Former CIO, Washington
James Weaver isn’t into some of the flashier aspects of gov tech. He doesn’t talk about cryptocurrency or machine learning. What he does care about is how his teams can use technology to improve government and better serve citizens.
Weaver was CIO of Washington from late 2018 to early 2021, but he’s a public-sector IT veteran. He started as a part-time clerk in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, where he stayed for nearly 30 years, which included time as deputy CIO. That showed him what it’s like to be on the front lines of government. “When you think about the gratification that is derived from public service,” Weaver said, “human services is one of those areas where you are making profound differences in people’s lives.”
After several years as chief technology officer in the Pennsylvania Office of Administration, he made the move to Washington, which had been without a permanent CIO for a year. Weaver came in with a strong belief that business drives IT, rather than the other way around, which made a big impact on the decentralized environment in Washington. While everyone has a little “techno geek” in them, he said, that doesn’t matter if IT doesn’t understand what agencies do and what they need to do that well.
Even before COVID-19, Weaver had Washington working on moving to the cloud to enable more and better digital government services, built on the fundamentals of broadband, cybersecurity and privacy. Broadband, of course, helps close the state’s digital divide, which is prevalent not only in Washington’s more rural Eastern areas, but also in urban Seattle.
“It’s great we had digital services, but if people can’t connect and avail themselves of it, we’re failing in our mission,” Weaver explained. “I want to change the paradigm of digital government from a push from the agencies — ‘here’s what I have’ — to turn the conversation toward the Washingtonian — ‘here’s what I need.’”
Editor’s note: Just before this issue of the magazine went to press, Weaver was named CIO of North Carolina.
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