NASCIO Day Two: Tech-Powered Productivity

The conference's second full day revealed an evolving climate in state IT, and ideas to increase government efficiency and service.

by , / October 13, 2015
On Oct. 13, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at the 2015 NASCIO Annual Conference held in Salt Lake City. NASCIO

Tech-powered efficiency was a central topic for day two of the NASCIO Annual Conference in Salt Lake City. The meeting was a venue for the release of several reports on how technology could drive both cost savings and service improvement. Here's a closer look at day two's activities.

A CALL FOR STATE INNOVATION

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was on hand to open day two of the NASCIO Annual Conference, urging states – and state CIOs – to take the lead on solving the nation’s challenges. “Federal solutions are one-size fits all,” he said. “Let’s not put so much labor on the federal government to solve problems when the states are so much more nimble and flexible.”

As evidence, Herbert pointed to his own state’s progress on e-government services. More than 1,100 government services are now online, he said, adding that they are delivering big savings for the state. Utah citizens and businesses conducted 34 million e-government transactions in 2013 – at a savings of $13 per transaction or nearly $450 million overall, Herbert said.

Thanks to improvements like these, the state already has its smallest government workforce in more than a decade, according to the governor. But Herbert intends to up the ante with a new goal of improving efficiency by another 25 percent by January 2017.

In another NASCIO session, Utah CIO Mark VanOrden pointed to a new tool designed to help meet that goal, while improving social services programs for citizens. A smartphone application dubbed myCase lets Utah residents apply for social programs like Medicaid and food stamps using a smartphone.

“Some people think this population may not have access to the Internet. But they almost always have a smartphone,” VanOrden said. “This was an opportunity to develop an app that lets them communicate with us more easily.”

 

TECHNOLOGY'S UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

States could save billions of dollars through better use of information technology, according to a report released on day two of the NASCIO conference. The study, conducted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), estimates that states collectively could save $11 billion through IT-enabled productivity gains.

We talked with ITIF President Robert Atkinson, who was presenting at the conference on Tuesday, about some of the report’s recommendations. Atkinson says that CIOs need to present a better and much broader business case for new technology. In addition, state leaders need to acknowledge that automation could lead to staff reductions. “At one level, it’s state CIOs biting the bullet and saying we’re going to use technology and it’s going to eliminate head-count,” Atkinson said. “They don’t want to do that. It’s sensitive. But you have to confront that issue.”


 

CAN IN-CAR TECH SAVE THE ROADS?

Americans are driving more than ever, but they’re doing it more efficiently. Fuel-efficient cars help spare the air, but where does that leave transportation systems that rely on gas taxes to pay for road upkeep? The Oregon DOT is piloting a unique solution that charges citizens who opt in 1.5 cents per driven mile and exempts them from the gas tax. Admittedly a tough sell to drivers of electric or hybrid vehicles who would need to ante up more than they pay now, the program can save truck and SUV drivers money.

Interim Deputy Director Kurtis Danka was on hand at the NASCIO conference to accept a 2015 Best Practice Award in the emerging and innovative technologies category for the Road Usage Charge Program, which uses an on-board diagnostic system to relay mileage and fuel consumption data, resulting in a credit or a fee to the consumer, depending on miles traveled. Danka reports that California, Texas and Australia are keeping a close eye on the pilot.

BROKER-IN-CHIEF

The IT service delivery model continues to change, as reflected in the 2015 NASCIO survey of state CIOs, released Tuesday, Oct. 13. When asked how they plan to deliver or obtain IT services in the next three years, the top four responses paint a telling picture of changes coming to the CIO’s office:

 Expand existing IT shared services model  62 percent
 Outsource business applications through a SaaS model  55 percent
 Expand existing managed services model  53 percent
 Downsize state-owned-and-operated data center(s)  49 percent

Connecticut CIO Mark Raymond says the stats illustrate the fact that CIOs can’t do it all themselves. “In house is not the default any longer,” he said.

Acknowledging Florida’s currently limited visibility into agency-level IT assets, CIO Jason Allison, currently engaged in a statewide inventory of technology, described Florida’s approach as “informal cloud first.”

And state CIOs realize that the evolution is going to impact the bottom line. “Most states [60 percent] expect to add management fees to their rate structure to recoup the administrative cost of overseeing managed service providers,” says the survey report, The Value Equation.

Further evidence of the growing role of CIO as broker can be found in responses to a question about a CIO’s most important leadership traits. Far out in front were Communicator (73 percent chose this as one of the three most important traits), Strategist (58 percent) and Relationship Manager (56 percent). Chops as a Technologist ranked 9th out of the 10 traits listed, in contrast.

Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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.