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State Tech Department Seeks Millions for Broadband, FI$Cal Migration

Two budget change proposals from the California Department of Technology seek several million dollars to assess issues around statewide broadband deployment and to migrate financial processes to a more modern solution.

California Capitol Building
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With the new May revision of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget far from final, two change proposals from the technology department offer details on technology initiatives in various stages.

In two budget change proposals (BCPs), the California Department of Technology (CDT) seeks funding for broadband — a priority Newsom name-checked at a press conference Friday announcing the release of his proposed 2023-2024 Fiscal Year state budget — and to finish the process of joining the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal). Newsom’s revised budget clocked in at $306.5 billion, with more funding proposed for CDT — but a significantly larger estimated budget shortfall of $32 billion.

Among the takeaways:

  • In a BCP released Friday, CDT seeks $2.2 million from the state’s General Fund in FY 2023-24, starting July 1, to “assist in the successful completion of the onboarding process to the statewide Financial Information System for California” in accordance with government code. The department is “working toward transitioning from its current PeopleSoft platform to the mandated FI$Cal system which also utilizes the PeopleSoft platform,” according to the BCP. CDT has used PeopleSoft since 2008 for “all financial, procurement, and rates and cost recovery transactions” and it has customized the platform to meet its needs. FI$Cal, the BCP said, “improves transparency and consistency in statewide accounting” but “introduces additional complexity to CDT’s unique and already complex accounting, procurement and cost recovery business operations.” This will lead to an “increased volume of processes and tasks” to accomplish unique CDT processes. The request, the department said, fulfills goals from Vision 2023, the statewide technology strategic plan, including to “build digital government more quickly and more effectively.” It also meets the Vision 2023 goal and challenge to “ensure public services are equitable and inclusive.” Doing this, according to the BCP, requires work and a focus that goes beyond the “myriad languages” California residents speak and requires “considerations of access and accessibility, and necessitates that technology be simplified as much as possible.” This request, it noted, doesn’t directly address equity, diversity or accessibility but “the underlying principles ... are foundational.” The request will help CDT continue “effective implementation of FI$Cal, which broadly aligns with” legislative goals.
  • CDT began the FI$Cal Onboarding Project in July 2021 and two initiatives have been completed: “documenting an As Is Business Processes and conducting an Onboarding Fit/Gap Analysis.” In June 2022, staffers did a “Fit/Gap Analysis deliverable” identifying business processes that would be “materially impacted” by onboarding. Staff determined “134 of 249” or 53 percent of the As-Is business process requirements didn’t align with “corresponding FI$Cal business processes and are therefore considered to be gaps.” The Fit/Gap Analysis initiative, the BCP said, “will be a complex and costly undertaking” requiring CDT to change “deeply ingrained” business processes as well as risk mitigation. Approving the request as submitted, CDT said, will let it continue to comply with state mandates, integrate in a timely fashion with FI$Cal “while not jeopardizing its customer service levels during the transition”; and continue to fulfill Vision 2023. Not approving the request or approving it at reduced funding levels could extend implementation beyond 24 months, throw CDT out of compliance with state mandates, or delay integration and interrupt business practices due to a longer onboarding, respectively.
  • In a January BCP, CDT sought $840,000 in FY 2023-24 and $660,000 in FY 2024-25, all from the General Fund, to support the mandates of state Senate Bill 717 and pay for “professional and consulting services contracts that will be utilized to establish the Broadband Access Point Investment Acceleration Study Act of 2022.” The bill mandated a report to deliver “the information needed to provide a crucial statewide benefit by enhancing Internet access for both unserved and underserved California communities,” and tasked CDT by Jan. 1 with identifying to the Legislature “barriers to, and opportunities for, investment in and efficient building of, broadband access points on private and government-owned structures and property, private and public lands and buildings, and public rights of way.” It also required the department to review barriers and opportunities around “access to mobile and fixed broadband Internet service infrastructure by low-income tribal, urban and rural customers and underserved communities,” and make recommendations on doing those deployments more speedily.
  • The request, the BCP said, aligns with broadband goals laid out in SB 156 and “contributes to the expeditious deployment of broadband infrastructure equitable access to broadband and broadband related services for individuals throughout California, and especially in underserved communities.” It also aligns with Newsom’s Executive Order N-16-22 directing agencies and departments to “embed policies and practices to further advance equity and opportunity and address disparities in access and outcome.” With full funding, CDT will report to the Legislature by May 1, 2024, on the broadband-related issues specified, focusing “primarily on identifying barriers to and opportunities for the investment in and efficient building of broadband access points on government-owned structures and property, private and public lands and buildings, and public rights of way.” Findings, per the BCP, will be used to offer recommendations on how the state could accelerate broadband deployment to the underserved. An alternative, hiring five limited-term staffers for two years to carry out the goals of SB 717, would cost “$1.14 million in FY 2023-24 and 2024-25,” a lower cost — but the staff positions could require training time and be difficult to fill. A second alternative of denying the request, the BCP said, would mean the work wouldn’t get done.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.