On day two of the 18th North Carolina Digital Government Summit, three lawmakers from opposite sides of the political spectrum gathered for a conversation with the state’s technology leader on how state and local governments are doing at working together on IT and where tech may be headed.
In a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Shannon Tufts, associate professor of public law and government and director of the Center for Public Technology at the University of North Carolina, two state senators and one representative agreed with Chief Information Officer Eric Boyette that while progress has been made toward collaboration, still more needs to happen. The three legislators present are members of the Joint Oversight Committee on Information Technology. “Local governments, raise your hand,” Tufts said, calling on attendees and asking the foursome: “How much do you consider their perspective?”
Boyette said something of a disconnect has existed between state and local governments but praised counties and municipalities for their ability to “move faster than we can” and said: “The partnership is there.”
The CIO, who has been in place since the spring of 2017, said he’s committed to the 911 team to visit “every one of the public safety answering points (PSAPs),” or emergency call centers, around the state.
“Because the survey we got back from the PSAPs was, the board didn’t really know what they do,” Boyette said.
Rep. Jason Saine, a Republican, who like his Committee colleagues, Democratic Sen. Jay Chaudhuri and Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte, is up for re-election in November, described an IT incident that struck one of his counties on a Friday afternoon and praised Boyette and his staff for working with the agency through the weekend.
“That’s something that the state government can do more of. And we’ve got a CIO sitting here who understands that,” Saine said.
A three-term mayor of Cornelius, a Charlotte suburb, Tarte said he stays in contact with his fellow mayors and county managers. He cited education as an example of a conversation topic, highlighting the need for products like Apple smartphones in schools to empower the hearing- and sight-impaired and said: “One of the things people don’t realize is, we’re working kind of a layer lower, sometimes.”
(Raleigh, the state capital, has been rumored for months to be a likely site for Apple’s fourth campus.)
Speakers agreed on technology’s potential to expand government’s reach. Tufts cited the recent development of a chatbot by the city of Goldsboro to answer commonly asked questions and free up staffers, calling it “an example of ‘government got it right.’”
Saine mentioned procurement as an area where state government can be “a partner that can help” local government.
But Tarte, the founder of Applied Revenue Analytics, a multi-million-dollar consulting firm, pointed to augmented reality as an area where state and local “don’t have to be followers” and should leverage the technology to their advantage; and highlighted identity management, blockchain and artificial intelligence as crucial going forward.
Chaudhuri said more has to be done around data to truly enable collaborations, adding: “I think if we want to build out systems that look at AI and predictive technology, then we have to do a better job of sharing and collecting data.”
Tarte, however, called AI and identity management “the entire focus for the state of North Carolina,” — the first for its promise in credit analysis. He praised identity management and blockchain for their potential to automate court systems and cut down on fraud.
“This becomes in a decade where you want to go. Our goal is to be the most technologically advanced state in the country. There’s no reason we can’t achieve that with RTP and Raleigh,” he said, referring to Research Triangle Park, the area that includes Raleigh, Durham, the town of Chapel Hill; and North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.