Colorado Innovation Council

Last Thursday, I shared the stage at the CSIA DEMOgala 2007 with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.  During his speech, Governor Ritter announced the formation of the Colorado Innovation Council.  I’m one of three co-chairs, along with Juan Rodriguez (co-founder of StorageTek and Exabyte) and Phil Weiser (professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a national telecommunications policy expert.)

Phil and I have been working with Governor Ritter and his staff to form this since the beginning of the year.  One of our goals was to create an organization that could have real impact, rather than just a collection of people who’s names would go on a web site and letterhead somewhere.  We spent plenty of time talking to various folks both in and out of government who have been involved in things like this in the past and, as a result of our research, are hopeful that we’ve created an organization of “doers” vs. either “figureheads” or “pontificators.”

Now, before you say – “but wait, didn’t we go through this in 2000 when then Governor Owens declared that “Colorado is now an undisputed leader of the world technology revolution” – let’s hit pause (or reset) and try again.  Ritter’s goal, of being “bold, ambitious and innovative when it comes to maximizing the use of technology” is much more interesting to me and one I’m behind.  I have no desire to see Colorado become “the next Silicon Valley” (if I wanted to be in Silicon Valley, I’d move to Silicon Valley.)  However, I’m a deep believer that a state like Colorado can continually improve and I’m proud to be part of an effort to work with the public sector to make an already great state even better.

The Colorado Innovation has three initiatives:

  1. State IT: Assist the state as it reforms and improve its use of information technology
  2. Ubiquitous Broadband: Develop a strategy for spurring broadband deployment throughout the state
  3. IT Entrepreneurship: Support state government’s economic development efforts for the technology sector

Each of the three co-chairs have taken a leadership role with one of these initiatives and is working with a subcommittee of about 10 high tech leaders.  I’m leading State IT, Phil is handling Ubiquitous Broadband, and Juan is leading IT Entrepreneurship.  There will be plenty of crossover between committees (e.g. many of the folks on State IT are also Colorado-based IT Entrepreneurs and vice versa.)

I’m working with the State CIO – Mike Locatis – on the State IT initiative.  Our goal is a simple one – support Mike in his efforts to drive a multi-year IT consolidation throughout the state that ultimately results in appropriate centralizations of the state’s IT infrastructure.  Currently, Colorado is operating under a massively decentralized IT model, which is horribly inefficient and very ineffective.  As a first step of acknowledging the importance of the IT infrastructure to the functioning of state government, Governor Ritter elevated the CIO to a cabinet-level post.

I’ve been really impressed with all of my interactions with Mike around this.  Governor Ritter’s commitment to getting some real stuff done here is exciting and the idea that the private sector can work with the public sector to move these three initiatives forward is attractive to me.

Overall, there are about 30 Colorado superstars involved in this initiative – look for me to write more about it as we start getting stuff done.

  • I am originally from the Denver area and have always viewed CO as the next big tech area to boom. I really hope others hope on the train.

  • Clay Butcher

    Just a tip, our state has been consolidating IT and issuing “standards” for a couple years now, and if not done right it’s a disaster. For example, I have to purchase a $25k microsoft app instead of using movable type or a free open source app because of “standards.” Not a good use of public money. Public IT doesn’t get salaries that keep good people so they go the safe, but wasteful route of expensive proprietary products where the vendor can bail them out if they’re clueless on how to operate it. Just my two cents.

  • “Ubiquitous Broadband”

    Two questions: What does this look like? and What’s the value in it for the city/state?

    I should think that the front-range is pretty well covered (though I wouldn’t mind a bit more competition up here in Fort Collins). So are you trying to get the farmers and ranchers covered as well? And if so, I just don’t see why the state would be involved in that. What’s in it for the state? And what does that involvement look like? Incentives to broadband providers to work around mountains and vast tracts of cattle? Tax breaks?

    I completely see the advantage of getting broad band out there when it comes to the consumer. And when it comes to blanketing an area in Wifi, I can understand the advantage to the businesses. (If a cafe doesn’t have wifi and good tea, I probably won’t even walk in the door.) But a state-wide push for broadband seems like just a maneuver to grab some bragging rights. I’ve got to believe there’s more to it than that, but I can’t think of anything else. Fill me in.