This study, as mandated by ACT NO. 185, evaluates the current state of the network. It is not a needs assessment. An in-depth analysis of the needs of the various state agencies, coupled with a technology design, would be an extensive project outside the scope of this review.
On May 22, 1996, H.804 (the Capital Construction Bill of the 1996 Session) was enacted as ACT NO. 185 of the Acts of 1996, An Act Relating to Capital Appropriations and State Bonding (see Appendix A). Section 2.(c)(2) of the act appropriated $25,000 to conduct a study of GOVnet. The results of the study are to be presented to the House and Senate Government Operations and Institutions committees no later than January 15, 1997. During that period, no expansion of GOVnet equipment, transmission capacity or services shall occur. ACT NO. 185 establishes the scope and objectives for this study:
A) Itemize GOVnets total state financial and staffing commitments from the date of its inception.
B) Examine private-sector alternatives and their costs compared to the continued operation of GOVnet.
C) Study the wide-area network needs of the University of Vermont, Vermont State Colleges, Vermont Educational Television, Vermont Interactive Television, executive and judicial branch users, health care institutions, K-12 schools and Vermont public libraries. The study shall include an evaluation of whether consolidation of the networks of these entities would be desirable from a technical perspective, and if so whether the needs of the users could be met most cost effectively through either GOVnet, private Internet services providers or other alternatives.
D) Recommend a technical and operational model and create a financial model that would support analysis and decision making for the potential consolidation of the data communication needs of the entities identified in subdivision (C) of this subdivision.
The study relies on interviews with people identified in the legislation, and additional experts who could offer insight into the specified tasks. Everyone who directly contributed to this report is listed in the Acknowledgments. A literature review was also conducted to make the analysis as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible.
McDowell & Company conducted interviews in focus groups of between four and eight people or in one-on-one sessions by telephone or in person. Each participant received a list of questions prior to the meetings in order to prepare for the discussions. Driving the discussions were three questions:
1. What is your definition of GOVnet?
2. What is the intent of the legislation calling for this study?
3. When the study is completed, how will you determine if it was successful?
The interviews were conducted with both public-sector and private-sector people who have some substantial knowledge and/or interaction with GOVnet.
Representatives from several state departments and agencies were interviewed in focus groups. The initial list of participants was prepared by the Legislative Joint Fiscal Office. The requirements of the legislation, and the Offices understanding of those employees most involved with the state network, figured in the selection of interview participants.
Members of the private sector were contacted, primarily by phone. They included members of organizations specifically identified in ACT NO. 185 and others who were mentioned by name during the interviews.
A number of reports provide background for this analysis. Three reports in particular making a significant contribution to this study are Klein (1993), Vermont Business Roundtable (1995) and Boerner (1995). A list of references is included in Appendix B. The references are complemented by abstracts and news reports included in Appendix C. The secondary articles and news reports in Appendix C provide a more global perspective on technology, government and education as these issues are being addressed today throughout the United States.