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How Does Tech Debt Impact Government Service Delivery?

Colorado’s Deputy Executive Director of IT Julia Richman says an important part of getting the state off legacy systems has been demonstrating how carrying tech debt affects digital services.

Colorado Deputy Executive Director of IT Julia Richman
Government Technology/David Kidd
MINNEAPOLIS — Reducing tech debt is among Colorado’s three top priorities for updating its major systems, an effort that is essential to upgrading digital services statewide.

At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Annual Conference in Minneapolis this week, Julia Richman, Colorado’s deputy executive director for the Office of Information Technology, outlined the ways her state is working to bring its enterprise systems into 2023.

Tech debt, sometimes called innovation debt, refers to the cost of not improving systems, of relying on aging technologies that either are no longer the best tools for the job of serving residents or are so old that the staff who supported them have retired from government work.

Richman said they’ve made a lot of headway toward modernization this year, including consolidating data centers, moving off a 35-year-old mainframe and securing $100 million from the Legislature to go toward reducing tech debt.

She said the work of transforming these big legacy platforms is difficult and not without expense, but it has demonstrated to the governor and Legislature the cost of not modernizing those systems when it comes to what is ultimately most important: keeping state IT systems running smoothly and securely, and delivering the services that Coloradans need.

Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including <i>Government Technology</i>, <i>Governing</i>, <i>Industry Insider, Emergency Management</i> and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle 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.