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Stake a Claim to Stimulus Spending

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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will drive an estimated $5.7 billion in state and local government IT spending. But to reap some of that bounty, you’d better be quick and targeted.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will drive an estimated $5.7 billion in state and local government IT spending. But to reap some of that bounty, you’d better be quick and targeted.

Opportunities abound for projects pertaining to broadband, health IT, social services and infrastructure modernization, notes Chris Dixon, manager of state and local industry analysis for Input.

Broadband expansion poses the largest technology initiative in the stimulus package. Administered through the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, opportunities include distance learning, telemedicine and public computer centers.

As for health IT, the act earmarks money for community-based health clinics, electronic medical records systems, telemedicine and regional health IT cooperative extension centers.

Social services are another area ripe for IT initiatives through online and self-service tools of the long-forgotten Workforce Investment Act of 1996.

Shovel-Ready Status

To compete effectively for your share of stimulus funds, think carefully about the efficiencies your IT project can bring to state and local government.

Joaquin Gonzalez, senior vice president and research director of advisory firm CivicUS, points out that most state and local managers are deft at administering operational budgets. But they lack experience handling windfalls for capital improvement. “They don’t have people flying above in helicopters throwing out bales of money,” he says.

For that reason, Gonzalez urges IT leaders to reach out to government department managers and share their expertise in acquisitions and systems implementation. “Collaborate and help them look at how an IT project can change the way you do business,” he suggests.

Input’s Dixon has similar advice: “Align yourself very closely to the folks requesting concrete and steel investments. This is no time to go after wide-ranging enterprise projects or anything you can’t get up and running inside of two years.”

He recommends targeting facilities-related systems for government buildings. “Virtually all of the funding for the ‘modernization’ of infrastructure can be interpreted to include those technologies that are embedded in the infrastructure,” Dixon says. “That includes things like communications networks, access controls, surveillance systems and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems.”

Some experts suggest using grants for IT programs that you’ve already committed to, such as expanding public computing center capacity and upgrading public safety communications. “Most agencies are thinking in terms of projects that make better and more timely use of data,” Gonzalez says. “For example, police departments are thinking about analytics and justice information systems.”

It’s clear that stimulus opportunities for IT projects abound, but time to make requests and spend the money is fleeting.

Jim Grass is vice president of CDW•G State and Local sales.

Where Will The Money Go?

Input forecasts funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to go to the following areas of state and local government (in billions).

Primary/Secondary Education $80.6 Higher Education $15.8
Transportation $47.8 Healthcare $5.5
Social Services $30.5 Justice / Public Safety $4.0
Economic Development / Regulation $21.5 Homeland Security $0.6
Community Development $17.7 Natural Resources / Environment $0.1
Jul 07 2009

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