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SAN FRANCISCO – One of life's dreaded civic obligations – dealing with the department of motor vehicles – as well as other interactions with state services may get easier for Californians, as officials today announced a five-year, $400-million partnership with IBM to put its citizenry's data on cloud-based servers.

Dubbed CalCloud, the initiative will unify the formerly disparate information technology systems operated by hundreds of state agencies and allow for faster access to records through a more cost-effective, shared system. California is the first state to put such data in the cloud.

"In the past it could take months and complex budget proposals to request new IT services, but now we'll be able to respond in hours to shifts in demand," says Ron Hughes, head of the state's Department of Technology. "Having all the data in the cloud and easily accessible by all our departments will make us more efficient."

Hughes says his agency has been working on the deal with IBM for 18 months, spurred on in part by the White House's 2011 Cloud First initiative. IBM will supply and manage the infrastructure of CalCloud, which will meet a range of federal data-security standards. The company in the news a few weeks ago when it announced an alliance with tech darling Apple that will allow IBM enterprise users access to that company's various mobile products

Asked if CalCloud will mean the DMV will be a more pleasant place to visit, IBM's public sector general manager Dan Pelino laughs. "Yes, that and more," he says. "It means your name will be spelling consistently whether you're applying for a driver's license or a dog license."

But Pelino notes that the true repercussions of a seamless cloud-based state bureaucracy could be a healthier economy.

"In 1950, 30% of people lived in cities, but by 2050 it'll be 70%, and they will be drawn to places who can compete for talent with efficient citizen-based services," he says. "Whether it's a woman who is pregnant being guided through that experience seamlessly by health agencies, or simply unemployment benefits being dispensed in a timely manner, all of that will factor into where people choose to live."

We'll settle for just getting through the DMV line

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