October 1, 2023


It is time to make Florida a technological leader

Technology has changed every aspect of our lives in many direct and tangible ways. All of us now routinely access information ranging from how to change a tire to how far Mercury is from Saturn in just a matter of seconds. Technology has changed how we communicate with each other, how we watch TV and listen to music, how we buy things and pay our bills, how we learn about things and how we find our way from point A to point B.

How has all of this happened? Well, it’s not because Apple, Google, and your bank are interested in you having a better life. It is because they realize that innovative ways of doing things are essential to maintaining a competitive edge. It’s how they survive and grow. Consequently, industry makes huge investments in technology that end up making life better and more convenient for all of us.

But for governments and policymakers, the value of technology is often misunderstood and under-appreciated. Regrettably, technology investments and improvements in government systems do not win many votes for politicians. Consequently, it is easier for them to pay more attention to things that everyone more easily understands.

Governments do not have to invest in innovative ways of doing things to keep your business. If you need a Florida driver or fishing license, you can’t go to Amazon or to Georgia to get it quicker. If your business is in Florida and you need a permit or license, it’s the same thing. There are simply some things that residents are required to go through government channels to accomplish, and there is generally no penalty for government when it lags behind.

Some governments, though, realize the value of making it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with them. Some realize that innovative processes can attract industry, better jobs, and more visitors. These governments tend to view technology as an investment - an investment in making their state a better place to live and conduct business. Regrettably, others tend to view technology as an expense – and endless fertile ground for cost-cutting for the next budget year.

Our state government has pockets of emerging leadership in technology, but far too many that are still hesitant to make the investments necessary to modernize Florida systems. Some of our critical state systems are decades old. There are redundant processes across many agencies that exist because they just do. There is a somewhat apathetic view toward innovation and a general sense that the fewer things you try to do, the greater the chances of not failing.

It is time for our state government to recognize and acknowledge the tremendous amount of talent and technology investment that is currently driving every industry in Florida. It is time for our state government to do the same and to become a national innovation leader among all states.

Our Legislature wisely created the Agency for State Technology a few years ago, a government entity positioned to lead this needed change. Its structure was a good beginning for the elimination of outdated, duplicate and redundant processes across government entities, and to lead our state to modern, citizenfriendly systems - just as the private sector has done so successfully.

This agency should be the vehicle that allows Florida’s government to catch up with the rest of the world, and truly change the way the state and its residents communicate with each other. Unfortunately, the agency was not originally given the full responsibility, authority or funding necessary to make substantial changes. Rather than being further empowered, its original mandate and charter have been challenged and reduced. Further devaluation of technology leadership in our state will only ensure that Florida remains woefully behind, and sorely lacking in terms of the taxpayers’ return-on-investment. Our taxpayers deserve better.

We call on our new administration to commit to a technology purpose. We need a fresh look at how we will do things in the future, unshackled by the way we have done things in the past. It is time to begin this discussion in a serious manner and to turn the discussion into action.

Contact your legislator today and ask them if they support making Florida a technological leader.

About Florida TaxWatch
As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog & taxpayer research institute for nearly forty years, the trusted eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, Florida TaxWatch, works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Its research recommends productivity enhancements and explains the statewide impact of fiscal and economic policies and practices on citizens and businesses.

Florida TaxWatch is supported by voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants, and does not accept government funding. Donations provide a solid, lasting foundation that has enabled Florida TaxWatch to bring about a more effective, responsive government that is more accountable to, and productive for, the citizens it serves since 1979. For more information, please visit www.floridataxwatch.org.

Chuck Cliburn is President of New Capitol IT, specializing in lobbying and business consulting for the IT industry in Florida and member of the Florida TaxWatch Board of Trustees.

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