Although public-private partnerships (P3s) are frequently associated with physical infrastructure, P3s are inherently flexible and can be utilized for the time and cost-effective delivery of virtually any public good or service, including software and other information technology. The private sector is constantly expanding and improving upon its government technology offerings (examples include recent advances in smart parking and real-time coordination technology for mass transit), and the public sector is beginning to see the benefit of procuring and maintaining these advanced systems through the P3 model.
This legislative term, the Florida House and Senate are considering a bill (SB 332 / HB 607) that would expand the application of Florida’s P3 statute to information technology. The bill broadly defines information technology to include software, hardware, networks, and numerous other forms of IT. If adopted, the bill will become effective July 1, 2017, and will permit public agencies in Florida to utilize the flexible statutory framework to procure new technology through P3s. The bill would also permit providers of government technology to develop their own creative solutions to governments’ technology needs and submit unsolicited proposals in order to jump-start the procurement process.
Recent amendments to Florida’s public records laws exempt unsolicited proposals from mandatory public disclosure for a period of time. Particularly in the government-technology industry, where firms closely guard their technology solutions and intellectual property, this exemption, which is currently up for renewal, is critical. The exemption from disclosure affords a technology provider some comfort that its unsolicited proposal could not be utilized by its competitors to obtain an unfair competitive advantage.
Although the bill under consideration should encourage new P3s for government technology, many local governments in Florida already permit the submission of unsolicited proposals for new technology solutions. Both local governments and technology providers can currently take advantage of these existing provisions to introduce new technologies to the public in less time and at a reduced cost, as compared to traditional procurement and delivery methods.