Many, if not most, V.I. government agency websites, databases and email systems may be consolidated over the next year or two, if efforts in the works now bear fruit, acting Bureau of Information Technology Director Reuben Molloy told Rotarians on St. Croix. And once enough consolidation and rationalization have taken place, BIT hopes to develop a V.I. Government smart phone application that both agencies and residents could use to access all government services, he said.
Currently nearly every central government agency, semi-autonomous agencies like the hospitals and the Water and Power Authority all have their own email systems and servers, their own database systems and their own IT departments, Molloy told the small crowd at Gertrude's restaurant Thursday.
"Consolidating the data centers enables the government to centralize and standardize its operations and allows for elimination of waste and duplication," Molloy said. "While cutting costs, consolidation also increases security," he continued.
Consolidating email would similarly save agencies time, effort and money by eliminating the need for multitudinous email systems, maintaining separate email servers, and keeping them up and running all the time, he said. It would also make daily life a bit simpler for both employees and residents, he suggested.
"Wouldn't it be nice if you could access all government employee emails from one contact list?" he asked rhetorically.
Most government agencies currently have a "program-centric structure" to their information technology, with systems custom designed to meet the unique requirements of that agency, he said. The down side, he said, is that means each agency has its own, entirely separate system to maintain, and residents have to go to each separate agency's portal to access its services.
"With consolidation, we hope to move the government to a citizen-centric model, where we can access all government services with an app on our cell phone," he said.
Rotarian Ava Gail Bourdon asked, "How far away is that app? It sounds complicated to set up."
Molloy replied, "It is very complex and the consolidation effort is one of the prerequisites. It will facilitate the construction of the app when all the information is in one location."
Asked if the consolidation would be optional or mandatory, Molloy said he took an "If you build it, they will come" approach, and anticipated that the financial and operational benefits would bring agencies onboard.
"I'll make a business case for each agency, looking at what the options will be, and the solutions will be pretty clear," he said.
"It will be a collective decision, and I am staying away from saying it will be mandatory, because that may cause all the agencies to hunker down and work on making a case as to why they should be operating separately, which is not my objective," Molloy said. "My objective is to make IT more efficient and cost effective, and if I do that, the choice will be obvious."
When asked whether BIT expected the government to have its own servers and computer systems or if it would be more reliable or cost effective to use web-based resources like cloud storage, cloud computing, and popular web-based email systems, Molloy said "both."
"Right now, the most cost-effective method for consolidating email is going to the cloud and we are very close to doing that now," he said. "But I am not just accepting that as the only solution. We are still going to develop infrastructure here, to provide the government of the Virgin Islands options."
Molloy, who has been acting director of BIT since July, previously served from 1995 to 2011 as chief information officer at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, where he was responsible for the design and maintenance of JFL’s IT systems and environment. Between 2005 and 2011, Molloy also held the position of vice president for ancillary services at the hospital.
Born and raised on St. Croix, Molloy has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Adelphi University and an MBA from Colorado Technical University. The V.I. Legislature's Rules and Judiciary Committee will consider his nomination to permanently fill the position of BIT director next week.