Technology is getting a prominent seat at the table of one of the nation’s top associations representing state executives.
The National Governors Association recently launched NGA Future, a division devoted to increasing conversations and policy directions around topics like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, autonomous transportation and dozens of other areas of technology .
NGA Future’s central focus is on “raising awareness and understanding of emerging technology issues,” said Timothy Blute, who is heading up the new initiative at NGA.
“What I’ve been tasked to do is take a look at what is just the incredible pace of entrepreneurship and innovation in this country, but look at it through the state policy.” said Blute, who formerly helped spearhead Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge, an initiative led by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. NGA Future will help to raise awareness and understanding of emerging technology issues, he added.
“So you could think of our traditional work on health care, education, or energy or transportation or public safety. What are the technology implications of that?” said Blute. “The second piece is working to sort of build a broader understanding between governors and entrepreneurs around the emerging technology issues that are coming at them, that will either change their economies, or have the potential to change how government functions.”
At the top of a lot of governors' agendas is the Internet of Things. More and more network devices are coming online — in some cases whether state government wants it or not, according to Blute.
“With that comes a lot of questions around data and security. So we’ll explore that and the changing way that it looks like transportation is going to occur in the future," he said.
The changes include the use of unmanned aerial systems for delivery, for example, as well as autonomous vehicles that will trigger a number of changes and not just in the way people drive. "There’s a lot of second and third order effects that we want to think through," explained Blute.
"Technology has a way of making our lives smoother, but can also be naggingly disruptive," he added. "NGA Future aims to help smooth out some of turbulence that technology can have on government by offering expertise and guidance, when considering how technology could both shape the function of government and how government could leverage it for increased efficiencies.
For example, it would be prudent for officials to explore “the automation of some things in state government through cognitive computing and artificial intelligence,” said Blute. “There are a lot of opportunities to use automated processes to separate the noise from the critical information.”
Most recently, Blute served as a program director at the NGA Center for Best Practices’ Homeland Security and Public Safety Division. Blute, who has a law degree from American University, has also served as an intelligence analyst in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.
“I am excited for NGA to continue to grow as a forward-looking organization with the creation of this unit,” said NGA CEO Scott Pattison, in a statement. “New technology developments are already changing the way governors and states operate. NGA Future will be crucial in navigating the intersection of emerging technology and state policy.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.