For some reason, West Virginia government does not seem to get along well with the high-tech world. Remember “Routergate?” How about the emergency radio tower scandal in 2013-14?
So when there is a whiff of smoke emanating from a new state government technology initiative, we in the Mountain State start wondering about fire.
In October, state officials announced they planned an $8 million agreement with tech giant Google for cloud-based communications and productivity services now being provided by another mega-firm, Microsoft. Taxpayers would be saved about $11.5 million through the change, it was said.
Microsoft reacted as you might imagine, but with a twist. A company official wrote to state officials, pointing out that only weeks before, they had agreed to an extension of their contract with Microsoft, until May 30, 2023. Microsoft Vice President Jamie Harper pointed out that would result in duplication of services. He added that “gaps in Google’s service offerings will require the state to continue using Microsoft or other third-party technology tools, ultimately costing state governments more.”
Of course, making such a large-scale shift inevitably results in a period of duplication of services, while the transition is made. But is Microsoft right that in the end, the switch to Google will be more costly?
That concern may have to go on the back burner after a revelation a few days ago. As we reported, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency has expressed concern about Google security. The VITA explained in a report that Google’s “messaging environment is not approved by (Virginia’s) security office to transmit sensitive data.”
Joshua Spence, chief technology officer for the West Virginia Office of Technology, told our reporter he was unaware of the Virginia concern. He said he would look into it.
Let us hope so. If there is a problem with the $8 million Google contract, it needs to be identified and somehow, rectified immediately. West Virginians have endured more than our share of technology fiascoes already.