IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Modernization, Cybersecurity Funding Tops MNIT Budget Ask

The state’s IT agency has included several funding proposals in its “One Minnesota Budget” to help make its systems and services more accessible, modernized and secure. CIO Tarek Tomes shared the impacts and potential timelines.

The Minnesota state Capitol building on a cloudy day.
Minnesota State Capitol
Shutterstock/Henryk Sadura
Minnesota’s state IT agency, Minnesota IT Services (MNIT), has identified seven proposals to receive funding through the “One Minnesota Budget.”

These proposals fall under three categories: “secure and resilient system proposals; customer-focused, modern services proposals; and data-driven decision proposals,” according to agency’s website. The proposals listed include advancing cybersecurity statewide; an executive branch transformation; targeted application modernization; a children’s cabinet IT innovation; supporting accessible tech in state government; expanding data-driven decisions with GIS; and operating adjustment and cash flow assistance.

State CIO Tarek Tomes discussed these initiatives and how they will impact systems, services and digital infrastructure.


Under MNIT’s secure and resilient system proposals, IT officials have proposed two projects to increase the state’s cybersecurity and continue its shift to the cloud.

The statewide cybersecurity initiative aims to help the state identify and respond to threats quickly while adding defense layers. It would also “enable a state match of federal grant funds to build and implement a plan that improves cybersecurity for state and local governments,” according to the agency’s website.

Tomes noted the success of earlier cybersecurity investments in safeguarding the state.

“One of the things that we have seen over the last three to four years is a pretty significant decrease both in the vulnerabilities and threats on devices within the executive branch of state government,” Tomes said. “We’ve also seen a pretty significant decrease in the number of cyber events that our analysts are manually investigating.”

Previous investments made during its last legislative session allowed MNIT to invest in tools that provide better detection and remediation, he added.

Now, MNIT is investing in a whole-of-state approach for cybersecurity, supporting local government partners, increasing and modernizing defenses that directly impact citizens, and increasing defenses to protect its line of business applications that power state government, he said.

The agency has been coordinating with local governments on a monthly basis to coordinate and share information while its cybersecurity task force is developing a statewide cybersecurity plan.

“We meet monthly with our local forms of government to exchange information and share what we’re doing from a state perspective,” Tomes said. “We also have a Technology Advisory Council, which is an external group that consists of private-sector CIOs and legislators as well as leadership from local forms of government.”

“We have a cybersecurity task force that was created to specifically create a statewide cybersecurity plan that will directly influence how we can best fund efforts to protect local forms of government and the state as a whole,” he added.

As for shifting to the cloud, the agency has proposed an executive branch cloud transformation project, which aims to improve the security and reliability of the state’s systems by moving agencies from an on-premises infrastructure to a scalable, cloud-hosted infrastructure.

“The shift to the cloud for us is really important for a number of reasons,” Tomes said. “The resiliency and reliability, in partnership with large cloud providers, puts us in the best position to respond to cyber events. It also puts state government in a space where we pay for what we use; we’re no longer investing in capacity that is used only periodically or during peak hours — we’re in a space where we’re able to burst capacity when we need it.”


The state is focusing on its existing suite of applications and digital service solutions in its targeted application modernization proposal.

“Many of the state’s existing 2,800 applications and digital service solutions use aging technology that doesn’t offer the modern digital experiences that Minnesotans deserve,” the agency’s website states. “This proposal will establish a funding source to improve users’ experiences by systematically addressing aging technology and modernizing targeted applications.”

MNIT also looks to use this funding along with recommendations from the state’s Technology Advisory Council to implement a modernization playbook to adopt modern business processes and improve user app and service experience.

One example of this targeted app modernization process was the recent effort to disburse funds to residents who served as frontline workers during the state’s pandemic response.

“We, not too long ago, disseminated over a half-billion dollars to Minnesotans that have worked on the frontlines during COVID,” Tomes said. “Again, it was a cloud-based effort that allowed us literally within three to four months to manage everything from the application process and make sure we have the right fraud detection and prevention mechanisms in place.”

This effort was possible “because we’re taking advantage of the capacity and innovation that exists in the cloud,” Tomes added.


Lastly, the IT agency has proposed an increase in funding and capacity for Minnesota’s Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo) to lead collaborative geographic data collection and management work in partnership with local governments, federal agencies and non-governmental partners.

The idea behind the effort is that “80 percent of all data is estimated to have a spatial component — ensuring that data is as current and accurate as possible enables Minnesota’s policymakers to make the most impactful and supportive decisions possible,” the agency’s website states.

As for specific uses of this data, it would enable collaborative data collection among the state’s organizations to help address environmental issues such as reducing flood risks, managing land, protecting water usage and targeting renewable energy implementation.

“In our geospatial group, we have something that we refer to as the geo-commons, and it’s a collection of data that is publicly available for local and state governments to inform decision-making and the services that they derive,” Tomes said. “We have a huge initiative where we have a flyover of Minnesota where we’re remapping the topography of the state to assist in everything from forestry to protecting sacred areas and making sure that those areas that have sacred artifacts are protected.”


Now that MNIT has submitted these proposals, the next step is working with legislators to make them a reality.

“Next is many conversations with legislators and just a deeper dive into what these proposals mean,” Tomes said. “The One Minnesota plan has added a component that is focused on customer service. The way we tend to view it from a technology perspective is we want to do everything that we can to earn a Minnesotan’s transaction.”

To achieve that, he added, we’re going “to be hyper customer-service oriented and provide digital services that are efficient and easy to use, and then ultimately, sometime in May, the governor and the Legislature will agree on the final budget for Minnesota.”
Katya Diaz is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.