Hogan announces tech upgrades to better connect Md. agencies

Governor Larry Hogan speaks at a press conference on MD Think, a new program he unveiled in Annapolis, Md., on March 9, 2017. The program, which is funded by $200 million from the federal government, is designed to facilitate communication among state agencies. (Hannah Klarner/ Capital News Service)

by Jacob Taylor
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced an effort to modernize the technical infrastructure at certain state departments. Initially, these efforts will focus on the technology used by caseworkers who administer aid programs to poor and at-risk Marylanders.

The upgrades were presented as the first step of a process, called MD Think, that will eventually see most if not all departments linked through a cloud-based data storage system. This system will make certain types of personal data available to multiple state agencies, purportedly speeding up the processes by which people to apply for services and reducing the amount of duplicate forms that they have to fill out.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service that the administration has reached out to the state attorney general’s office for guidance to ensure that this increase in connectivity does not compromise residents’ right to privacy.

The cost of the project will be partially supported by nearly $200 million in federal funding.

Hogan said the state’s dated technology continues to “cost more and more but deliver less and less.”

Chief of Staff Sam Malhotra, whom Hogan called the brains behind the project, said that studies in various departments pointed to the state’s computer systems as a chief cause of systemic organizational issues.

At the department of human resources, specifically, Malhotra said “our systems today are not an enabler for our caseworkers.” Hogan said that the new system will allow DHR caseworkers to provide services while operating “in the field.”

Hogan also announced the creation of a commission that will study the possibility of a so-called “two-gen” approach to combating poverty. This approach treats poverty as a family issue and focuses on trying to alleviate the multi-generational causes of poverty that trap families in a cycle of economic hardship.

If adopted, this approach would likely make use of the greater connectivity that Hogan’s MD Think program promises by coordinating the benefits various state departments provide to members of the same family.