Outdated Computer Systems Threaten State Services

By Ivan Moreno

DENVER (AP) – It’s the digital elephant in the room: An outdated state computer system at risk of a crash that would interrupt crucial government accounting services.

In Colorado, a crash of the state’s central financial reporting system would stall payments for food stamps and construction contracts and affect nearly every state agency, according to a July audit that said there was a significant risk of a crash because of obsolete technology and programming code.

Several other states face the same issue, according to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

Systems that handle unemployment claims, entitlement benefits and personnel records have sometimes gone decades without expensive upgrades or replacement. Some cash-strapped states can’t dedicate funding for new technology, said Doug Robinson, executive director of NASCIO.

“It’s difficult to demonstrate the importance of these systems because they’re not visible like bridges and pot holes,” said Jonathan Trull, Colorado’s deputy state auditor.

Trull’s office conducted the audit of Colorado’s Financial Reporting System, known as COFRS, which was installed in 1991. The audit said it would likely take between three to five years to replace the system at a conservative price tag of more than $20 million.

Often, the public is unaware that their government computer systems are on the brink of disrepair until something goes wrong.

In 2009 alone, heavy volume and technical problems temporarily shut down unemployment filing systems in New York, North Carolina and Ohio. In each incident, system hardware and software didn’t have the capacity to handle high demand, Robinson said.

Each state has hundreds of computer systems, some more critical than others, to handle administrative functions. About half of those systems are considered outdated, Robinson said. More than half of those systems are considered critical to government functions, according to a 2008 NASCIO survey of states.

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Posted by on Oct 1st, 2011 and filed under Literature & Electronic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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