California's CTO Responds To Our Challenge With His Own: Give CA Your Best IT Ideas

Editor’s note: In a pair of posts a couple of weeks ago, contributing columnist Vivek Wadhwa highlighted the antiquated nature of the state of California’s IT systems and the way contracts for those systems are doled out to legacy IT firms. He then challenged Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to come up with ways to rebuild California’s IT systems at one tenth the cost. California CTO P.K. Agarwal responds in this guest post with his own challenge: walk the talk and give him your best IT ideas. He’s even set up a crowdsourcing site to gather them.

Vivek, I’m glad to see you are challenging the readers of TechCrunch the same way you challenge the audiences of your speeches.

The debate that has erupted on TechCrunch in response to that challenge is particularly interesting to me because it focuses on a question that my colleagues and I have spent a lot of time trying to find an answer to: What’s the best way to migrate California’s legacy portfolio to new technologies? And there are many other related questions.

Like most governments in the US, California has a significant portfolio of legacy applications. Also like most governments, we are in the midst of converting many of these to newer technologies. Much of this migration work is being done in conjunction with our vendor partners, but we are always looking for more ways to get companies to work with us. Not just because we have an abstract appreciation of innovation, but because competition, between companies and ideas, produces better results for the state and its taxpayers. As a part of that shift, we are finding ways to ease the burden of doing business with the State. For instance, last year we made major strides in streamlining our procurement processes to make IT projects more timely and transparent.

We in Sacramento are not under the delusion that we have a monopoly on good ideas. We would like to channel the energy and enthusiasm of your readers to help us strengthen how we build and deploy IT in the State of California.

So how do we do this? I propose we engage in an online dialogue.

Since a good number of the readers of this blog are technically oriented, let’s “walk the talk” and use a crowdsourcing tool to get a consensus on the popular ideas. Using the link below, I encourage your readers to provide ideas, review and comment on other people’s ideas, and vote ideas up and down. As the tool aggregates our judgments, certain ideas will rise to the top. I would then take the top ranking ideas and further refine them through an interactive dialogue. This would not only be a valuable exercise for California, but hopefully a rewarding activity for your readers.

So please take a look at and give us your best ideas.