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Illinois Makes Its IT Department a Permanent Fixture

The Department of Innovation and Technology was created through executive order in 2016. Now it's officially codified in state law.

As Illinois heads into the 2018 elections and an uncertain political future, the state has enacted a law giving more permanency to its relatively young IT structure.

The Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) is only two years old, having been created through an executive order from Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016. In May, the state legislature passed House Bill 5611, and on July 20 Rauner officially signed it, celebrating the act with legislators, academics and department leaders.

The law doesn’t make any material changes to the agency’s responsibilities, structure or leadership, but rather firms up its status as a state department by officially codifying its existence.

“We now make this agency fully part of the state government,” Rauner said at the press conference.

The move comes amid an increasingly competitive race for the state’s governorship this November. Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker is raising more campaign funding than Rauner, and influential election handicapper Sabato’s Crystal Ball recently changed the outlook of the race to “likely Democratic” — meaning it sees the Illinois governor’s seat as the most likely of any state to flip parties this fall.

New governors usually appoint new leaders to their state’s technology agency. Overhauls of the IT agency’s structure are less common.

Kirk Lonbom, who has served as Illinois DoIT’s acting CIO since Hardik Bhatt left to work for Amazon in 2017, said there’s one piece of HB5611 that stands out as different from the initial order that created the department: It explicitly acknowledges the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer.

The office was established shortly after DoIT, and Lonbom led it before stepping in as DoIT’s acting CIO, but it wasn’t part of the executive order.

“I think by putting this in statute, this really solidifies the state’s approach and commitment to cybersecurity,” Lonbom said.

Through the office, the state has set up a center that monitors for cybersecurity problems 24/7 and has worked to set up and strengthen partnerships with academia, federal agencies, other Illinois departments and local government within the state. Headed into the November elections — which are a particular security concern for Illinois, since bad actors targeted the state’s voting systems in 2016 — Lonbom said the state is working with county officials on cyberhygiene and other security measures.

HB5611 also added language to statute about the state’s dark fiber network: “Third parties may lease state-owned dark fiber networks for any period of time deemed to be in the best interest of the state, but not exceeding 20 years.”

Lonbom said the department is still working on its dark fiber plans.

“We have a lot of dark fiber, so one of the things that we’re undertaking is a study regarding how that tremendous data asset can be used for further secured in the state, but as well as look at what it means as a state asset for economic development, transportation development, et cetera,” he said.

The department is also in the midst of a big enterprise resource planning consolidation, moving more and more agencies’ financials onto one shared platform from SAP.

“As of July 1, we got to the point where 50 percent of our finances are in a single system, versus the 250 or so that existed at the start of the project,” Lonbom said. “By the end of the year [we expect] 90 percent will be flowing through a single system.”

The bill passed unanimously through both chambers of the state legislature.

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.