ITD moves to ‘unify’ state agency tech needs

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - COVID showed how much we rely on technology. Digital work needs exploded with distance resources and growing cyber security concerns.

North Dakota’s Information Technology Department has been on the front lines of this demand, and says the state as a whole can save a lot of money if agencies use this time as an opportunity to invest in modern workplaces.

State agencies are responsible for getting their own equipment and budgeting for maintenance.

For a fee, the state’s Information Technology Department can assist with any tech help.

With many departments looking to use ARPA dollars on updating equipment, ITD is trying to work with them to achieve their goals.

But some have experienced bumps in the road with recent efforts.

For years, some agencies have been going through a “unification” initiative, where ITD tries to get everyone on similar equipment and platforms.

That’s because options for technology have multiplied over the decades, and someone has needed to learn how to fix it all.

“I’ve got more than 100 makes and models of desktops in my fleet right now... Every one of those has different firm ware, different drivers, meaning you’re managing those differently. So it’s the ability to drive that down to a much smaller list of makes and models, make it much more efficient to push out,” said NDIT Chief Technology Officer Duane Schell.

While agencies experience a surge in tech charges for the initial steps, the hope is for costs to drop as systems settle in.

So far, 20 agencies have signed on to unify.

Most are seeing increased overhead security, but others have experienced less-smooth transition from their old systems.

“It’s a pretty massive system that was home-grown in the late 1980′s, probably around 1988. Extremely antiquated, extremely outdated, but we just have the two programmers within the state who understand how to repair that. I saw we kinda duct tape and paper clip that thing together,” said outgoing Commissioner for the Board of University and School Trust Lands Jodi Smith.

In order to join the “unification” efforts or update equipment in these amounts, it needs to be signed of by the state legislature.

And some agencies could be getting their money in the coming weeks.

ITD reports an average 12,000 “incidents” per month, but they believe that number will go up if more agencies subscribe to their services.

But the response times could be quicker if they’re on familiar systems.

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