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Cybersecurity Funded, Now What? Indiana’s CIO Shares 2024 Plan

For Indiana CIO Tracy Barnes, elevating cybersecurity, creating IT leadership training, enacting AI policy and laying the framework for a statewide digital ID program will take center stage in 2024.

Indiana Chief Information Officer Tracy Barnes
Government Technology/David Kidd
Indiana is charging into 2024 full of potential — with a tech vision that includes optimizing federal cybersecurity funding while creating a pipeline of empowered IT leaders and starting the work on a blueprint for digital IDs.

But 2024 also brings a level of uncertainty, with a new administration on the horizon amidst the evolving landscape of AI.

Indiana CIO Tracy Barnes shared his 2024 priorities, including getting back to basics, a conservative approach to AI and building a workforce that can last.


Barnes admits that historically, the Indiana Office of Technology (IOT) and the state’s 92 counties and the state government were not collaborative on cyber defense. Fixing that was key to the state’s success in becoming one of the first to secure federal cybersecurity funding.

The solution was first securing state funding through a partnership with Purdue and Indiana University, two of the largest public institutions in the state with significant cyber programs.

“The three of us came together and said ‘How do we position ourselves and attach some money to provide funding to do cyber assessments for every local government in the state of Indiana?’” he said. “We were able to get that kicked off with a lot of arm wrestling, negotiating and collaboration.”

The outcome was the state’s new Cybertrack program, a seven-week assessment including surveys and interviews conducted by top-tier cybersecurity experts. The assessments deliver practical advice about attainable goals and strategies for local agencies, and give insight about the needs and biggest gaps in security to the state.

The first 23 assessments made it clear small agencies needed help mastering the basics. The average score for all assessed entities (mostly county and city governments) was 29.9 points out of 93 possible, meaning on average assessed entities received slightly less than one point out of three possible for each “must” and “safeguard” assessed. Barnes said the local agencies have been enthusiastic about getting help through the program.

“There’s always the fear of state versus local or local versus state, but we’ve seen more engagement and more open conversation,” he said. “A lot of our locals are asking for help and saying, ‘We’re so glad you’re here, we’ve been hoping to get some help, we’ve been looking for you wherever you’ve been.”

The assessments postured Indiana to secure federal funding early by providing the state with data about what local governments needed, inspiring IOT to ask for funding to provide centralized services and to take a whole-of-state cybersecurity approach.

“We were really hesitant to say, ‘Lets just hand out money to each jurisdiction and hope they do something of substance to help move forward the entire state’s posture,’” said Barnes. “We decided instead of doing just pure fiscal management and passing on funds, we would try to put more central services together, so the state is going to put itself in a position to help broker a couple of different solutions.”


In 2019, IOT launched the State Earn and Learn (SEAL) program, giving high school grads, college students and current workers the opportunity to get paid as an employee while they’re learning IT skills tailored to emerging needs.

According to Barnes, the program has been successful, with a 90 percent graduation and conversation rate — an investment the state plans to continue. Next, IOT wants to inspire the next managers.

“We need a good pipeline, especially when you’re looking at significant footprints of teams that are on the horizon for retirement,” said Barnes. “A lot of IT managers have moved up the ranks into management because of their technical expertise. That’s great, except there’s a big mental shift and transition to be prepared to manage people. Are you ready to take your hands off the keyboard and focus on the interpersonal, the cultural, engaging activities that are needed to help other people succeed?”

In 2024, the department will be creating a professional development program, training skilled IT workers on the soft skills of people management and leadership.


IOT doesn’t aim to make waves with groundbreaking AI policy or adoption. Instead, the agency is taking a conservative approach. Unofficial meetings have focused on how to protect the state’s data.

Barnes emphasized that he doesn’t want sensitive state data ending up in open AI tools and large language models. He’s also focused on the procurement process; how to identify and assess vendors’ use of AI.

He believes a policy will be implemented soon.

“I can’t think of one conversation I’ve had with a vendor in the last 90 days where they weren’t trying to sell something that was powered and enhanced and improved by AI,” he said. “Whether or not we want to be fast and adopt it for our own internal use, every product on the market and every solution being sold to our teams — there’s AI components that are being used, marketed, advertised and thrown in front of us. We have to get some state operational policy in place fairly quickly, and then continue to expand that to how broad does that go.”


Beyond AI and cyber defense, Indiana’s tech vision includes mobile ID, a project Barnes envisions as a collaborative effort across numerous agencies.

“You cannot just put technology in for the sake of technology,” he said. “That’s where, as technicians, we often go wrong if we don’t actually connect that with an actual improved business footprint and solution and outcome.”
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.