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CBS 2 Investigates: The State Of Illinois' Plan To Bring Its Computers Into Current Times

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some of the computers that run the State of Illinois are decades old – and CBS 2 got a rare opportunity to talk with the state's top tech guy about not only the problems but also the solutions.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker talked with Ron Guerrier, the chief information officer for the governor's office, about some of his plans to modernize.

Asked to describe how bad the system is currently, Guerrier said, "Remember the show 'MacGyver' – the show where the guy could have bubble gum and Band-Aids fix anything? The resources of the State of Illinois for over 20 years were 'MacGyver.'"

Guerrier has a daunting task: to bring an aging network of computers into the modern era.

"The lack of funding with some of the old systems and the longer you let technology sit unmaintained, the longer they atrophy," he said.

Take the Illinois State Police. Its mainframe system is 45 years old – the worst in the state.

But Guerrier is overseeing a massive overhaul that will allow dispatchers to better monitor trooper locations so they can respond to calls faster.

And until recently, every day, an employee in the treasurer's office had to burn a CD with image files of checks and then hand-deliver the disc to the comptroller's' office, where the files would be uploaded by an employee.

Now, there's a web based image viewer used by both offices to eliminate the archaic daily disc system.

"You have to fix the core first, and the challenge we had in the state – and we still have; I'm not saying it's fixed – is that we needed a centralized group of individuals who focused on commonality," Guerrier said.

That includes a new hire for the state – chief architect.

"The State of Illinois never had a chief architect," Guerrier said. "And the chief architect, his responsibility is, from a technology perspective, connecting the dots."

Another solution is the cloud – ditching old-fashioned computers for virtual storage.

"We're moving in on a new technology, so instead of us being dependent on data centers, we're dependent on cloud services," Guerrier said.

With a new administration under Gov. JB Pritzker, and budget in place, money is available to upgrade aging equipment.

"Our budget is $650 million," Guerrier said.

Guerrier invited CBS 2's Tucker to sit in on a meeting among top state leaders and IT experts from the corporate world. He views the private sector as part of the solution.

"Because they have funding for new ideas; they have funding for startups," Guerrier said. "How can we leverage that?"

And for folks impacted by things like the Secretary of State and unemployment computer outages earlier this year, all they care about is when will things get better.

"I can be confident that you're going to see some improvement," Guerrier said.

Tucker advised him that CBS 2 would come back in six months to see where progress is.

"I welcome it. Come in," Guerrier said. "I love the challenge."

Tucker has marked her calendar and will be back in six months. CBS 2 will keep you posted.

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