Two significant milestones were completed recently for MassDEP's across-the-board overhaul of the agency's information technology (IT) systems. The project, known as the Energy and Environmental Information and Public Access System (EIPAS), is a top priority for MassDEP and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).
The EIPAS project is critical to MassDEP's ongoing effectiveness as the agency's outdated and "siloed" information technology systems impede it from fulfilling its critical mission of protecting public health and the Commonwealth's natural resources.
The first milestone was contained in the Commonwealth's fiscal year 2014 capital plan. In the plan, EIPAS was identified and funded as an official project. Obtaining the funding for EIPAS is a critical step for the project to move forward.
The second milestone achieved is that the EIPAS Request for Response (RFR) was released in December. The RFR is the culmination of many months of collaborative effort by staff across the EEA secretariat, including MassDEP. The RFR is a comprehensive document describing a five-year effort to transform the Secretariat's information management activities. EEA is scheduled to receive RFR responses from interested consultants on February 24th and a vendor is expected to be hired by early summer. The estimated value of the RFR is $30 million.
EIPAS will provide significant benefit to all of the EEA agencies. Currently, EEA agencies are unable to share information efficiently and effectively as is necessary in today's world where information exchange is not only expected but required. EIPAS will enable all the EEA agencies to share a common technology platform, which will facilitate sharing of critical energy and environmental information.
However, EIPAS is not simply a refresh of EEA's technology infrastructure. MassDEP will adopt a new way of doing business, utilizing technology to optimize the Department's resources while providing the tools to facilitate permitting at the speed of business, making the best strategic decisions on environmental enforcement, and sharing data with other agencies, the business community and members of the public.
EIPAS is part of a three-pronged reform effort underway at MassDEP that also includes regulatory streamlining and internal reorganization. Prior to the hiring of a vendor for EIPAS, MassDEP is taking steps to prepare for the project ahead. MassDEP is undergoing a comprehensive data-standards initiative, which will result in standard definitions of key data elements, an effort critical for MassDEP to ensure it can share information effectively in the future. MassDEP has been working to standardize and align agency work practices across programs and locations prior to beginning system development. This work, referred to as "Agency Process Optimization," will help the agency maximize the benefits from the new EIPAS system.
When fully implemented, EIPAS will replace many of the complex information technology systems currently in use. The EIPAS project has identified permitting, a regulated entity portal and online portal as key implementation areas to be addressed early in the project.
When EIPAS is fully implemented, MassDEP, its constituents and partners will see:
- Reduced uncertainty and time to businesses for permitting;
- Improved stewardship of the Commonwealth's environmental resources through faster violation identification, increased compliance rates and decreased time to compliance through utilization of rules-based processing;
- MassDEP staff time more effectively utilized by using technology;
- Increased transparency and civic engagement through online portals;
- Enhanced collaborations with other agencies and municipalities through information-sharing opportunities;
- Improved revenue collections; and
- Continuing benefits from technology investment and the ability to respond to business changes.