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California County and State IT Officials Develop Closer Relationship

When the CIOs of California's county governments gathered this week with dozens of vendors for their biannual conference, they were joined by top IT leaders from state government. It represents a redefined relationship between the counties and the state.

Jerry Becker, CIO for San Joaquin County and president of California Counties Information Services Directors Association (CCISDA), told Techwire that the association’s newly redefined relationship with the state is the product of many conversations held over the past year about common interests.

“We’re very excited about this,” Becker said. “We as the (CCISDA) board, and myself as president of the association, have spent more time with the state CIO, Amy Tong, and the deputy state CIO, Chris Cruz, than CCISDA has in several years. Really, Amy and Chris have reached out to the counties to say, ‘We want to be your partners. We want to look at areas where we can deliver really effective government services to all those we serve.’”

Cruz, the chief deputy director of the CDT, agreed that the change in relationship makes sense for a couple of reasons.

“CCISDA and CDT have developed a strong strategic partnership, unlike in the past, when we had more of a vendor-customer relationship,” Cruz told Techwire. “Our partnership allows us to improve state and county relations, develop a common security posture for the state, as well as common standards and services. All of this fosters our shared goal of creating one digital government across California.”

Joining Cruz this week for CCISDA’s conference in Pomona will be Scott Paterson, deputy director of the CDT’s Office of Information Security, which includes the Security Operations Center; and Scott Gregory, the chief digital innovation officer for CDT.

Scores of vendors also attend the CCISDA conference, which includes numerous breakout sessions and workshops for county IT leaders.

And for the counties, it’s a chance to interact with top state IT officials in a different context from recent years.

Becker explained: “For the other counties and our vendor partners, it is our opportunity to have a lot of leaders in local government tech space in the room at the same time to, as a group, talk about where are the most appropriate and effective places to invest the taxpayers’ money in tech. To bring our collective experience and skills to think about where the best investments are for us collectively, going forward.”

Where in recent years, the state’s participation as a vendor might be to offer to sell data center services to the counties, this time around it’s going to be different, Becker noted.

“We’re very excited about this,” he said. “Amy (Tong) has invited me recently to some of their meetings, and we’ve invited to them to ours. At CCISDA, the state will be treated as another county, so they will have access to all our meetings. We’re partner government entities — and that’s different from how some of our relationships have been with the state in the past. They’re at the table now.”

He said the state can still sell data center services, for example.

“And we may, as an offshoot of that, say, ‘There’d be a great reason to be running in your data center because of X, Y, Z. ...’ But this is more about the solution of what we’re trying to deliver to the residents of California. We’re moving toward the what, not the how.”

The other goal of partnering with the state, Becker said, is to make digital government services more accessible for Californians — for instance, by potentially tying in local, county and state governments in a seamless online network of information and services, irrespective of jurisdictions.

“We’re working, for example, on what you could think of as a ‘no-wrong-door concept’ for the websites,” Becker said. “How might we create a model where, if you’re a citizen and you go to the state (website) to check a property value, we could transparently redirect that inquiry to the right place in government, so that the citizens don’t have to know the hierarchy of government and are routed to the right place automatically.

“We’d like to get the cities, the counties and the state all linked.”

Becker — who was honored in February with a CIO of the Year Award from the California Public Sector CIO Academy — said he’s excited about the potential for what could come from this conference.

“The CCISDA conference is the single most valuable among all the conferences that I participate in,” he said, “and that’s because of the level of interaction and the sharing of knowledge that occurs.”

Editor's note: A version of this story was first published in Techwire on April 6. We're running it again today to coincide with this week's conference of the California Counties Information Services Directors Association (CCISDA).

This story was originally published by Techwire

Dennis Noone is the managing editor of Techwire.
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