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State seeks to invest ARPA funds in technology upgrades

by Cameron Gerber | January 27, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Cables are plugged into computer equipment. (Associated Press file photo)

Long-awaited technology upgrades may be in the cards for several state systems thanks to an influx of federal funds.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson unveiled the state's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) recommendations last week, seeking to earmark more than $230 million for digital modernization and government improvements. Most of the planned funds would go toward upgrades to bring the state in line with advancing technology, Office of Administration spokesman Chris Moreland said.

"Our main objective for the digital government transformation is to ultimately provide a world-class user experience by innovating how state government works with our citizens," Moreland said.

The plan noted the impact of COVID-19 on remote work and customer service expectations: As many sectors have adjusted to an emphasis on virtual business, the ARPA plan allows for similar enhancements for the customers and employees of the state government.

Under the state's plan, $126 million in ARPA funds would go toward upgrading the state's digital systems. Investments would be made in working with citizens to determine the customer service experience they expect from interactions with the government, while funds would also go toward streamlining and updating the state's technology setups, many of which differ from one agency to the next and are facing the end of their useful lifetimes in the coming years.

The state would also invest in cloud technology to allow residents to access government systems digitally through an updated portal. Moreland said OA hoped to consolidate duplicate functions across different agencies and create new digital infrastructure, such as workflow and integration platforms.

Also, Moreland said the funds would go into operational data lakes, systems which allow different entities to share data through different systems.

Other investments seek to give long-outdated programs a modern upgrade. The Department of Social Services' automated Child Support System, which operates through a system originally established in 1997, would receive more than $27 million for modernization.

The state reported the system was so far out of date it was difficult to find workers who could operate it.

The investment would allow DSS to contract with one of several potential vendors to replace the system.

DSS' Division of Youth Services would receive $7 million in ARPA funds for its case management system first implemented in 1975. The upgrades would streamline coordination on cases and allow the division to store court and treatment documents, photos, case notes and other forms digitally, according to the governor's office.

The current system is outdated and difficult to navigate for the employees required to use it, according to the budget request, and is unable to record the data needed for the division to manage its case and student information.

DSS also requested $21 million to upgrade the Department of Commerce and Insurance Division of Professional Registration's e-licensing system. The current system has been in use for 25 years, and there are only two staff members available to perform maintenance on it.

A new system would allow licensees and applicants full access to their information and reduce the wait time for licensing services amid staffing shortages or similar situations.

These updates would allow the state workforce to meet current and future needs while streamlining the process for other Missourians navigating its websites.

Other planned investments include $1 million to create a self-service child support option for the state's child support portal giving parents access to case information.

Another $1 million would be used to upgrade outdated software used by the Department of Agriculture's Grain Regulatory Services Program, streamlining its efforts to oversee grain dealers and warehouses across the state. The current system is the minimum functioning level for the task it undertakes and may soon be dropped by its vendor, the request said.

Missouri courts would also receive $5 million to upgrade courtroom technology, with security, bandwidth and remote access at the top of the list of proposed improvements. Expanding courtroom technology would allow more public access to court proceedings, allow individuals to participate without the need to travel and give multiple participants the chance to virtually connect with the court at the same time.

The ultimate goal is to make Missouri a more efficient and accessible business for its customers, Moreland said. OA hopes the updates will allow Missourians to navigate and access information easier and give them the opportunity to use a system with a consistent look and feel across multiple areas -- and this ARPA investment is the jumping off point for a bevy of digital upgrades to be sought during the next few years.

"A comprehensive look at all data systems is currently being done and future modernization projects using the new infrastructure outlined in the digital government transformation investments will be requested in future years," Moreland said.

The proposals are subject to passage by the General Assembly. The ARPA package has not yet been compiled into a budget bill.

Print Headline: State seeks to invest ARPA funds in technology upgrades


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