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Hogan announces upgrade to Maryland's computer systems

Brian Witte, Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- A major upgrade to computer systems at Maryland agencies will help deliver government services to people more efficiently, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday.

The federal government has awarded the state more than $195 million for the initiative, Hogan said, and the Maryland General Assembly has approved $14 million to enable the state to access the money. The cloud-based data repository will enable different agencies to better communicate with each other. Caseworkers will be provided tablet devices to provide services in the field, instead of having to return to a central location to input data.

The Hogan administration started focusing on the need for a statewide technology revamp after the 2015 unrest in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. While officials found state data showing areas of poverty, high unemployment and transportation challenges, they couldn't use the data to help the state determine how to best direct resources.

"Simply put, we needed to actually transform the way that state government actually does business and move our government systems into the 21st century," Hogan said.

The first phase will improve collaboration between the Maryland Department of Human Resources and the state health department. It will focus on better delivery of services to children in foster care and families in need. Other departments will be added in future phases.

Sam Malhotra, Hogan's chief of staff who served previously as the secretary of DHR, said problems with the agency's computer systems kept getting in the way of providing services to the state's most vulnerable.

"We recognized that our internal systems within DHR — our child welfare system, our child support system and our SNAP, which is the public support system — weren't talking to each other, let alone working with our sister agencies," Malhotra, who proposed the plan after working in the department, said.

The new platform, which is being called MD Think, will provide better technology to caseworkers so they will be able to work in the field and send information to the data repository in real time.

"For the first time, case workers armed with a tablet or a smartphone will be able to provide services in the field where they are needed, when they are needed and how they are needed by finally having the ability to share information across the state agencies," Hogan said.