State Government 2.0: How Technology Will Help Maryland Make the Most of the Stimulus

"Here in Washington," President Obama told Congress Tuesday night, "we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending."

Here in Annapolis - just 40 miles away, in the halls of Maryland's State House - we've had a front-row seat to those failures under the previous administration, and they've inspired us to seek ways we can ensure our own state government doesn't replicate them. That's why my administration has developed a performance-measurement tool to make sure we're as responsive to citizen concerns as possible, spend taxpayer dollars as efficiently as we can, and give our citizens the tools they need to hold us accountable.

In Maryland, we developed StateStat as a performance-measurement and management tool that allows us to collect and analyze reams of raw government-agency data to improve government responsiveness and efficiency.

Its based on a simple, proven premise: better government use of data leads to better results for citizens - and we intend to use this same management system to make sure we sue the Recovery and Reinvestment funds in the most responsible way possible

Instead of relying on guesswork or ideological arguments to consider which programs work better than others, or where government can do better by our citizens, StateStat provides tangible, quantifiable figures that tell us where we can improve services and give Marylanders more bang for each taxpayer dollar.

By integrating data across government agencies and systems, StateStat will also give we in Maryland a holistic way to look at problems - and potential solutions - that simply weren't available to us before.

StateStat's predecessor is CitiStat, which I implemented as mayor of Baltimore. To give a concrete example of how these systems work, consider a problem every driver can relate to: potholes. When I was mayor of Baltimore, my team used CitiStat to track the time it took city departments to respond to public complaints. Thanks to their careful monitoring and relentless follow-up, we were able to guarantee that potholes would be fixed within 48 hours of notification.

StateStat is based on the same idea, on a larger scale. To take stimulus funding as an example, StateStat will allow us to monitor the costs and results of stimulus spending in real time. According to the Pew Center on the States, government use of performance data saves taxpayer dollars; StateStat will allow us to do just that by employing carefully analyzed performance trends to make sure funding is being allocated efficiently.

Importantly, these technologies are online - available for public viewing. It's a leap forward for government transparency, because we're giving our citizens the tools they need to hold us accountable. Any Marylander with an internet connection will be able to log onto the StateStat website and track - through in-depth reports and interactive maps - where our state government is has already allocated $360 million in funding for shovel ready projects in Maryland.

As exciting as this is, StateStat is just the beginning - and only one example of how we can use technology to make government better. For far too long, the federal and state governments have placed a low priority on using the latest technology to improve how we serve our citizens - when it's among the best tools we possess to make government work better.

I'm encouraged by the example President Obama and Congress set this month by making it a requirement - not just a suggestion - that government agencies publish their reports on how they disperse stimulus funds as RSS feeds. Any citizen can subscribe to get weekly reports and grant allocations delivered to them - to scrutinize, mash up, and re-publish however they like.

RSS, XML, GIS, API: this is what smart, transparent governance will look like in the years ahead.

I'm proud that Maryland is stepping into that future with StateStat, particularly in the midst of the current economic crisis. Lean times make government waste more inexcusable than ever before - and inefficiency potentially disastrous for citizens relying on government services to feed, clothe, and shelter their families during their time of need.

I'm convinced and confident that technology - and the progressive leaders who wield it - will be our best allies in making government work better for our citizens now and in the years to come.