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.

B+ States

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B+
CTO: Suma Nallapati

Two years ago, when Colorado was ranked in the Digital States survey, the state was also named Tech Innovator of the Year by the National Association of State CIOs. This year, the state maintains its B+ ranking because of strong efforts from the top to strengthen and expand the role of technology in delivering services, improving operations and jumpstarting innovation. The Office of Information Technology has a robust enterprise strategic planning process for each of its 17 agency customers. To meet their growing needs, OIT has built out its first Infrastructure-as-a-Service with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, both of which are being used to support critical data sets in health, human services, employment and labor.

Better operational support can be found in the state’s migration of more than 10,000 phone sets into the cloud and the introduction of livestreaming for video collaboration over the state’s Google cloud platform. OIT has modernized its application portfolio, replacing legacy systems with common service platforms and saving the state $1.9 million so far.  Modernization has continued and includes the replacement of the state’s MMIS last year and completion of the state’s new vehicle licensing, registration and titling system this year.

Colorado continues to keep a keen eye on the future of IT and Gov. John Hickenlooper has issued an executive order to set up a council to investigate what it calls the "compelling" new technology of blockchain, and to recommend a legal framework to support its potential use.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B+
CIO: Mark Raymond

In the last two years, Connecticut has continued its efforts in applying tech initiatives across state agencies and also investing at the local level. Like many states, Connecticut cites cybersecurity as its top priority, and to that end published its first Cybersecurity Strategy in July 2017 and first Cybersecurity Action Plan in May 2018. Further, Gov. Dannell Malloy appointed the first chief cybersecurity risk officer in 2016, and the Cybersecurity Committee, an information sharing group comprising law enforcement, utilities, emergency management and more, has expanded from just 13 members in 2013 to 81 in 2018. In working with the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), Connecticut has promoted membership for local governments, helping to bolster security across the board, and also has established an Election Cybersecurity Task Force to specifically protect elections systems. For state workers, cybertraining has become more frequent but shorter over time, which is producing positive results across the enterprise.

Another area where Connecticut has put a lot of emphasis is in the creation of a major Health and Human Services platform, which includes ImpaCT, an integrated eligibility system that enables staff to better evaluate client needs and for consumers to more easily access their benefits. ImpaCT has moved the state from 50th to fifth among states in terms of benefits timeliness for citizens, and the HHS system is working to incorporate other services like child support. Elsewhere, Connecticut has invested in a more connected workplace, including implementing statewide VoIP, which has reduced staff travel time and cut telephony costs by 70 percent. A telecommuting pilot is in place through the end of 2018 that aims to help attract and retain talent.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B-
CIO: James Collins

Delaware is without question in a state of transition when it comes to IT. But that hasn’t led to the high-speed wobble that can often follow disruptions to the status quo. In fact, the state has shown improvement over its 2016 evaluation, from a B- to a B+. Leadership in the state, from Gov. John Carney and legislators to CIO James Collins, understand and support the use of technology in government, taking on projects like benchmarking technology spending and IT resources while trying to provide better citizen-focused services. An integral part of this effort is protecting citizen data, an area where Delaware has adopted National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards, program metrics and benchmarking while leaving room for innovation. Their approach has been to automate threat detection and immediate response, removing the need for staff to respond to threats manually across the state’s hundreds of computer systems. Where data analytics is concerned, the state has most notably turned the technology toward its child welfare efforts and case management, where the streams of data coalesce into more than 130 reports, analyses and dashboards that staff can use to drive informed decisions. The push to both centralize and virtualize its servers is creating a path the state can leverage to becoming a more mobile and responsive organization — this is especially true within the Department of Education, where virtualization has gone from 65 percent in 2016 to 90 percent today.

2018: B+
2016: B
Chief Innovation Officer: Todd Nacapuy

The state of Hawaii returned to a B+ ranking with a collaborative attitude toward solving its unique challenges, under the leadership of tech-forward Gov. David Ige and a responsive Legislature. Since coming to the state in 2015, CIO Todd Nacapuy has worked with the Legislature and the state IT workforce to enact legislation that would serve as the foundation for the consolidated Office of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS). Those same statutes also put in place an IT governance process requiring departments to develop multiyear IT strategic plans.

Legislators and the executive branch worked together on policies and best practices with Act 37, which took effect in 2017, pushing out the benefits of independent IT project verification and validation to the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii. Officials partnered on data-driven government, standing up a Department Dashboard aggregating IT projects around the state. Powered by the SharpCloud data visualization solution, it lets ETS present initiatives in a visually compelling way, categorized by metrics including cost and organizational importance.

The state prioritized residents in a series of innovative emerging tech solutions, with its health department implanting air quality sensors at strategic locations including those with the potential for deadly volcanic lava fumes. Hawaii’s emergency management agency has installed statewide wireless and satellite-based alert warning systems and water level monitors; and its highways agency tracks movement via "smart" road monitors, cameras, traffic controls and messaging systems.

Hawaii has done considerable heavy lifting to enhance its ability to recruit IT staff, piloting the migration of existing employees from a seniority-based to a broadbanding system that simplifies the classification of positions and is more flexible in recognition of and compensation for professional growth and development. In 2016, the state piloted a collaboration with LinkedIn to raise the visibility of ETS job openings, filling a significantly higher percentage.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Greg Zickau

In 2018 Idaho formed the Office of Information Technology Services, with a newly established cabinet-level director, giving the state clear leadership and policy direction in the implementation of digital technology services and cybersecurity policies across state government.

With a new focus on digital technology and cybersecurity, Idaho aims to consolidate some 68 state organizations and 550 IT personnel over the next five years. The move toward consolidation has also led to the purchase of a 200-acre Chinden Campus, which comprises more than 1.5 million square feet spread across eight buildings. Formerly occupied by Hewlett-Packard, redesign plans were completed in May 2018, with move-in for certain agencies to begin in fall 2018. ITS is extending its core communications network to include the Chinden Campus with upgrades to better serve agency cloud, cloud-hybrid, and virtualization needs.

The Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON) — a high-speed fiber-optic network connecting the state’s research, education, health-care and government resources — will be upgraded to 100 gigabits per second statewide, ensuring enhanced data exchange. In other notable upgrades, the Idaho Department of Transportation recently modernized its 511 Roadway Conditions website for better performance on mobile devices. The improved site offers enhanced details related to road conditions, along with camera feeds which allow the public to view conditions in real time. In addition, the Idaho state courts system is now digital. Known as iCourt, the new system is incorporated into all 44 counties, enables e-filing, and provides improved access to electronic court records, hearing schedules and other court documents.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B+
CIO: Kirk Lonbom

IT leaders in Illinois were among the first in the public sector to examine the potential for digital ledger technology, also known as blockchain, and they have continued to further the mission of IT for the public good. Under the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), created and centralized in 2016, the state has charged ahead to meet five major strategy goals: digital transformation, security, digital enablement, efficiency through innovation and building a smarter state. Despite political friction, and a budget impasse that spanned two years, DoIT has made substantial progress in cementing the importance of IT with elected officials. In 2017, the Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner approved House Bill 2371, which outlined the state’s first enterprise cybersecurity strategy. This furthered efforts to protect billions of confidential electronic records in conjunction with the Cybersecurity Operations Center, which focuses on stopping threats in real time as well as providing awareness training to the state’s more than 46,000 employees. To meet the goal of becoming a smarter state, technology practitioners have formed "Smart State" partnerships outside of state IT to draw from the wealth of experience in the academic and private sectors. In one recent push toward smarter government, the state leveraged its buying power to enable cities to purchase smart streetlights through a statewide procurement effort. This same mentality is being applied in its approach to a master contract for digital kiosks and a smart correctional/medical facility. Tools like artificial intelligence, chatbots and advanced data analytics are all finding their place to help improve the overall effectiveness of state government. Despite a challenging political environment, the work done within DoIT has allowed the state to hold a respectable B+ for the last two years, up from a C+ in 2014.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Jim Smith

Maine centralized its IT a decade ago and has continued to build on the increased efficiency that has been provided ever since. In recent years, this has meant creating an IT steering committee to thoroughly vet return on IT investments, as well as embracing new trends and technologies, including cloud storage and agile project management. Centralization has also spread outside of core IT services to related areas such as disaster recovery and cybersecurity, allowing the state to create shared resources such as threat analysis and incident response. In other efficiency news, Maine has also continued working to replace or significantly modify legacy systems at a pace of 25 each year. It all adds up to a governmental IT ecosystem wherein work is prioritized in terms of efficiency and financial savings, both of which are high priorities of Maine’s executive branch.

In addition to efficiency and centralization, Maine has worked to be forward-thinking as well, creating a robust intern program that has seen 70 percent of participants transitioning into full-time state IT employees. This has been imperative for a state where nearly a quarter of its public IT workforce is currently eligible to retire. Also in the service of bettering its IT hiring practices, Maine has implemented new online recruitment tools that have reduced the number of days to hire by more than half. Maine is also looking forward with a multiphase, $20 million network upgrade that will give the state a foundation from which to modernize other network components. In recent years, broadband access has also increased for residents of Maine, where 91 percent of households now subscribe to broadband service, compared to nearly 70 percent nationwide. This progress was made under the oversight of Maine’s ConnectME Authority, an independent entity that works to provide broadband access to underserved areas in the state.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Michael Leahy

Maryland consolidated its IT operations into one cohesive enterprise, which includes the governor’s cabinet agencies and coordinated offices and opt-in independent agencies in the executive branch. The goals of the effort are to consolidate commodity services with cross-agency similarity, leading, ultimately, to an improved cybersecurity posture and streamlined operations for all involved.

Consolidated IT services have led to standardized desktop and server environments and provided a standardized process for security that previously was handled by each agency. Data centers for 21 customer agencies have been migrated into the centralized virtualized computing platform. Through this consolidation, the IT department created efficient use of resources and offers a first-class, standardized network architecture, while saving the state $2 million in equipment, power and cooling costs.

The state this year announced the Maryland One Stop Statewide Licensing portal, which provides a single point of entry for citizens to access all offices that issue licenses or permits. The portal’s back-end forms and workflow engine save the state millions by eliminating legacy systems and improve the user experience through a single Web-based interface. To optimize executive branch agencies via technology and improve efficiency, accountability and customer service, the governor formed the Office of Performance Improvement, which expands on efforts to implement an enterprise model in the state.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B+
CIO: John MacMillan

Pennsylvania maintained the B+ grade it earned two years ago shortly after Gov. Tom Wolf took over. In the past two years, the state has utilized technology to help solve problems and improve government services. After the 2016 legalization of medical marijuana in the state, the Department of Health set to work implementing a Patient and Caregivers Registry and a seed-to-sale tracking system for growers, processors and dispensaries. Both systems are now up and running, and DOH has registered 11 dispensaries, 11 growers and producers, 750 physicians and almost 20,000 patients. Technology was also helpful to the state’s efforts to address the growing opioid crisis. Pennsylvania now has an Opioid Data Dashboard where residents can find information on addiction resources and where to go for them. The state also implemented a central repository for tracking overdoses, naloxone administrations and investigative information called Overdose Information Network (ODIN). Not open to the public, ODIN can be accessed by police, public safety and health-care professionals.

In the public safety area, Pennsylvania has undertaken a project to transition from its legacy radio communication system to a new P25 system. The 1,110 radio sites currently in use will be decreased to just 116, and the state expects to see $6 million in annual savings once implementation is complete. Most notably, the project includes a first-of-its-kind warehouse facility in Harrisburg for staging and testing the new radio equipment that should speed up and enhance the overall deployment process.

To improve integration between third-party voter registration services and state agencies that interact with the public, in 2016 the Pennsylvania Department of State created an online voter registration application programming interface (API). The API has seen nearly 80,000 applications, with a 20 percent higher chance of approval than other voter registration methods.

2018 Grade: B+
2016 Grade: B+
CIO: Mark Bengel

Tennessee made the grade again this year, keeping its steady B+ rating since 2014. Over the past few years, a statewide focus on increasing shared services in a number of technical areas has allowed an effective and efficient IT transformation to take place. Data’s takeover has played a major role in the way Tennessee utilizes technology, essentially reworking the way networks across the state track, approve and review data. Completed in January 2018, a Data Center Transformation provided a more secure environment for legacy applications under new restrictions.

Acknowledging the ever-growing importance of cybersecurity, the state has mandated that all employees must take customized cybersecurity awareness training a minimum of every two years. As another preventative measure, phishing campaigns are pushed out at least twice a year. Cyberdata from networks across the state are recorded in a database, allowing for quick identification. The state’s governance tool is used to track exceptions and vulnerabilities in a weekly scan process that is run across all data center systems.

B States

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Morgan Reed

Since the 2016 survey, Arizona has made concrete strides to reach its cybersecurity goals, starting with Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order establishing a cybersecurity team with broad representation, charged with overseeing a cohesive state strategy. The state uses a tool called RiskSense, which evaluates cybermaturity at the agency level through a series of data-rich dashboards, while fostering a spirit of cooperation aimed at minimizing the state’s overall risk.

Arizona has also made an aggressive push to put more services online, offering conveniences to agency customers and more efficient operations. By their count, 239 services have added online capabilities since the start of 2018, including permits, appeals, renewals and applications across multiple agencies. One agency that upgraded its customer-facing services is the Motor Vehicle Department, which now has e-signature options in certain cases and the ability to personalize the user experience. Teens testing for a driver’s permit can now take their test online from home, with a parent serving as a proctor, saving all a trip to their local branch office.

The Arizona Management System is the state’s answer to implementing results-driven government with one coherent strategy. Targets are set and monthly agency-level business meetings are held to identify performance issues and drive continuous improvement. Where IT is concerned, the state has directed resources to key governance initiatives, like a comprehensive investment justification process, which injects structure and accountability into tech investments of more than $25,000. The responsible team credits the process with $10 million in cost avoidance and savings on technology in the past two years. In addition, strategic planning at the state level identified the need for an e-Licensing platform from multiple organizations. As a result, 13 state boards now use a common solution, saving the state $3 million that would’ve gone toward individual tools.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Yessica Jones

Earning a B again in this year’s survey, Arkansas continued its commitment to bettering government services using technology. Among the state’s efforts was a continued focus on education. Gov. Asa Hutchison announced a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for an educational cyber-range. The University of Arkansas received the grant and will house the facility, where students will learn how to identify and defend against cyberattacks.

Looking for other ways to improve government services, the state turned to those who they are supposed to benefit: its 3 million residents. The result was a new website for crowdsourcing ideas for government improvement. One of the first initiatives to come out of the governor’s newly established Office of Transformation, My Idea for Arkansas allows citizens to submit their ideas for improving state government. The state has implemented or plans to implement many of the more than 850 ideas that have been submitted so far.

Arkansas is in the first stages of a five-year IT infrastructure reorganization, which is expected to generate between $11.5 million and $14.5 million in savings by year six. The state will be moving from a decentralized approach to a consolidated, shared services model. The move comes as a result of a recent IT infrastructure assessment by Gartner, which developed a five-year road map of recommendations for improvement.

Last but not least, in 2017 Arkansas also hosted the inaugural Arkansas Digital Government Transformation Awards. Designed to highlight innovative technology initiatives within the state, 31 projects were submitted by more than 20 agencies. The awards will alternate between state and local government on even and odd years. The 2018 awards honoring local government projects were announced in late September.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B+
CIO: Eric Larson

Florida delivered a solid performance in this year’s Digital States Survey, focusing on cross-agency collaboration, good governance and streamlined services. The Agency for State Technology (AST) has created positions for a chief data officer and a geographic information officer, as well as converged its infrastructure, consolidated enterprise storage and retired 25 legacy storage devices. Plus, 100 percent of the state’s data is now duplicated at a disaster recovery site within 24 hours, and the state has put a premium on cybersecurity, with $19 million in federal funds for elections security, as well as $220,000 dedicated to training state IT security staff.

As Florida is no stranger to emergency events, evidenced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the last two years, the state has made investments in disaster prep and recovery. The Department of Economic Opportunity launched, which will help state businesses prepare for and recover from emergency events, and the state data center has also been rated to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds. In non-natural emergency response, following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, state legislation was passed to use technology to improve data sharing between the state’s judiciary and its law enforcement community. Part of the state’s gun reform law includes a direction to invest in an app that allows community members, including students, to anonymously report suspicious or potentially dangerous activity.

Efficiencies for both state agencies and citizens are central to the state’s work across the enterprise, such as the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) Motorist Modernization Project, which will modernize DMV operations for Floridians and allow 24/7 access to DMV services. Further, in a collaboration between the Department of State and the DHSMV, the state launched an online voter registration website in October 2017. The Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System gives citizens access to more than 20 state agencies’ contract data, and the People First human resources application improves both the job application process and tools like timesheets and insurance forms for current employees.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Robert von Wolffradt

Holding steady with a B grade, Iowa is continuing to expand broadband access and is set to deliver high-speed Internet to more than 4,000 homes and 700 businesses in the state. The 54 new projects represent $114 million in industry investment. Broadband providers received $7 million in tax relief, and in turn installed more than 550 miles of fiber and invested more than $16 million in new projects in rural areas. The Office of the CIO simplified the identification of areas that are eligible for tax credit investment to build out improved broadband access. The website lets investors see eligible areas and apply. Citizens can also see where the investments are being made.

The state also aims to prepare Iowans for future tech jobs through cybersecurity training and apprenticeships. Iowa created an apprenticeship website to connect residents with employers. Submitted applications went up by 30 percent in the site’s first quarter, and the site got an average of 10,000 visitors each month.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Charles Grindle

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is focused on shoring up the state’s fiscal problems, asking for a significant reduction in spending to get the state on more stable footing. And technology, under the direction of CIO Charles Grindle, has a significant role to play. Last December, legislation officially codified a reorganization bringing executive branch IT under Grindle, establishing central governance and project review through a shared services model. It’s a strategy that aims to elevate good practices no matter where they come from in order to maximize benefits across the enterprise. One such example is a single sign-on tool, the Kentucky Online Gateway. Developed by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, it’s now the standard for the commonwealth. Moving toward a more shared operating model has presented opportunities for cross-agency analytics and Kentucky now has a chief data officer to guide the effort.

Several modernization efforts are helping to streamline and automate service delivery in Kentucky. Risk assessments for offenders in the criminal justice system now better help inform parole decisions while cutting staff time in half, new online services were added for the Department of Vehicle Regulation, and real-time road condition information is communicated to commuters on the state portal and via popular platforms like Waze. The One Stop Business Portal offers access to the many agencies involved in starting and operating a business in one online location. Business owners registering through the site (more than 1 million new accounts have been created on the portal since 2016) now far exceed those submitting paper applications. On the emerging tech front, Kentucky is now piloting an AI tool that they hope can help handle the influx of customer support calls in high-volume areas.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: C+
CIO: Richard "Dickie" Howze

Despite budget woes that are all too common in state tech and innovation work, Louisiana moved forward in this year’s survey, going from the C+ grade it had in 2016 back to the B level it was at in 2014. Part of this is increased support from the governor’s office as well as from the state Legislature. The governor has not only voiced commitment for enhancing the level of digital government in Louisiana, he has also backed it up with executive orders, the most notable being one that calls for a cybercrime commission. State lawmakers, meanwhile, passed legislation this year that requires the creation of a fiscal transparency portal, with elected officials also asking for increased funding across all state agencies to bolster online transparency.

Support from those in charge, of course, is only one facet of governmental tech and innovation success. Equally, if not more, important is execution. The tech consolidation underway for some time has matured, with a completed staff reorganization and bolstered by the conversion of some agencies into shared services. The most tangible accomplishment, however, is the state’s Enterprise Architecture Project. Initially conceptualized to help the Department of Health update Medicaid eligibility and enrollment, that work has proven wide-spanning and comprehensive. Its seven core components — enterprise service bus, master data management, data warehousing, electronic document management system, identity and access management, business rules engine, and consumer communication — touch on a vital group of tech and innovation pillars, helping the state’s Office of Technology Services evolve from a simple supplier of physical technology to a purveyor of new solutions. It’s even likely to yield public-facing results. Once all agencies are on board, citizens will be able to use a single sign-on for state services.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Dennis McDermitt

Two years after a diagnostic study of the state of technology in Massachusetts, the state is experiencing a significant digital transformation. Finding the results of the study "sobering," the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security found that as a result of the decentralized nature of its IT operations, the state had purchased "one of everything in every size, flavor and kind."

More than 18 data centers housed more than 6,000 servers, and the technology solutions were being used at less than 5 percent of their capacity. Since the study, the state is allocating dollars toward higher-impact, lower-risk projects and asking agencies requesting capital dollars to articulate constituent value and cost benefits instead of simply looking at costs. Agencies are encouraged to seek commercial off-the-shelf solutions and to consider cloud-first solutions where possible.

The study also revealed that, over time, Massachusetts had left itself exposed to hackers with a vulnerable network topology and an overprovisioned, poorly managed base of computing infrastructure. The state is well on its way to achieving its goal of moving to one secure and reliable network that serves the entire executive branch. The cybersecurity team is also focused on identity and access management, moving from a compliance-based security policy model to a remediation and defense-based policy as well as performing comprehensive vulnerability scanning and appropriate fixes.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Craig Orgeron

Holding steady with a B grade, in 2016 Mississippi commenced a public-private partnership for co-location and virtual hosting in a backup data center — a secure, Tier 3 facility. The two data centers now provide high availability, disaster recovery and backup services. Participation in co-located services has risen 27 percent in the last two years.

The state has also advanced in improved application use. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security launched the Mississippi Works (MS Works) mobile app, which lets job seekers search job openings, compare their skills to job requirements and locate local job centers. Employers can generate job announcements and request potential candidates to apply for jobs. MS Works also guides residents who need to file for unemployment benefits. Since launching in 2014, the app has been downloaded more than 34,000 times.
Providing evidence of how the state is empowering a more mobile-enabled workforce, public health environmentalists for the Mississippi State Department of Health can now perform onsite environmental health inspections on iPads, electronically filing data to food and wastewater databases. The iPads were also used for issuing permits and accepting payments. The department estimates a savings of 50 percent in travel time.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B-
CIO: Tim Bottenfield

Montana jumped up half a grade this year, as Gov. Steve Bullock and his administration continued to prioritize technology’s role in making government more effective. Montana maintains an impressive array of online government services, with 285 serving citizens, businesses, local governments and more. In the last two years, additions to these services included 98 custom e-government services, 48 conference and training registrations, 33 ePass (the state’s single sign-on service/portal) additions, and four new payment processing integrations, as well as enhancements to existing services. But one of the most impressive additions made to Montana digital government services was in the Motor Vehicle Division. At a cost of just $12,000 per year, a team of 31 chatbots now handles customer service calls for the division. They were initially deployed in a soft launch in August 2017, and since then have been modified and improved, resulting in thousands fewer calls.

Montana recently migrated its online transparency and data portals from Socrata to Tableau and is already impressed with the results. Citizens have access to increased functionality on the portals, including the ability to connect one dashboard to multiple data sets. The data sets also update in real time, something that the previous system did not do. The move is saving the state $10,000 annually.

The state also emphasized its focus on cybersecurity this year by partnering with the Montana National Guard to send a team to Cyber Shield, the Army National Guard’s annual cybersecurity event. The team included members from the state National Guard, Montana Analysis and Technical Information Center, and the Digital Forensics and Incident Response team from the Montana Information Security Bureau — they won sixth place in the national cyberchallenge. Montana hopes to continue to strengthen this relationship with the National Guard, thereby reinforcing the cyberposture of both entities.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Ed Toner

Nebraska’s government agencies have consolidated their IT services to create a centralized technology organization, which was a large effort that helped the state earn its B grade this year. The Enterprise Data Center helped eliminate 183 physical servers and all outside data centers. Taking away open positions for infrastructure staff has increased annual savings to $2.7 million. The state’s Open Data Portal, used by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, provides an authoritative and transparent view of GIS data. The system received a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award from Esri, which honored the commission’s data collection efforts.

Enforcing a customer-focused approach to state government comes with benefits to Nebraska’s constituents. More digital services are available now than ever before, such as delivering thousands of permits online to help both the private and public sector deliver projects quickly. The Nebraska Information Technology Commission conducted a statewide Digital Readiness survey to assess the digital divide in the state. Over 600 responses will help policymakers address digital readiness and identify which parts of the state are in the most need. To shore up cybersecurity, all personnel must take six hours of cybersecurity training each year, ensuring that they’re up to date with the evolving curriculum.

New Mexico
2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B-
CIO: Maria Sanchez (acting)

Despite a statewide budget shortfall, New Mexico has done a lot in the past two years to become a state with a strong IT presence. One of the southwestern state’s main areas of focus has been the development and rollout of its ERP system, known as the Statewide Human Resources Accounting and Reporting (SHARE) system. The initiative, which involved more than 120 agencies, took 22 months to complete, cost $20 million, and achieved numerous measurable outcomes including the elimination of payroll overpayments and a reduction in more than 500,000 hard-copy documents that were previously delivered to the finance department every year. SHARE provides offices in remote locations across New Mexico with "geographic equity" to those in more populated areas, and the state feels the system is truly an investment that will continue to provide ongoing returns.

Another priority has been expanding broadband connections, including the creation of the Office of Broadband and Geospatial Initiatives (OBGI), which encompasses, among other things, the governor’s Broadband for Education program. This has helped public schools across the state upgrade their connections, and as of the 2017-18 school year, 99 percent of schools had high-speed Internet. To strengthen their position of "doing more with less," OBGI prioritizes broadband projects that will affect more than one area to optimize costs. New Mexico, one of the first five states to opt in to FirstNet, has also continued its place as a leader in public safety communications and has a plan to achieve P25 standards that will lay the groundwork for current and future coverage to rural, urban and tribal areas. Going forward, the state anticipates executive leadership changes following the November 2018 election, but DoIT has created a technical environment ready to support New Mexico’s future.

North Carolina
2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B+
CIO: Eric Boyette

North Carolina, earning a B in this year’s survey, is in the midst of several initiatives aimed at modernizing and streamlining its IT infrastructure, moving away from legacy systems toward tools that can bring benefits across the enterprise. In addition to consolidating data centers and migrating IT functions into the central Department of Information Technology, the state is doing foundational work on upgrading its financial system — an initiative with a price tag of $40 million to date. Alongside these efforts are moves to establish better governance, evidenced by the current deployment of a statewide portfolio management system. In addition, a proposal for an IT Strategy Board will be considered during the coming legislative session.

The state’s Government Data Analytics Center puts them ahead of many of their peers when it comes to realizing the benefits of a data-driven operation. One notable effort of late is the January 2018 launch of an award-winning new site for the Department of Environmental Quality, offering a wide variety of data sets, maps and interactive content. In other online improvements, the ReBUILD NC site, dedicated to connecting hurricane-impacted residents with available resources, was retooled based on customer feedback to maximize its value. All told, the state reports that it has added 30 new online services and features in the past two years.

On the emerging tech front, the state is exploring areas where it might benefit from the use of blockchain technologies, such as interagency data sharing on offenders. The Department of Public Safety established a drone academy in partnership with community colleges in the state in order to train first responders and other emergency personnel on how to use drones in their work. 

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B-
CIO: Bo Reese

Oklahoma just completed a five-year IT strategic plan, finalizing the unification of 110 agencies and launching two initiatives to help transform how Oklahomans interact with the state. The strategic plan offers a guide and road map of where technology in Oklahoma state government is going and how it is working to meet growing citizen and business needs. The road map focuses on three channels: citizens, public-sector employees and innovation. The citizen channel looks at the citizen’s experience with state government through technology. The public-sector employee channel focuses on the needs of state staff and using technology to deliver services and business processes. The innovation channel outlines technology opportunities for both citizens and private-sector employees, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and the Internet of Things.

The two initiatives, launched in the first quarter of 2018, are Innovate Oklahoma and Innovate Oklahoma is designed to bridge the gap between all forms of technology entrepreneurs, state agencies and citizens. It offers a collaborative platform where citizens and technologists can come together to develop solutions to business problems in Oklahoma. The initiative helps create a niche market of innovative jobs, and the growing tech economy will help keep local talent at home. provides monitoring and transparency for technology projects and contains three- to five-year initiative road maps. That allows the private sector to provide creative solutions for agency-specific and statewide needs. Quarterly webinars on projects allow anyone to learn and understand the direction of technology in the state. 

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Terrence Woods (Interim)

Gov. Kate Brown has talked at length about her goals of making state government work for the people, and Oregon’s Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) office seems to have taken that message to heart. From a holistic approach to its statewide strategy to the push to protect citizen data while maintaining open and transparent government, Oregon has made a concerted effort to move forward. One area where ETS has focused its energy has been on creating efficiencies in the IT procurement process. In the past, agencies have struggled to invest in systems that seamlessly fit into the patchwork of systems working across the state. The launch of the Basecamp procurement portal in late 2016 offered an opportunity for agencies to coordinate on their IT spend, while ensuring the least amount of cost and disruption. Another area where the state has focused its attention has been investment in cybersecurity and protecting citizen data. In late 2016, Brown signed Executive Order 16-13 and Senate Bill 90, effectively giving the state CIO more authority across the federated agency landscape. This also included unifying the state’s cybersecurity efforts. The state has also worked to build out its fiber network, working in conjunction with higher education institutions to further this goal. Its partnership with four research universities has allowed for the purchase of 2,200 miles of dark fiber network. In 2017, the state successfully launched its Motor Voter program, which registers voters doing business with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. According to state statistics, the program is responsible for a 14 percent increase in voter registration in the state.

South Carolina
2018 Grade:
2016 Grade: B- 
CIO: Keith Osman

An emphasis on long-range governance and planning from two chief executives has helped South Carolina improve its grade from a B- in 2016 to a solid B. Former Gov. Nikki Haley, the Legislature and current Gov. Henry McMaster have recognized the power of technology and innovation, requiring cabinet agencies to adopt an IT shared service model, and creating tech standards, an agency-wide enterprise architecture and a Project Management Office (PMO) to better align initiatives and improve services and relationships. The creation of tech standards, while still ongoing, has already saved the state more than $650,000.

Among recent initiatives, the availability of telemedicine services to state health plan subscribers generated around 14,500 registrations and yielded more than 5,800 telemedicine visits — 4,700 of which were mobile-based — from January 2017 through April 2018. The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is sharing Medicaid data with the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office in a pact that is yielding some interesting dividends. The two agencies’ data-sharing agreement is available to other agencies planning their own initiatives and is being extended to include the South Carolina Health Information Exchange.

Elsewhere across the enterprise, the state Department of Motor Vehicles stood up a responsive design website in 2017; implemented Real ID; and developed an eCitation application in collaboration with law enforcement, vendors and other agencies that has saved $120 million to date. DOR implemented DORWAY, a four-year, leading-edge processing system that integrated 72 taxes and fees, unifying internal and public-facing tax components. The Comptroller General’s Statewide Fiscal Transparency website, which has data for the public, along with procurement information for county and local government, was ranked ninth nationwide by the Public Interest Research Group.

2018 Grade: B
2016 Grade: B
CIO: Todd Kimbriel

In November 2017, Texas launched a major information resources project that included 77 technology projects with an estimated total cost of $1.5 billion. Many of those were focused on modernization and cybersecurity. That same year, the state Legislature passed the Texas Cybersecurity Act, which established the Information and Analysis Center. The move is part of an effort to protect resident data from outside hacking. In the wake of these developments, the Texas Open Data Portal has been reorganized and rebranded to be more useful and relevant for Texas residents. As an example, the Department of Public Safety launched its new iWatchTexas mobile app to make it easier for the public to report suspicious activity.

Technological innovations in the comptroller’s office have made it easier for residents to do business with the state, such as filing and paying taxes online, any time of the day. In 2017, more than 5.4 million tax returns were filed electronically, compared to only 900,000 in 2007. Also in 2017, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles launched its new eLICENSING system, which consolidated two standalone licensure systems into one network and created an easy-to-use system for Texans to apply for a driver’s license. The site offers more than 1,000 online services for more than 300 state and local governments in all 254 counties.

West Virginia
2018 Grade:
2016 grade: B+ 
CTO: John Dunlap

West Virginia has made a lot of public-facing tech and innovation progress in recent years, launching everything from a new website for its tourism office to digital applications for its department of education. This diverse push forward has resulted in a correspondingly varied set of improvements. The department of education’s new application system, for example, enabled that agency to save an estimated 11,082 work hours in 2017 that used to go to processing teacher applications handled via paper forms. Estimates show that the analog version took 90 minutes to process for public servants, and 180 minutes to complete for teachers. And in a move at the leading edge of technology, the state was the first to pilot a blockchain voting program in 2018.

While saving work hours is always desirable, West Virgina, like many other states, also faces very real financial challenges, and so another focus of the tech and innovation work there has been to cut down on other spending. As a first step, West Virginia State Auditor John McCuskey is launching an open data platform that will help everyone — from residents to lawmakers — easily find and analyze information about spending, sometimes down to an itemized level. Internal IT work in West Virginia is also progressing, albeit with less flashy results. A seven-year effort to consolidate data centers has accelerated with two additional agencies being consolidated into the centralized primary data center as of late. State technologists have also stepped up cybersecurity efforts, leading an internal campaign to educate and engage public servants about evolving cyberthreats. Finally, in a move the vast majority of West Virginians are likely to appreciate, the state continues to add kiosks at grocery stores that can be used to handle online vehicle registration and driver license renewals without stepping foot in the Division of Motor Vehicles.

B- States

2018 Grade: B-
2016 Grade: C+
CIO: Jim Purcell

Alabama’s grade jumped up to a B+ this year, following a vast expansion of the role of the Office of Information Technology (OIT) in November 2016, giving the office administrative and operational control of the state’s computer, voice and data network infrastructure. The Finance Department retains the enterprise financial, procurement and payroll applications. The state has a federated IT system with limited central IT authority.

Alabama is a member of a Cybersecurity Multistate Compact, and OIT, in collaboration with agency partners, acquired Splunk and upgraded its firewalls. It uses Splunk, MS-ISAC tools/sensors and other tools to monitor network traffic, utilization and unwanted attempts to connect to the network. Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager is used to ensure software is kept current. Although the state doesn’t provide cloud broker services, OIT is in the process of implementing an enterprise cloud broker service. A manger with cloud experience was hired this spring to deploy cloud services.

The state has four energy programs that drive sustainability, energy conservation and "green" government: a Renewable Energy Program; Alternative Transportation Fuels; Biomass Energy Program; and Building Energy Efficiency. The programs are used for building codes, industrial energy efficiency, energy education, renewable fuels, performance contracting and alternative transportation fuels. Alabama has joined other state and municipal code jurisdictions that have incorporated the Energy Rating Index as a compliance option for residential energy building codes.

2018 Grade: B-
2016 Grade: C-
CITO: Lee Allen

The Kansas IT Strategic Plan established priorities of modernizing infrastructure and cloud capability, increasing cybersecurity and citizen data protection, and collaboration among agencies. In March, the state launched a mobile application, iKan, in partnership with PayIt, which lets residents pay vehicle registrations and get digital document copies via a mobile device. A chatbot guides users through these processes. Additional functionality for vital records requests was launched this year. Users can now order birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates via the app, and Kansas plans to add tax payments to the app functions.

Kansas established its Information Security Office (KISO) earlier this year, authorized in statute with the passing of Senate Bill 56, the Kansas Cybersecurity Act. The legislation makes KISO the centralized authority over information security and assigns the responsibility of agency information security tasks to the individual agencies. KISO has implemented a security-officer-as-a-service program to make available its specialized and experienced information security staff to the agencies. These officers help agencies by identifying their risks, conducting risk assessments against applications and developing road maps for improvement. These services are also available to agencies looking to fulfill the requirements established in the Kansas Cybersecurity Act.

State IT departments have implemented several application modernizations and infrastructure updates, including mainframe consolidation, email consolidation and migration to Microsoft Office 365. Kansas has also consolidated its method of providing desktop computers, or desktop as a service. This service gives agencies the latest technology, updated operating systems and a flexible billing method, utilizing a consumption-based model. The IT department is planning and has begun various RFP processes for several modernized services, such as the data center, network and service desk, with the goal of updating aging infrastructure, collaborating across agencies and transitioning the state IT organization to a broker-of-services operating model.

South Dakota
2018 Grade: B-
2016 Grade: B-
CIO: Pat Snow (interim)

South Dakota held steady at a B- for the Digital States third survey in a row, continuing its focus on technology as a way to make government services more effective and efficient. But more technology means an increased need for staff with cyberknowledge, so the state looked to the education system to help find them. In his 2018 State of the State address, Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced a statewide partnership between high schools, higher education institutions and the Department of Labor to help grow the cyberworkforce. Through this initiative, high school juniors and seniors will be offered courses with tech-driven topics such as cybersecurity, network services and software development. Completion of these classes will earn them college credit and count toward their high school graduation. Among those partners participating is the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences, which offers classes in high-demand, well-paying technology fields.

Last year, South Dakota became the first state in the nation to offer an online application for pardons. Launched in May, the system improves efficiency and effectiveness for both applicants and state employees who review the applications.

Also in 2017, the state’s Department of Revenue was a co-winner of the 2017 FTA Award for Technology from the Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA), along with Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue. The department was recognized for its special events application, which utilizes an iPad app to allow staff to quickly and remotely record vendor information.

2018 Grade: B-
2016 Grade: B-
CIO: John Quinn

For the third Digital States Survey in a row, Vermont has maintained its B- grade. In the last two years, the state has found new ways to implement and upgrade technology initiatives, human services and infrastructure. These projects have been key to the state’s growth and constituent trust. Vermont was one of five states in the nation to be selected to participate in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project, a long-term technical assistance opportunity to reform criminal justice systems through the National Criminal Justice Association and the National Governors Association. The project helps promote data-driven decision-making and evidence-based practices through using analytics tools, performance metrics and benchmark reporting tools.

The new Vermont Integrated Tax System took four years to consolidate 37 tax types across various systems. A compliance data warehouse was made to help consolidate and organize sensitive information. Things at the Department of Motor Vehicles also got a little easier after a collaborative effort between Vermont DMV and the Department of Environmental Conservation implemented a tablet-based vehicle inspection and maintenance program, helping speed up the completion of the process electronically. Infrastructure projects like pavement modeling and monitoring bridge deterioration have also allowed artificial intelligence and deep learning to take the driver’s seat when things get too complex for conventional methods.

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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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