Think Tank: Alabama could save $147 million over five years through IT improvements

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A Washington D.C. think tank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, released a report this month saying that Alabama's state government could save as much as $147 million over the next five years, if the state would just upgrade its information technology.

The study looked at how much productivity would increase if the government replaced some worker tasks with automated online processes.

Foundation President Rob Atkinson says, "I go to Amazon, for example, or Microsoft or Google almost every day. I don't go to my state government every day. But when I do go, my experience is usually one of frustration. Like, man, why can't they make this work better? Why isn't it more user-friendly?"

Adding that efficiency to something like the DMV makes people happier, but it also saves money on work hours and employees.

However, this analyst notes that state politicians all over, including Alabama, "They are often times penny-wise and pound-foolish. They won't invest in big upgrades that will save them money."

For legislators to maximize information technology savings, Atkinson admits, "That's going to take some new ways of thinking. It's going to take some investment. It's going to take some tough political choices. But we think states can actually save a lot of money if they do that."

But he adds, "I think if states really embrace this challenge, they could save money. They could make the experience for their citizens and for their businesses just a lot easier, a lot cheaper, and a lot faster. So it really becomes a win-win if they can go in that direction."

He has a number examples to showcase including, "The state of Indiana using data to reduce the infant mortality and infant diseases, which saves the state a lot of money in terms of their Medicaid costs and other kinds of costs."

He also mentions Pennsylvania giving out tablets to bridge inspectors, "They can just enter stuff right in the field, have it be sent back to the office for processing, ended up saving them enormous amounts of money, enormous amounts of time. They were able to cut the number of bridge inspectors."

Meanwhile, he cites Utah as an example of how far online forms can go, "They save $13 every time someone goes online and does something instead of going into an office or sending in a piece of paper."

He says every state government more or less has some great IT solution to be proud of, but to really save money, they need to integrate the solutions they see around them.