RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper shared his vision for the state when it comes to technology during remarks at the North Carolina Digital Government Summit Aug. 30.
Among the key areas he addressed, the need for more substantial investment in education as a means of boosting the state’s IT workforce was a foremost topic.
“When we talk about a better workforce, particularly in this digital age, we have to be talking about education all the way from birth through post-high school attainment, higher education. Investments in early childhood and pre-K,” Cooper said.
In conversations with state officials and CEOs in the private sector, Cooper said the call for a better-educated and better-skilled workforce generally comes up with employers before issues like taxes.
Employers want to know that they will have a steady stream of employees who can do the work without needing excessive amounts of training.
“What we have to do to get that great workforce is to invest in education in our state. And we have to make that decision of what our priorities are,” the governor said, adding that when coupled with better teacher pay and investment in community colleges, the state can bolster the ranks of IT professionals.
The issue of connectivity is also a major priority for the state. While efforts to expand rural broadband have been a key priority for Cooper, he acknowledged there is still substantial work to be done before the digital divide is bridged.
In addition to serving as an educational tool, high-speed Internet is vital to bolstering businesses in rural areas.
“The problem is that we still have over 400,000 households in North Carolina without access to broadband high-speed Internet,” the governor said. “Many of these are in rural counties, are in poorer counties, and our small businesses that are there along with the kids that are going to a school that has broadband, but then where are they going to do their homework and where are they going to go and study?”
In the last budget cycle, Cooper said the proposals to support the last-mile connections for broadband have helped to expand connectivity in North Carolina. When compared to the potential benefits of high-speed Internet, he said the investment is small.
“We have to continue to work to expand broadband all over the state so that we can bring those opportunities for prosperity to those rural areas,” Cooper said.
The issue of cybersecurity also made an appearance in the governor’s remarks as a key priority facing state IT professionals.
The constant barrage of attacks targeting sensitive state data has prompted state officials to pursue more proactive training and backups. Among the development of a proposal for a technology disaster recovery site, the governor called for more money to be spent on training and simulations.