The number of projects accomplished or underway in Yessica Jones’ time at the head of Arkansas IT is formidable: broadband to all K-12 schools, a cybersecurity risk assessment that served as a springboard to a data consolidation, statewide enterprise agreements that streamlined processes and further increased security, migration from a mainframe system to a managed provider service — the list goes on.
Jones, who has served as state chief technology officer and director of the Division of Information Systems (DIS) since 2017, brings 22 years of experience in IT to her government work, mostly in the private sector, but she also spent time as an assistant professor at Harding University in Arkansas in what is now the Information Systems Department. Her introduction to public-sector work was as a liaison to the Hispanic community for Gov. Asa Hutchison (Jones grew up in Mexico and is bilingual). But the governor’s staff knew of her background and had her come into DIS to help review IT procurement contracts. That led to Jones’ appointment as the department’s deputy director in 2016, followed by acting and then permanent director.
Early on, @yesjones was brought in to evaluate large technology contracts for @Arkansasgov. As CTO, she’s focused on broadband, cybersecurity, citizen services and modernizing IT infrastructure #govtech
Work during Jones’ tenure has also included efforts to reach rural Arkansans, who make up no small part of the population, by improving how those residents can access government from mobile devices. And it’s working: They’ve seen increased use of government sites from mobile users in the past several years; the appointment schedule for the state driver’s skills exam, for example, sees 68 percent of its users from mobile; and a chatbot is fielding over half of support requests made at Arkansas.gov.
While Jones may not have set out to work for the people of Arkansas, she has gone after it with tenacity and made connections with her staff, the administration and citizens alike.
“When you’re not afraid to ask questions and raise concerns, you get noticed,” she said.