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Rajiv Rao

CTO, New York

New York CTO Rajiv Rao
For about a decade, Rajiv Rao has had his fingerprints on many of the most important IT projects in the state of New York.

He has provided crucial leadership for the state’s ongoing IT consolidation. As chief architect in 2012, Rao began building a data center and taking care of other consolidation projects. Within two years of Rao becoming chief technology officer in 2015, most of the heavy lifting — which involved over 50 agencies, 180,000 desktops, 20,000 servers and 1,500 miles of fiber network across the state — was completed.

Rao was also instrumental in the creation of Excelsior Pass, the nation’s first vaccine passport, and the New York State COVID-19 Technology SWAT Team, which brought together numerous private partners to address various tech needs brought about by the pandemic.

With the pandemic has come a wave of digitized services. Rao subscribes to the philosophy that this era is not only about digitization of services but also about modernizing the ecosystem that consumes digital services, citizens and state employees included.

He illustrated this big-picture thinking with an example involving digital driver’s licenses. For Rao, such a tool should benefit both citizens and state troopers. He described an interaction in which an officer and citizen could exchange digital information without the officer ever leaving the car, thus eliminating the most dangerous part of a trooper’s job: approaching a vehicle.

“How does it make a trooper safer? How does a citizen get to the point where they don’t have to carry a wallet along with their phone?” he asks. “That is how I envision technology,” Rao explained. “It’s not only about making citizens’ lives easier. It’s also about making information safer and faster to consume.”
Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.