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STATES FACE SOME BIG HURDLES IN SHARING OF COMPUTER DATA

SHARE STATES FACE SOME BIG HURDLES IN SHARING OF COMPUTER DATA

Utah's interest in coordinating electronic information technology is shared by many states. And like other states, Utah's computer net has expanded without central planning.

The result often is a lack of interagency communication, a waste of excess computer capacity and turf wars."It makes sense to have uniformity, a degree of communicability," says Mitchell Pearlman of Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission. "But nobody wants to give up their authority with respect to their own agencies."

Pearlman, who has studied a number of states' computerized records systems, said that in general, public agencies have made the transition to electronic record-keeping on their own.

The resulting crazy quilt of systems can be unwieldy and expensive. In Connecticut, a commission found the state had probably wasted $250 million on unplanned computerization.

The state has since set up an office of information technology with the idea of central purchasing and coordination, and cooperation with the Freedom of Information Commission.

In Idaho, officials coordinated the installation of a new computer system that does provide interagency access, but the Idaho Technology Advisory Council is still considering how to set up public access.

The system should be on-line for the public in three years, said Linda Watkins of the Idaho state auditor's office. For now, citizens must request records retrieval.

There is a subscription service called On-line Access State Information Service, or OASIS, available to Idahoans, Watkins said, but the information is limited to legislative actions and some state administrative rulings.

In Kansas, the state has handed the job of information management to a private company.

The Information Network of Kansas, or INK, began operation on Jan. 1, 1992, said INK cofounder George Pollard.

Pollard's company is a private contractor that became a quasi-governmental agency when it signed a five-year exclusive contract with the state to manage the computerized information flow. It may not do business anywhere else.

INK receives state files nightly, or whenever they are produced, and adds them to the 4,000 databases it manages.

While the state Legislature is in session, a user can plug into the proceedings in "real time."

"So if you're a lobbyist or someone interested in governmental affairs," Pollard said, "you can get the information even if you're not in Topeka."

No state agency is required to participate, but all are encouraged and most do, Pollard said.