The State of Technology & Innovation in State Government

October 12, 2011 10:10 am PST | Effective Governing

Last week I attended the 2011 Annual NASCIO Conference in Denver, CO. Many readers of this blog already know that NASCIO is the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. It’s an incredibly tight knit group of all of the nation’s state-level CIOs as well as the CIOs of DC, Guam and Puerto Rico. They gather in person twice annually, but as importantly they meet regularly in order to share best practices and to collaborate on technology and innovation in state government. The three-day conference is a great venue for three forms of knowledge transfer. First, CIOs submit proposals for presentations to NASCIO and the best are selected and then these CIOs share best practices around what’s working in their state. Second, there are interactive panel discussions where poignant topics are discussed by a mix of state CIOs and subject matter experts like Gartner government analyst Andrea DiMaio. Third, there is abundant opportunity to talk one-on-one or in small groups with CIOs and peers to really find out what’s working and what’s not working. A number of state CIOs told me that the annual NASCIO conference is the most efficient use of their time in terms of keeping current with technology and innovation best practices. The incredibly strong attendance by state CIOs reinforces that assertion.

Here are some of my takeaways for what’s going on in state government in terms of technology and innovation.

Two-thirds of CIOs think states are doing only fair or dismally poor with respect to IT transformation. This is a self-critical group. Clearly they believe they can do better.

Most CIOs I talked to characterize the current budget situation as a new norm, not the valley of a cyclical economic pattern that will rebound over time. This new budget reality has drastically moderated their thinking and plans. The rally cries of most CIOs I met was doing more with less and reinventing government. When I asked them how that would play out, they cited adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), cloud computing, self-service, open source software and shared services as examples. I was impressed by Dick Clark, CIO of Montana, for his economically sound pragmatism and fiscal responsibility. Similarly, Kristin Russell, new CIO of Colorado has off the charts energy and a common sense approach to delivering services to Colorado residents. In Oregon visionary¬†CIO Dugan Petty, Deputy CIO Sean McSpaden and eGov Program Director Wally Rogers continually amaze me by how much they get done with such a small team. The technology leadership team in Utah – CIO Stephen Fletcher, CTO Dave Fletcher and eGov Technical Architect Bob Woolley have been demonstrating technology and innovation leadership for years. It’s not surprising that these four states – Montana, Oregon, Colorado and Utah – plan to team up and adopt cloud-based GIS services together. This demonstrates cross-jurisdiction cooperation, collaborative purchasing, SaaS and cloud computing all in one project. Kudos to these four states for their progressiveness and collaborative spirit.

As expected, mobile was another important topic. State governments want to provide the same information, resources and services through mobile devices as they today offer through their websites and telephone systems. There wasn’t consensus on what that really means, other than mobile device ownership, particularly smart phones, has exploded and these governments want to serve their constituents wherever they are. Most states are letting agencies figure it out. Personally, I think mobile access suggests a consumption-optimized experience for the device. There is no singular user interface that meets all needs. To be truly mobile-enabled suggests content is telephony, SMS/Text and API enabled; rendered optimally for the device; and context aware (takes advantage of my location and/or day of the week or time of day, for example). I look forward to the day when Yelp for Government exists on my smart phone.

As is common in industry peer group events, the NASCIO conference recognized the noteworthy achievements of the innovators:

The NASCIO conference was a great event to learn, share and collaborate. I’m impressed by the public servant CIOs and their staffs, which are leading the technology and innovation initiatives of our states through a time of remarkable turmoil, opportunity and transition.

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