For Illinois CIO Hardik Bhatt, the Future is Now

Bhatt spent five years as Cisco’s Internet of Everything expert for local government, which gave him a front-row view of how governments worldwide are using the emerging Internet of Things to work smarter and more efficiently.

by / August 27, 2015

Hardik Bhatt has seen the future. Now his job is to bring it to the state of Illinois.

Before Gov. Bruce Rauner named him state CIO in March, Bhatt had spent five years as Cisco’s Internet of Everything expert for local government. The job gave him a front-row view of how governments across the globe are using the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) to work smarter and more efficiently.

“I’ve been to 18 countries in the past five years, 30-plus cities,” he said. That work included helping the German city of Hamburg implement smart port technology and Rio de Janeiro use the IoT to improve economic inclusion.

Bhatt knows government from the inside, too. He was CIO of Chicago from 2006 to 2010, where he led the Smart Chicago initiative, a public/private data analytics and digital inclusion program.

Although IoT technology remains fairly constant — a mix of sensors, cloud and mobility, along with appropriate apps and governance — regardless of where you deploy it, those tools can be aimed at different outcomes depending on a jurisdiction’s needs and goals, Bhatt says.

In Illinois, Rauner wants to make the state more efficient, accessible and economically competitive. That’s a tall order, given Illinois’ chronic budget deficits and frequent bottom-rung rankings in national surveys on business and job growth.

“So how can we take this same technology and apply it to a state of more than 12 million people with a budget of over $65 billion to make government services more accessible to citizens and attract more businesses, more capital and more talent to Illinois?” Bhatt said.

Part of the answer is better data and greater use of analytics to provide business intelligence. Those efforts likely begin with the deployment of a single statewide ERP system, something Illinois currently lacks. Bhatt says the technology will help the state better understand its cash flow, speed up hiring and on-boarding of new staff, and simplify procurement.

“But with that comes governance and a strategy on cloud computing because that’s one way that savings can be achieved,” he added.

Bhatt literally hopes to bring a world of experience to bear on solving the state’s challenges. “It was time for me to come back to the public sector,” he said, “but with a bigger impact possibility using my global exposure to improve the state of Illinois.”

Steve Towns

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.