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story.lead_photo.caption Jeffrey Wann, State of Missouri Chief Information Officer, who leads the OA Information Technology Services Division. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The way Missourians interact with state government services may be revamped with a massive IT overhaul being discussed.

The Missouri House Subcommittee on Federal Stimulus Spending heard testimony Tuesday from the Office of Administration, Department of Revenue and industry partners on the state's IT infrastructure and plans for potential upgrades.

The Office of Administration wants to complete an estimated $83.5 million overhaul of the state's IT infrastructure. The new system would feature a centralized portal in which Missourians could access services from across state government agencies in an integrated fashion.

"This is just a huge opportunity for the state of Missouri to transform itself," OA Commissioner Sarah Steelman said.

OA houses the state's IT Services Division, a team of about 900 state IT employees who provide direct technology support to the governor, lieutenant governor and all executive departments (excluding the Department of Transportation and the Department of Conservation, which maintain their own IT units).

The upgrading would begin by identifying consumer interactions with state government services and the data required for these interactions, also known as "citizen pathway journeys."

The overhaul would then involve investing in productivity and collaboration tools, which are currently three to four generations behind the latest technology, Missouri Chief Information Officer Jeffrey Wann said.

The final aspect is building and implementing the outward facing portal and back-end IT infrastructure, like cybersecurity and data storage, that would provide Missourians a one-stop shop for accessing government services.

"What we're really looking for — our primary objective — is to create a world-class experience for our citizens," Wann said. "There's no reason why our citizens can't have the same experience that I had yesterday ordering pizza from Domino's."

Wann said the IT overhaul would provide the foundation to integrate other departmental initiatives and information, such as digital or mobile drivers' licenses, which could be accessed by other departments for more collaborative efforts.

Steelman said most state departments want to see a heavier focus on customer-facing software.

Multiple departments are already planning how they may use data from other departments in integrated ways, Wann said.

Department of Revenue Director Ken Zellers used his testimony to talk about DORA, the department's 24/7 customer service chatbot on its website. It was the first state agency to use a chatbot on its website.

"This is just one example of advanced technology and how it's helped DOR better serve our customers," Zellers said. "It's allowed us the opportunity to simplify the process to our customers. It allows us to be able to collect, analyze and use the data to make good, data-driven decisions and it answers some of the frequent questions from our customers concerning the items that we don't consider that complex."

Zellers said DORA would integrate with the new system.

Funding for the IT overhaul would come from federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden in March.

State Budget Director Dan Haug said Missouri's total $2.8 billion in ARPA funding is earmarked for responding to public health emergencies, negative economic impacts and revenue loss. Haug said funding for the new IT infrastructure likely would be possible under revenue loss and could be available starting July 1, 2022.

After the initial $83.5 million for setting up the new system, Wann said the state would be looking at an annual recurring cost of $36 million to keep it running.

The state is looking at a gradual four- to five-year implementation of the new system and five-to-six years before Missourians are likely able to access the portal, Wann said.

The ARPA funding source puts added pressure on the project, as funds must be obligated by 2024 and spent by 2026.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, said he is concerned about Missouri's outdated IT system, which he said is causing frustration with constituents who need assistance, particularly those who are required to go to multiple departments that may be using different systems.

"We have the opportunity to talk about something that can have a tremendous effect upon Missourians and any entity, business or otherwise, that has to engage the state in terms of state bureaucracy," Richey said.

Richey said he's advocating for Gov. Mike Parson to call a special legislative session to fund the start of the process before the next regular session begins in January.

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