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Technology ‘A Means to Help,’ California IT Leader Says

Longtime executive Miriam Barcellona Ingenito, undersecretary at the Government Operations Agency, discussed the state’s IT landscape Tuesday at the California Public Sector CIO Academy. Mission-driven solutions, she said, are key.

An aerial view of the California State Capitol.
California Capitol Building
The work of state government falls to truly heroic people and “some jerks,” Government Operations Agency (GovOps) Undersecretary Miriam Barcellona Ingenito said in candid remarks that opened day two of the California Public Sector CIO Academy.

The complex and often politically charged environment, she said Tuesday in Sacramento, requires solutions that extend beyond the realm of technology and presses IT leaders to handle the “thorniest questions” with grace and agility.

“My expertise comes from working alongside the people who lead government, the messy and confusing place where people decide who gets what and how,” Barcellona Ingenito said.
California Government Operations Agency Undersecretary Miriam Barcellona Ingenito is pictured.
Miriam Barcellona Ingenito
She urged leaders to fall back on the expertise of their teams, embracing new ways of thinking about the age-old problems of government. IT’s ultimate job, she said, is to provide critical services to those who need them most.

“I say this to encourage you to learn to love the system of government, in all its imperfections and its humaneness,” she said.

The undersecretary called on agencies and the vendors they work with to create thoughtful solutions that work toward the mission of solving real problems for their constituents.

“It’s good technology in service to what the people need and when they need it most. It’s truly understanding the business operations and the political problems that your directors and secretaries are up against. It’s thinking of technology as a means to help those with problems, not just to build something because we can build it,” she said.

Understanding the mission of an agency or client is critical, and building or deploying tech for the thrill of it should be avoided, Barcellona Ingenito said.

Artificial intelligence is one area dripping with potential for government agencies and their private-sector partners, but it’s also an area that needs to be closely watched to safeguard state-held data and delicate public trust, she noted.

“The amount of work that has gone into urgently grappling with understanding its possibilities, to understand and prepare for its pitfalls, to avoid them to set up the guardrails to provide guidance and training — all the while focusing on maintaining and protecting the public trust,” she said.

This story first appeared in Industry Insider — CaliforniaGovernment Technology magazine’s sister publication.
Eyragon Eidam is the web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at