Governor, North Dakota
It is rare that a high-ranking elected official has deeply informed opinions about technology. The idea that tech could somehow streamline state government or boost job numbers ranks as a talking point for many, but for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, it’s much more than that.
Burgum cut his teeth in the software industry before shifting gears to public office in 2016. The insights he gleaned from his expansive technology career have clearly shaped his approach to driving state government forward.
“With an understanding that technology is going to change every job, every company, every industry and how every family interacts, I [came] in with a lot of curiosity about what’s happening in government. And of course, government has been slow in many cases to adopt technology, whether it’s at the local level, the state level, the federal level, it has been trailing and is way behind,” he said.
That curiosity has led to rapid advancement in FAA-sanctioned drone research, as well as more down-to-earth efforts to build out broadband infrastructure and simplify the touchpoints between citizens and their government.
As he sees it, the culture of government needs to change to embrace new approaches to everyday service delivery, focusing less on regulation and more on innovation.
He points to single sign-on as one potential opportunity for immediate improvement.
“Part of that is because government gets to operate monopolies in some cases,” he said. “If you’ve got a monopoly, that’s how you end up with outdated approaches, old mainframes and systems that aren’t interconnected.”
Asked where he sees the state’s future among the likes of Silicon Valley and other regions fighting for tech dominance, Burgum noted that tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon have put down roots in North Dakota, recalling the early days of his own experience in the industry.
“Some days it feels like we are back in the 1980s again,” he said. “For me, there’s that excitement of the whole tech industry starting here.”