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Digital States Survey 2018: Raising the Bar

The results of this year's survey show that top states prioritize collaboration, good governance and strong citizen engagement in their use of technology to serve the public.

by , / October 2, 2018
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In the map above, click a state to learn its exact grade and why that grade was given. The contents of the map are also available below.

C+ States

2018 Grade: C+
2016 Grade: C+
CIO: Michael Dietrich

Appointed in April 2018, Nevada CIO Michael Dietrich is only a few months into the job and is at the helm of a number of statewide initiatives. With its two major population centers in the Reno and Las Vegas areas, more than 400 miles apart, the state has prioritized video conferencing as a cost-effective means of doing the people’s business. The Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services are major users of the technology, and a 2017 redesign of the Carson City, Nev., Capitol means the Old Assembly Chamber is now equipped to remotely connect leaders at opposite ends of the state in face-to-face meetings as well. Transparency also emerged as a big priority in Nevada, with new data made public as well as user-friendly access to details on decisions by elected officials and the state supreme court.

Nevada is currently in the second phase of replacing its ERP with a more modern solution that integrates several key systems like finance, accounting, procurement and human resources. All technology projects valued at more than $500,000 are reviewed and ranked in importance by a committee with visibility into statewide needs. Also targeted for future modernization are public safety and offender management systems.

In addition, the state has made progress relative to cybersecurity. Among the 50 percent of states with a cyberinsurance policy, Nevada has a newly created Office of Cyber Defense Coordination that aims to establish a framework for an improved statewide cybersecurity posture with comprehensive agency assessments and including private-sector partners.

New Hampshire
2018 Grade: C+
2016 Grade: B-
Denis Goulet

Last year, New Hampshire approved an updated IT strategic plan, which focused on five objectives, including improvements in system performance. With the help of funding from the Department of Energy, the Department of Information Technology has boosted the energy efficiency of its data center by cutting back on the volume of physical servers by 80 percent and has reduced the footprint of the center by 60 percent overall — power consumption has fallen by 37 percent. Another strategic objective, improving resource management, can be found in New Hampshire’s modernized ERP system. New efficiencies have resulted in shorter wait times, fewer screen refreshes and new end-user features.

In terms of better customer satisfaction, Gov. Chris Sununu has requested that many of the state’s websites undergo considerable redesign and standardization, as part of New Hampshire’s overall digital transformation. Examples include overhauls of websites for the Department of Motor Vehicles, revenue collection and the state’s liquor commission point-of-sale system. New Hampshire has approached cybersecurity — another strategic plan objective — as a collaborative effort involving 24 state agencies, local governments and the private sector, resulting in workshops and exercises that have identified areas of strength, gaps where improvements were needed and thorough tests of the state’s cyberprotection capabilities. The state has also launched a project management maturity effort to bring consistency and standardization to how it executes IT projects and to integrate agile development processes into new applications going forward.

2018 Grade: C+
2016 Grade: C
CIO: Tony Young

In the last two years, Wyoming has made progress with its technology initiatives, earning it an improved grade in the 2018 Digital States Survey. The state has made deliberate investments in cybersecurity, both with its first chief information security officer in fall 2017 as well as dedicating a portion of the budget specifically to cybersecurity for the first time. In an effort to streamline IT, Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) has consolidated into a co-located data center, adopted a cloud-first strategy and reduced use of hardware by more than 90 percent. The agency is also researching cloud options for backup to improve disaster recovery. To further efficiencies, Wyoming is looking into business management techniques as well as analytics and artificial intelligence tools.

In emerging technology, the governor has prioritized blockchain technology that would draw entrepreneurs to Wyoming, and ETS is also looking at how the distributed ledger technology can help with security across the enterprise. The state also points with pride to its mobile transit app, fed by information from connected vehicles. A section of Interstate 80 has been used as a pilot for 400 connected state fleet vehicles in a project funded by a $40 million federal grant. The project involves 75 roadside sensors across a portion of the highway with a high incidence of accidents during the winter.

C States

2018 Grade: C
2016 Grade: C
CIO: John Boucher (acting)

Alaska’s grade has held steady at a C since 2016. In April 2017, Gov. Bill Walker signed Administrative Order 284, centralizing telecommunications and IT into the Office of Information Technology (OIT) under the leadership of the chief information officer. And though consolidation is something many states have already done, in Alaska it signals the start of a more organized push toward its goals for cost-effective, data-driven government. This unification process, as officials have previously indicated to Government Technology, was not welcomed by all. Among the more recent steps in this process, OIT has consolidated more than 17 disjointed agency email systems into one enterprise cloud offering; started the implementation of a state ERP system across multiple agencies; and centralized directory management with single sign-on access. Additionally, the state added an innovation officer to its ranks to help drive new ideas and implement tools like data analytics and artificial intelligence. When it comes to securing its data, the state turned to a chief information security officer, hiring the state’s first CISO, Shannon Lawson in August 2017. Lawson is charged with creating and implementing security protocols and building continuity across the state. As one might imagine of a state as large and isolated as Alaska, there is also a need for Internet connectivity — a challenge state officials are trying to meet by way of middle-mile fiber partnerships with commercial carriers.

New Jersey
2018 Grade: C
2016 Grade: C+
CTO: Chris Rein

In 2018, New Jersey created the position of chief innovation officer,  a move that originated from the New Jersey Office of Information Technology (NJOIT), which for the first time in 2017 created criteria and a system of weighting to prioritize IT initiatives that were underway. Doing so helped the state rank those projects and isolate the department’s top 20 IT information initiatives. This, in turn, enabled the state’s project management office to identify where vital resources, including project managers and business analysts, were deployed and to reassign them as needed to the highest-priority projects.

The state has also taken crucial steps to improve the effectiveness of its cybersecurity strategies, moving responsibility for cybersecurity strategy and oversight from NJOIT to the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in 2016. In 2017, the state Division of Cybersecurity and the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) were combined to better exploit synergies and utilize their resources. This centralization of responsibility and accountability for cybersecurity statewide won acclaim from the Stanford University Law School Center for Internet and Society, which cited New Jersey as a model for other states.

In agency-level developments, the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, from the Division of Consumer Affairs, tracks nearly 68 million prescriptions and shares data with seven other states to tighten up efforts to combat opioid abuse. The Department of Health piloted a major data opioid initiative in spring 2018 aimed in part at improving knowledge about the epidemic by aggregating information from multiple sources and sharing it with stakeholders and the public through interactive dashboards.

Rhode Island
2018 Grade: C
2016 Grade: C
CIO: Bijay Kumar

Rhode Island has taken steps toward improved cybersecurity by hiring Mike Steinmetz, its first cybersecurity officer, and appointing a seven-member Homeland Security Advisory Board. Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Cyber Range Initiative is providing hands-on testing for cybersecurity modeling, simulation and job training for cyberprofessionals. Participants can use the controlled environment to re-create their own networks, which could be vulnerable to attacks, allowing them to better prepare for any future breaches.

To shore up Rhode Island’s emergency management, the Coastal Resources Management Council, working with the University of Rhode Island, has created the Coastal Environmental Risk Index, a model to predict future damage from sea level rise and storm surge. The project uses satellite images, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flooding projections and other data to inform planning and development in coastal areas. The state also appointed Shaun O’Rourke as chief resiliency officer, and he is leading the development of an Action Plan Report, a collective effort by various state agencies to manage flooding and other issues.

To make government more accessible for Rhode Islanders, more citizen services have migrated online, with improvements coming to the Departments of Environmental Management, Taxation and Motor Vehicles. Rhode Island also aims to introduce more science and tech training in public schools, as well as add 5,000 green jobs, with a goal to reach 20,000 clean energy jobs by 2020.

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Adam Stone Contributing Writer

A seasoned journalist with 20+ years' experience, Adam Stone covers education, technology, government and the military, along with diverse other topics. His work has appeared in dozens of general and niche publications nationwide. 

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