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W.Va. CIO Balances Emerging Tech Buzzwords With IT Outcomes

West Virginia CIO Josh Spence describes the problem of letting buzzwords get in the way of tech’s utility, plus how his state is using artificial intelligence for fraud detection.

West Virginia CIO Josh Spence
David Kidd/Government Technology
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When GT asked CIOs at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Midyear Conference this week for their takes on emerging tech, many shared a common sentiment: Newer technologies, no matter the hype, are only as useful to government as the results they can deliver.

West Virginia CIO Josh Spence said the problem when we talk about emerging tech — things like cryptocurrency, NFTs and machine learning — is that people tend to confuse those buzzwords with outcomes. Cutting-edge technologies, just like more legacy solutions, are tools that produce outcomes; they are not the outcomes themselves.

Spence said he currently sees the most promise in using artificial intelligence to advance West Virginia’s systems, an area his department is just beginning to explore.

"We're looking at [AI] and trying to understand what the capabilities are that are mature today," he said, "and then keep on the market so we can forecast uses in the future."

One current use case for the state is AI to detect fraudulent use of state services. If West Virginia can quickly identify and deal with users inappropriately accessing the system, Spence explained, they can keep costs down and get a good return on investment in the technology.

Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.