The state of Michigan wants to become the most secure and digitally advanced state in the nation. Now, it has one of the country’s leading tech firms to help make that happen.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the state was teaming up with Cisco to launch the State Digital Acceleration (SDA) program aimed at energizing the economy through innovation in mobility, the digital economy, training and education, and citizen-centric government.

“It’s our mission to reach out to the citizens and deliver improved services to them,” said David DeVries, Michigan CIO and director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. “This will provide a framework for better government and connected services. It’s also a chance to partner with Cisco as they evolve their digital acceleration program.”   The three-year collaboration program is modeled after Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration program, which involves 16 countries and is designed to help them grow gross domestic product (GDP), streamline government services, attract new investment and increase innovation capabilities. That program has been operating for three years and was started as a framework to help countries cope with technology’s rapid pace of change, according to Alison Gleeson, a Cisco senior vice president.    “In order for companies, cities, states and countries to keep up, it’s important they have a framework to test boundaries, be organized and not be left behind,” she said.   Michigan got the nod to become the first government in the U.S. to participate, thanks to its leadership and innovation. “Michigan is a global leader in connected roadways and it’s No. 1 in the nation for smart mobility patents. The state also has the greatest concentration of engineering talent in the world,” said Gleeson.   The partnership will focus on five initiatives, also known as “pillars”: Mobility for connected roadways. Michigan ranks first in the nation when it comes to connected and automated vehicle projects. To build on that level of innovation, Cisco and Michigan’s Department of Transportation will pilot a connected roadways effort focusing on motorist as well as worker safety. The technology captures real-time data about traffic flows, environmental conditions, road conditions and more, to enable the automation of critical safety decisions like reducing speed limits on variable message signs.
  Digital innovation in manufacturing. The state leads the nation in the development of factory automation technology, and manufacturing accounts for one out of every six private-sector jobs. Cisco will collaborate with manufacturers and research institutions throughout the state, including Wayne State University, to help develop its 25,000-square-foot Smart/Digital Manufacturing Center in Detroit, focused largely on manufacturing automation and robotics.
  Workforce training and education. Michigan has the highest per-capita density of engineering jobs of any state, and yet, vacancies remain due to the shortage of workers. Cisco plans to plug this gap through its Networking Academy, the company’s IT skills and career building program, now in its 20th year. The company aims to more than double enrollment in the Networking Academy from 3,000 students today to 8,000 students by 2020.
  Citizen-centric government. Michigan, which has a centrally managed IT organization, is positioned to provide a fully citizen-centric government with strong cybersecurity. According to Cisco, this part of the partnership will focus on improving how services are delivered to citizens and state agencies by collaborating "around a converged network platform for innovation in the future in services, security, collaboration, cloud and more."
  Strong communities. Michigan is the only state in the country to see its population decline between 2000 and 2015. Working with Cisco to prioritize solutions that will make the state a safe and attractive place to live, Gov. Snyder plans to bring Michigan’s population above the 10 million mark by 2020. While the SDA partnership is just beginning, Gleeson expects the program will deliver some early results around mobility and in digital training through Cisco’s Network Academy. “We’ll begin to see early results as we ramp up the number of students we graduate per year,” she said.

A key aspect of the program will be cybersecurity. With millions of autonomous vehicles expected to be on the road in the next few years, secure platforms and data will be a priority, according to Gleeson. “The security element of that is so important and critical and it requires thinking through all the different scenarios that will come into play. Cyber is pivotal and it has to be intertwined with the end goal of digital acceleration,” she said.