Jan 18, 2022 - News

MyColorado app fixes on the way, officials promise

Illustration: Brandon Lynch/Axios

The beleaguered MyColorado mobile application that serves as a COVID-19 vaccine passport is getting a much-needed upgrade.

Driving the news: Colorado's chief information officer Anthony Neal-Graves said the governor's office is pumping more money into improving performance and customer service for the 3-year-old app as part of a bigger technology overhaul.

What he's saying: "I'm confident that by the beginning of the year — January — that we'll also have a very stable platform out there available to people. We'll have better customer support capability for individuals as well," Neal-Graves recently told a committee of skeptical lawmakers. "I view this as a must-have."

The big picture: The troubles with the application are part of a much larger, years-long project to upgrade the state's IT systems.

  • Gov. Jared Polis — a former tech entrepreneur — is asking for $66 million in new spending to modernize and decommission aging systems, citing a $465 million "debt" or needs in technology across state government agencies.
  • Neal-Graves says the lack of investment in the IT system is a threat to the state's ability to provide services. 42% of the state's websites do not meet accessibility requirements.

Between the lines: The request is significant and will compete with other priorities for space in next fiscal year's budget.

  • For lawmakers, this is not a new problem. They've spent the better part of a decade working to overhaul the system and implement a cohesive IT strategy to rein in spending.

The intrigue: In many ways, MyColorado epitomizes the battle.

  • The governor's office launched the mobile app in 2019, soon after Polis took office, but neglected to get the approval of lawmakers for the budget.
  • Polis later asked for $2 million and the equivalent of eight full-time employees, but state budget writers reduced the request and lamented being forced to pick up the tab.

What's new: The app — which allows users to store a digital copy of their driver's license — was "just kind of around and something interesting to have," Neal-Graves said, until the pandemic hit.

The addition of vaccine cards changed the game.

  • Now more than 500,000 people use myColorado with close to 90,000 new users in the last three months, according to the governor's office.
  • Most people use it to access their proof of vaccine to enter restaurants, bars and other businesses.

The other side: In a December hearing, legislative budget writers expressed concern about the rising cost of a program they never approved, but acknowledged the MyColorado app has found a purpose and a vision.

  • State Sen. Chris Hansen (D-Denver) wants to see other government services connected. "This is now becoming a front door for the state government," he said.

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