Maryland is tops at tracking stimulus spending

By Robert L. Mitchell, Computerworld |  Government, economic stimulus

At StateStat, visitors can view spending within specific categories, such as transportation and housing. From there, they can drill down to see the exact locations and details of specific programs and projects. In some areas, such as transportation, they can see who got the contracts, the winning bid, how far along the project is and the number of jobs each project will create. "Maryland is one of the few that has been doing that," says Mattera.

What's particularly powerful about StateStat is its potential to show visually whether spending matches up with the areas of greatest need. Visitors can view maps with overlays that show both spending data and need levels for every area. The need overlays might include regional unemployment or foreclosure rates, for example. "The maps show us where the problems are and therefore where the opportunities are," O'Malley says. Most states aren't doing that yet, Mattera notes.

Baltimore roots

StateStat, which the O'Malley administration launched shortly after taking office in 2007, is based on a system called CitiStat, whose development O'Malley oversaw when he was mayor of Baltimore. CitiStat was based on CompStat, a statistical reporting system used in New York in the late '90s to fight crime.

StateStat is built on ESRI's ArcGIS server platform. It uses Web services developed by the state as well as the StateStat templates that ESRI built in collaboration with Maryland and other states. ESRI has made those templates available at no charge to any state that wants to use them.

Since many state governments already use ESRI's GIS products, the incremental cost to implement the system is relatively small, says ESRI founder and President Jack Dangermond. Other states, such as Washington and Colorado, have used the templates to build their own reporting sites.

StateStat has the potential to show citizens the return on investment they get from get from government programs, and it could be used to hold agency chiefs accountable, O'Malley says.

During biweekly meetings with department heads, the governor uses GIS maps to track projects and the performance of departments. O'Malley says he uses GIS maps to quickly assess which divisions are performing well and which need new leadership. "That ability to recognize who the leaders are is what gets your entire organization to lean forward. That's what makes it go," he says.

But StateStat is far from perfect. "There's a lot of missing data," says Mattera, especially with regard to specific project details and performance metrics that show the impact of programs, such as the effect of weatherization initiatives on the number of applications for energy assistance.

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