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North Dakota Takes on Equity, Ethics and Emerging Tech

State CIO Shawn Riley is a strong proponent for looking at technologies on the bleeding edge and how they can benefit government and citizens alike, as long as they are used for the benefit of all.

North Dakota CIO Shawn Riley
Shawn Riley
David Kidd/Government Technology
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As new technologies become more mainstream, government IT leaders must be judicious about how and to what extent they incorporate them into their enterprises. At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Annual conference this week, state tech chiefs expressed varying degrees of caution when it comes to staying on the leading edge.

North Dakota CIO Shawn Riley was one of the most bullish about emerging tech. “If you’re not looking ahead, you’re dying,” he said.

The list of forward-leaning projects in North Dakota is long, from what Riley reported is becoming the largest out-of-line-of-sight system drone test spaces in the world at 70,000 square miles to about 1 billion IoT sensors — no small number for a state with a population under 1 million. In addition, they plan to automate 20 percent of the state workforce, and given a low unemployment rate and nearly a quarter of his employees being eligible for retirement in the next four years, Riley called automation a “survival tactic.”

But the CIO keeps the potential ethical implications of emerging tech in mind, and notes that technology is not inherently good or evil. State Chief Data Officer Dorman Bazzell is leading an advisory board to look at the ethical implications of technology and ensure that new systems are put in place in everyone’s best interest.

Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.