Colorado CTO McCurdy Leaves for Private Sector After 5 Years

The state has changed rapidly during David McCurdy's time there, with a general push toward modernization and the cloud. As he leaves, the state is embracing experimentation with emerging technology.

by / September 27, 2019
David McCurdy David Kidd

David McCurdy, who has helped push Colorado toward modernization as its chief technology officer for the last five years, is stepping down.

McCurdy’s last day will be Oct. 4, after which he will lead his own consultancy firm working on a “national project” — a non-disclosure agreement prevents him from releasing any details about the work just yet, beyond the fact that it will involve 5G and artificial intelligence technology.

His time as CTO have been productive, he said. He called the staff that report to him — some 800 employees — “rock stars” when it comes to getting things done.

“We consolidated over 30 data centers down into three in the last five years. We consolidated over 1,000 applications, either shut them down or moved them into other applications. We moved over 250 workloads into the Amazon cloud,” he said.

One particularly big lift was taking an integrated eligibility system — an enormous, agency-crossing system that accounts for about a quarter of the Office of Information Technology’s budget — and moving it into Amazon Web Services’ GovCloud. Since integrated eligibility systems interact with federal agencies, moving those systems to the cloud can be particularly challenging.

Colorado was the first state to get it done, successfully avoiding a giant hardware replacement. The new system is faster and more flexible, since cloud allows IT organizations the benefit of easily adding processing power when needed.

“We can instantly expand it to meet the growing needs of Colorado,” he said.

Part of the modernization process has been putting in place tools that give IT better visibility into networks, firewalls and computers across the state government, which improves Colorado’s security posture.

There’s also been change in the way government interacts with citizens. OIT has overhauled the state’s vehicle title and registration system and moved about 30 services online in an attempt to smooth out one of the most commonly complained-about government experiences citizens have.

“If you go into a DMV [office] across the state, I challenge you to wait more than five minutes,” McCurdy said.

That area of gov tech work — making things easier for citizens — will be one of the biggest areas of change in the coming years, he predicted. 

“We’re specifically looking for tools now that leverage artificial intelligence, and that’s just going to increase year after year after year,” he said. “That’s going to lower costs for IT, but it’s also going to make government more efficient.”

That reflects a desire, heightened under the tenure of new Gov. Jared Polis, to experiment with emerging technology. There's a new digital transformation officer, as well as a blockchain architect.

As he leaves the public sector, McCurdy said he encourages others to step in and spend time working in government.

“I think the notion that you work with a lot of old technologies, it has not been the case,” he said. “I’ve worked with more new technologies here than I think anywhere else I’ve worked.”

Dan Santangelo, who serves as both chief operating officer and deputy CTO for OIT, will step in as interim CTO while the state searches for a permanent replacement.

Ben Miller Associate Editor of GT Data and Business

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.

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