal Communications Commission, the National Broadband Plan, in an effort to close gaps with an affordable technical infrastructure, has already identified problem areas that lack access. Indeed, many states have begun to narrow these gaps by devoting funding to public-private partnerships and tax credits to encourage the build-up of necessary broadband infrastructure. The main challenge, identified by President Obama as a key directive, is to encourage private companies to invest in the low-population, often low income, rural areas. Some states are also working to combine broadband needs on the local level to increase demand and spur investment.

The telehealth market will be a key driver of demand. Many telecommunications companies are already investing in the solutions necessary to make telehealth a success. These companies have seen the benefit of combining state-of-the-art technical solutions with access to a broadband network. By entering the telehealth market, these companies make access to broadband a necessity for the rural citizen who might not have seen its value prior to an eConsult or eHealth experience at a local clinic. The benefits of these investments are great for both the company and the patient.

By increasing the use of telehealth in the health care market, policy makers hope to improve patient outcomes while also building and expanding our nation's technical infrastructure. It was very clear from the questions and excitement I saw in the room at the NCSL Forum that putting 'e' in front of everything is a goal shared by all.

GovWin's Raleigh State & Local Executive Breakfast Recap: Will North Carolina Privatize State IT?

For those in attendance at GovWin's North Carolina State and Local Executive Breakfast in Raleigh on April 14, 2011, future IT business prospects with state and local governments are certainly improved after the presentations from the CIOs in the state, City of Raleigh, and City of Durham. Q&A moderator Dr. Alan Shark (PTI) suggested the same when he asked the audience "Who is feeling good about IT business opportunities in the state now?" For the record, almost all hands in the audience of 126 IT executives went up in response to Dr. Shark's astute observation. The biggest news of the day was likely from the state CIO, Jerry Fralick, who indicated that in regards to state IT, "everything is on the table" for assessment of the possibility of privatization; this really is good news for the IT contracting community interested in doing business with North Carolina.

The Vendors

Prior to the CIO presentations, the mood among vendors was a little more tepid as they considered the looming budget cuts in federal, state, and local governments. Some observations from the vendor community included:

  • Many vendors in attendance are focused primarily on the federal space. However, with proposed cuts to the federal budget, many of these same vendors are looking to expand into the state and local market.
  • Many other vendors are focused primarily in the federal space with a limited presence in state and local; these vendors reported looking to expand their state and local business in light of current market conditions and the negative prognosis for the federal budget.
  • Some vendors have a primary presence in the state and local market, but are looking to grow business opportunities in light of generally declining budgets.
  • According to Dr. Alan Shark, 75-80% of vendors in attendance have substantially changed product offerings than they had 3-5 years ago due to changes in technology.
  • A majority of vendors are interested in partnering opportunities, either with other vendors or through joint-ventures with state and local governments.
  • A sizeable portion of vendors were looking for key market advantages in the state and local market for specialized businesses like 8As, small businesses, minority-owned, or women-owned entities.
  • Most vendors with unfamiliarity with the state and local market were interested in both tactical and strategic business intelligence assistance; with the myriad of laws, regulations, and procurement methodologies used in states and localities, determining where and how exactly to do business in these markets is challenging, if not daunting.

The good news for all vendors in attendance is that GovWin has both tactical and strategic resources to assist companies with their business needs in the state and local market. Whether vendors are looking for databases covering state and local business opportunities, government contacts, extensive research on larger IT projects, strategic analysis and research on upcoming opportunities and business trends, roadmaps on business processes in states and localities, or thought leadership on IT business, GovWin has them covered.

The CIOs

The CIOs for the City of Durham, City of Raleigh, and State of North Carolina were the primary attractions at the event; below are the summaries of their presentations.

City of Durham – Kerry Goode, Chief Information Officer

Identified Challenges

  • Durham has population growth projected at 40 million over the next 6 years, which presents problems with providing government services and associated IT support.
  • Obtaining funds for critical IT infrastructure – The current broadband infrastructure is insufficient to meet future growth needs. The city would like to implement new technologies for the entire enterprise. Budgets will need to grow to accommodate changes, with special consideration to the human capital expense.
  • Managing data growth and protection – Durham has less than 50% of their data protected and no ability entirely recover all of their data should a catastrophic failure occur. The city can only do a partial recovery that will take weeks to retrieve from tape backup systems. Clearly, Durham lacks the tools to manage data, data growth, data storage, and data recovery.
  • Implementing IT governance changes – Moving forward, IT leadership will make final IT spending decisions, make IT headcount decisions, participate in decisions about major IT projects, and allocate IT resources.
  • Aligning IT solutions to effectively and efficiently solve business problems – IT was previously managed as a 'cost center' that needed to be reduced. IT in the state is moving now toward being a resource that can reduce operating expenses in other departments. IT was not previously aligned with business units. IT did not have productive relationships with key vendors for consultation and guidance in the past.

Upcoming Opportunities

  • City considering major infrastructure investments in FY 12.
  • Redevelopment of city's web presence on Sharepoint 2010.
  • Replacement of backup and recovery system.
  • Fiber optic implementation study.
  • Upgrade network security.
  • Pilot cloud applications.
  • Pilot to align devices (iPad, Xoom, and smartphones) with potential new apps.

City of Raleigh – Gail M. Roper, Chief Information Officer

Completed and Underway IT Projects

  • Completed - Free downtown public Wi-Fi. Likely to expand in the future.
  • Completed - Downtown fiber ring.
  • Underway – 125 miles of fiber being laid for new traffic light network. This will serve as a cornerstone of improved IT infrastructure for the city.
  • Underway – partnership with Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC). MCNC builds partnerships among academic, research, government and business communities to enable and advance education, innovation and economic development throughout North Carolina by delivering the world's foremost information technology services through the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). The CIO engaged in this partnership due to shared interests, the ability to increase the city's capacity for IT infrastructure, and the realization of providing cost-effective services.
  • Underway – partnership with One Economy. One Economy is bringing $1.4 million in stimulus funding to provide workforce and other technology training in underserved communities.
  • Underway – partnership with One Economy, Cisco, and SAS in the Digital Connectors program. Through Digital Connectors and using the Saint Monica Teen Center, youth from Raleigh's underserved population receive training and computers to then train others in the community to use IT. These same youth are then recruited for further training, education, and IT jobs in the community.
Upcoming Opportunities

  • Implementation of an Enterprise Work Management solution.
  • Implementation of an Enterprise Content Management solution.
  • Implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning solution.
  • Comprehensive Land Management.
  • Implementation of mobile solutions.
  • Looking for future partnership opportunities.
  • Interested in providing services to underserved populations.
  • Interested in any opportunities that bring economic development to the area.

State of North Carolina – Jerry Fralick, Chief Information Officer

Currently Underway Initiatives

  • Under negotiations with private vendor to build a new state web portal. This would be paid for with fees generated from other state functions. The CIO hopes to have this fee structure and funding made more permanent through new legislation. This new portal will allow citizen access to services, receive information from the state, and improve overall transparency. The portal should be operational by July 1, 2011. The next goal of the project will be to consolidate web-based applications.
  • Consolidating agencies – Information Technology Services will be consolidated into the Department of Management and Administration with the Administration, State Personnel, and State Controller.
  • IT and non-IT procurement will be consolidated to reduce costs (See GovWin's tracked Pre-Opportunity here. Requires State and Local content subscription).
  • INSA and Privatization Implications and Opportunities - The IT Infrastructure Study and Assessment (INSA) program is an initiative to conduct an independent evaluation of the state's IT infrastructure, services, and costs within ITS and Executive Branch agencies to identify opportunities for efficiencies. It began in response to a memo on IT initiatives from Governor Beverly Perdue, based on recommendations by her Budget Reform and Accountability Commission (BRAC). INSA consultant contract is with Technology Partners Inc (See GovWin's tracked Opportunity here. Requires State and Local content subscription). 1) Changes should reduce duplication, improve utilization and efficiency of resources, and implement industry best practices. 2) The assessment will provide objective data to help policy makers determine the best path for accelerated consolidation of the IT infrastructure, such as personal computers, networks, servers, and print services. The consolidation might include additional internal consolidation, increased use of vendors, or some combination. 3) Final considerations and recommendations from INSA are currently underway. Significant RFIs and RFQBs will be forthcoming within 2-3 weeks (by May 7, 2011) for privatizing state IT functions. *Note: GovWin is closely watching for developments on this breaking news. 4) CIO Fralick stated that in terms of IT functions, "everything is on the table" for privatization. 5) Despite the possibilities of privatization, CIO Fralick was still somewhat cautionary; he emphatically indicated that he did not want to be the state official responsible for the types of privatization failures that materialized in the Commonwealth of Virginia in recent years.

GovWin's Take

The Raleigh State and Local Executive Breakfast uncovered some new IT business opportunities and may have been just the fortification that the flagging spirits of some vendors needed. The potential business impact of the privatization of large portions of the state's IT functioning is monumental, to be sure. In fact, IT opportunities arising from the upcoming RFIs could be some of the largest state IT initiatives across the country in coming years. Opportunities will likely abound for both large and small vendors; partnerships will be key in developing the creative solutions necessary to capture these potentially substantial contracts. Partnerships in North Carolina localities are also becoming increasingly important. Quite frankly, the localities are looking for partnerships that either provide services at decreased cost or provide jobs and other economic development opportunities for their communities. So, vendors would do well to look at plans and opportunities to bring value to the community beyond strictly selling goods and services to the localities. The bottom line is that IT business opportunities exist, even in recessionary times. Companies can still win business through careful partnering, bringing value to the community in creative opportunities that also bolster economic development, and initiating solutions that ultimately bring down the cost of doing government business.

Read More here about additional opportunities, state IT budgets, local IT budgets, and deeper analysis from the Raleigh Breakfast on GovWin's State and Local Industry Analysis page.

(Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

** FREE BLOG UPDATE: CIO Fralick's updates, INSA Recommendations for Privatization, and IT Business Opportunities here.

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Fiscal year 2011 budget agreement and the survival of grants

In February, GovWin reported on President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget proposal, specifically state and local public safety programs. Based on the FY 2012 budget proposal, approximately $7.57 billion would be set aside for grants out of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Until about a week ago, Congress and President Obama were debating various aspects of the FY 2011 budget, seeking a compromise that would prevent a government shutdown. While funding levels for the DHS and the DOJ were not highly contested issues, the funding levels in the FY 2011 budget agreement are different, and mostly higher, than the continuing resolution (H.R. 1).

Taking a look at some of the funding levels from DHS for the FY 2011 budget, we can see some significant changes from FY 2010, along with changes from the continuing resolution. In the budget for FEMA programs, $2.2 billion is allocated for state and local grants, $786 million below FY 2010 and $80 million above the continuing resolution. Disaster relief received a major increase, receiving $2.65 billion, which is $1.05 billion more than FY 2010 and $700 million above the president's FY 2011 request. Another major grant program, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), received $725 million, which ends up being $165 million (or 18%) less than FY 2010. Overall, we can see a range of decreases from the FY 2010 budget, though many of the figures are higher than expected based on the continuing resolution.

As for the Department of Justice grant programs, we see some of the same trends. Approximately $2.8 billion is allocated for FY 2011 – an increase of $101 million over the continue resolution, but a decrease of $434 million from FY 2010. President Obama requested nearly $3.6 billion for these grant programs, but $2.8 billion appears to be the final number. Overall, the numbers represent a 17 percent decline from FY 2010. Fortunately, some important programs will still receive solid support, like the Byrne Grant – one of the largest programs between DHS and the DOJ – which received $1.12 billion.

GovWin's Take:

As government agencies look at their budget shortfalls for the upcoming fiscal year, applying for these grants will be essential. Vendors looking to work with agencies in this situation must be able to develop a framework for their projects and provide agencies with the information, whether through a request for information (RFI) or consulting work, in order for them to establish their grant applications. Every project must have a goal, a predicted outcome, and most of all, be clear, specific and realistic. Due to the late approval of the FY 2011 budget, many of these grant programs will have a quick turnaround.

While there have been significant cuts to many grant programs compared to the FY 2010 levels, state and local agencies are beginning to rebound financially. This does not mean that every agency is back to pre-recession levels (not by a long shot), but some agencies that received grants in FY 2009 or FY 2010 may be out of the running due to improved fiscal situations. This leaves the door open for agencies that are still in the red to make their case for monies to help with important radio projects or information sharing databases. Vendors and government officials have to be even more specific when applying for FY 2011 grants. With less money available, every dollar counts.

NG911: A national overview

GovWin's final blog in a series dedicated to National Public Safety Telecommunications Week focuses on next generation 911 (NG911). According to the Federal Communications Commission, it is estimated that nearly 70 percent of all 911 calls are placed from wireless phones, and this number continues to rise. With the increase of cell phone usage and the addition of other data types such as text messages and VoIP calls, public safety answering points (PSAPs) are beginning the transition to NG911, which is capable of handling the increasing cell phone use and other communication methods.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working on a national NG911 pilot program in order to design a network that can handle text, data, images and video, all of which cannot be processed by the nation's current 911 network. The DOT Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS) is harnessing a variety of technologies and seeking to address each communications method with its designs and trials. The research and approach used by the ITS is focused on designing an NG911 system that can be utilized across the country as a standard by which PSAPs can develop their own system.

The DOT is not the only federal agency working toward the goal of creating a national standard for NG911. The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of inquiry (NOI) on December 21, 2010 to receive comments from the public and vendors on NG911 ideas and solutions. The goal of the NOI was to initiate a proceeding to address how NG911 can be utilized by the public in order to acquire emergency assistance through means other than landline telephone calls. Giving the public the ability to send a video or photo in an emergency situation, or a text message when a phone call is not possible, could save lives and give first responders more information to work with.

Last month, GovWin attended and reported on the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) 911 Goes to Washington conference, in which the FCC panel sought to promote NG911. In order to build out a nationwide system, it was stressed that the federal government must provide the necessary funding. There was also mention of the NOI the FCC issued, and that responses had been overwhelming. The next step in this process may be to develop a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and additional NOIs.

Developing a national standard for NG911 will not happen overnight, especially considering the complicated and expensive nature of the system. Once the FCC has formulated an NPRM and received additional information from the vendor community, national standards can begin to take shape. The process must be thought out and include all funding possibilities, including grants. Vendors need to continue to work with the federal government on these standards in order to develop a framework for an NG911 system that can ultimately strengthen the nation's 911 network and save lives

Social media and the 9-1-1 dispatch center

This is the fourth installment of GovWin's blog series recognizing National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.

Frequent readers of the GovWin B2G Blog may have noticed several postings related to the rise of social media and its implications on both government services and the government technology marketplace. (I recommend taking a look at postings by Kyle Ridley, Kate Tussey and Evan Halperin.) Today, I continue that theme with a look at how the rise in requests for emergency assistance via social networking platforms affects operations in public safety answering points (PSAPs).

Despite the fact that I cover the 9-1-1 industry, I never really considered the public's increasing reliance on social networking would result in a small percentage of the public utilizing these networks as a means to request emergency assistance as opposed to the traditional means of dialing 9-1-1. In February, my eyes were opened at the 2011 Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Western States Regional Conference and Exposition in Ontario, California, when Communications Manager for the San Bernadino County Sheriff's Office Ron Dun gave a presentation titled "The Social Media and 9-1-1." This session featured many comments from the audience of dispatchers who have faced difficult situations in responding to requests relayed to them via social media.

There are plenty of examples of how this practice has saved lives, but what is often overlooked is how these requests are received and handled by dispatch centers. The biggest hurdle that dispatchers face in dealing with these requests is that they are forced to work based off a second-hand interpretation of an emergency. Remember, Twitter tweets are limited to only 140 characters.

What many people do not realize is that in order to limit distractions, many PSAPs restrict Internet access at their workstations. This prevents dispatchers from logging on and verifying or requesting additional information from the individual in need of help. Jurisdictions that choose to allow unrestricted access will have to craft standard operating procedures for responding to and investigating social network-generated requests to ensure they are handled appropriately without compromising the dispatcher's time to assist with other calls.

This new era of social media influencing so many aspects of life does not change the job of the dispatcher for better or worse, but it surely impacts the role. PSAPs still trying to keep up with determining the location of cell phone calls and texts messages (while managing tight budgets) are being pulled in a new direction by the power of social networks. Currently, there are more questions than answers about how this will unfold, but it surely will be interesting to observe.

What's Next?

At the local level, the first thing that dispatch centers can do to aid operations is engage with the public to help bridge the gap between the technology-savvy public's sometimes uninformed expectation of 9-1-1capabilities. On a very basic level, this would involve reaching out to schools and community organizations to make the public aware of the PSAP's ability to receive certain types of calls for services. Some people are simply unaware that they cannot text 9-1-1 in most jurisdictions, or that a tweet should only be used if calling directly is not an option.

At the national level, establishing and maintaining a relationship between industry associations such as APCO and NENA and the top social networking platforms will be a key factor in pushing companies to educate their users on their systems' capabilities. This wouldn't necessarily involve encouraging or discouraging users from requesting emergency assistance via their social networks, but could help users understand what information they should include if they are left with no other options than to seek help from their social network.

One of the biggest unanswered questions is what role, if any, 9-1-1 technology solutions providers will play in bridging the gap between the public placing requests for emergency assistance via social networks and the PSAPs ability to receive them. While it is by no means an easy task, any vendor that incorporates a means to process and investigate social network-generated requests for assistance in their solutions will create a great differentiator for their product.

In the spirit of embracing social media, I encourage any dispatchers who might be reading this blog to post any comments they might have or connect with GovWin's JPS team via Twitter at (@GovWin_PubSafety).

Recap of Ohio APCO/NENA state conference

This is the third installment of GovWin's blog series for National Public Safety Telecommunicators week.

Earlier this week, the Ohio chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) held their annual joint conference, which brought together nearly 150 public safety communication officials throughout the Ohio region. As expected, the hot-button topic of the conference was next generation 911 (NG911). Given the unique location and makeup of the state, Ohio, with its three major cities, has a larger requirement than most states when it comes to providing its citizens with enhanced 911 capabilities. This was evident throughout the conference sessions as many of the questions and concerns raised by dispatch officials regarded call handing and capacity. NG911 is coming and it is coming fast. Agencies recognize this and are doing their research and planning now to ensure their citizens have the best 911 service possible.

As stated, NG911 was the topic of choice at the Ohio APCO/NENA conference. Technical Issues Director for NENA Roger Nixon gave an overview of NG911. On top of providing a brief overview of the capabilities and needs for NG911, Nixon outlined the drivers of NG911, the difference between E911 and NG911, and the design features of NG911. Nixon outlined the following:

Drivers of NG911:

  • New Technologies and Services
  • Improving survivability
  • Improving interoperability, flexibility, and information sharing
  • IP technology
NG911 Difference:
  • Packet-based vs. circuit-switched
  • Uses GIS
  • No longer a "local" service (interoperability)
Design features:
  • Supports interoperability
  • Based on open standards
  • Promotes open competition
  • Enables a transition to a competitive NG911 service provider environment

Nixon also made a point to tell agencies to design request for proposals (RFPs) around a transitional NG911 system as opposed to a full-blown NG911 system based on NENA's i3 standards. Nixon stated that while NENA's i3 document is a good baseline for understanding NG911, no vendor can truly say they adhere to it completely. Nixon stated that agencies should work with their vendor to build out a transition plan for NG911. Nathan Teodoro of 911 Inc. also touched on NG911. He provided additional insight into NG911, but also suggested ways for agencies to minimize their risks in developing a NG911 network. These include:

  • Performing network analysis
  • Educating dispatchers about new technologies
  • Familiarizing the department with the i3 document
  • Carefully choose a vendor
  • Begin developing funding options early
GovWin's Take

One of the key ingredients in making NG911 a reality within any agency is obtaining the necessary funding to get the project off the ground. During the conference, GovWin presented on federal grants for public safety agencies. Other than outlining potential grant programs that could be used to fund NG911 projects, we presented on tips and tricks associated with grant proposals. One tip of great significance for agencies applying for grants is planning. The grant application process really should start a year in advance. Agencies will need to plan ahead to ensure they have the correct data and plans, so when the application is announced, they have the necessary information to accurately and effectively apply for the grant dollars.

Part of this planning includes budget planning. Many grant programs have a match program, which means that the awarded agency will need to match a certain percentage of the awarded dollar amount. These programs typically operate on an 80/20 match program where the awarded agency will need to match 20 percent of the grant either through budgeted dollars or in-kind contributions. This is why it is important for agencies to plan ahead for grant programs; they will need to properly set aside funding to cover these match requirements. Given the size and scope of most NG911 projects, this could be a large dollar amount.

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