The DMV isn't the only state department that Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to bring into the 21st century.
He signaled repeatedly in his first week in office that he wants California state government to do a better job incorporating cutting-edge technology into the services it provides.
On his second day in office, Newsom announced a "new flexible approach to procurement" that would set out a challenge to "innovators" and allow them to come up with solutions that state bureaucrats might miss. Newsom's order calls the process an "innovation procurement sprint."
The order directs the Department of General Services and the California Department of Technology to write guidelines, and it encourages other agencies to make use of the approach. State officials did not answer questions about it last week.
On Thursday, Newsom at his budget press theatrically called for the DMV to start accepting credit cards.
"We're going to accept credit cards," Newsom said. "It's a governor in 2019 in California saying that we're going to accept credit cards in 2019 at the Department of Motor Vehicles. That is in the 'you can't make that up' file."
His budget has other clues about Newsom's tech goals. It has $42 million to improve technology used by state courts and $36.2 million to launch a state office of digital innovation.
But the job is harder than it looks. California has a long record of over-budget, slow-moving tech projects. They include a failed payroll upgrade at the State Controller's Office to a tax-collecting program so cumbersome that one of the world's biggest accounting companies chose to submit returns instead of dealing with the new system.
State Auditor Elaine Howle delivered a reality check on the state's tech abilities last week with an update on the unfinished state accounting system known as FI$Cal. It's been under development since 2005 and it costs more than $900 million.
As of November, Howle wrote, 43 of the 64 state departments that are supposed to use FI$Cal exclusively for their budgeting and accounting tasks are unwilling to give up the old programs that FI$Cal was supposed to replace.
"It is unclear whether or when the entities' concerns with making a full transition from their legacy systems will be resolved," Howle wrote.
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