A veteran of both local and state government, Goldberg is the latest in a string of state technology leaders whose career paths have landed them at the technology giant.
From the World Bank to the state of New York, including stops at the City and County of San Francisco and New York City, Jeremy Goldberg has a track record as a catalyst for public-sector innovation. Most recently as the former deputy secretary for government, technology and innovation and interim state CIO for New York state, Goldberg led the state’s technological response to COVID-19. Goldberg now begins a new journey with Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector group where he will focus on digital government and critical infrastructure. Goldberg talked to GT about his next steps, his journey in the public sector, and what he’s learned about innovation along the way.
I’m joining Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector group where I’ll focus on digital government and critical Infrastructure. I look forward to helping to further drive public-sector transformation, especially in light of COVID-19. I know first-hand that the future of government technology is scalable, flexible, and just as importantly, practical. As governments around the world rethink their technology strategies, there’s an opportunity to not only replace outdated systems, but also to connect the dots and build truly cohesive systems that work together.
When you work on innovation at the city level, you are always very close to the action. You feel the temperature rise in the room when meetings at the Board of Supervisors heat up, and see firsthand how elected officials lead when there’s a public protest, how they respond to headlines and meet (or miss) residents’ expectations of their government. I observed how hard it is, even in an innovative city like San Francisco, to make an impact and tackle problems with new approaches. Relationships matter and “innovations” are not the highest priority. They are still a hard sell. It’s important to work with city leaders and agency heads and to engage with different agendas to make sure you’re solving a real problem. In New York City, where the number of constituents is so vast and the stakes are so high, you really have to work to get buy-in for every move you make. I also, time and time again, learned by actions not words, there’s an appetite in industry to engage and help to make change. They want to help, and they’re willing to give back: time, talent and technology. The catch, of course, is finding the right way to help channel that goodwill into real results. MOUs and agreements between industry and government are cumbersome, and it’s often not much easier when the work is pro bono.
At the state level, procurement is even more difficult, and everything is higher profile. During the COVID-19 crisis and our Tech SWAT response effort, I think the emergency executive order helped the process to move faster and allowed us to make an impact more quickly. At New York state, I served in multiple roles and, although it wasn’t the plan at the start, wore a few hats. This was an outstanding opportunity to learn state government, how agencies are organized, operate and how the policy and operations co-exist. New York state has over 19 million residents and your work can reach almost all of them. The scale really does make the work different, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to have worked on behalf of the governor and so many New Yorkers, especially at ITS and during the first wave of COVID-19.
COVID revealed that, potentially more than any other core function or infrastructure, technology is the backbone of public organizations. The emergency demanded constant, flawless communication and that required our digital team’s undivided attention. The emergency management and logistics efforts required sophisticated technology. As has been widely reported, cyberthreats escalated, and our teams stepped up to keep us secure. Lifeline services that often required in-person visits and complicated applications suddenly had to be moved to more digital formats. It really is not an exaggeration to say that technology undergirded every single facet of the public response. It was a challenging but ultimately proud moment for so many lifelong civil servants.
When everyone started working from home in March, we had to move quickly to support moving the workforce to nearly fully remote operations. In both the public and private sectors, there were a lot of unknowns during those early weeks. Since then, new policies have put in place, capacity of key technologies has been expanded, and, perhaps most importantly, people have simply grown more comfortable with the tools available to them. Remote work will be a major feature of the post-pandemic landscape for governments across the globe, but I think it will look different than it does right now. When people are able to work from the office again, I think we will see a more flexible, hybrid model and employers supporting arrangements that allow people to come into the office when they need or want to, but regularly work remotely. This crisis has forced governments to develop and adopt new technologies at a far faster rate than usual. That also means agility is more important than ever. Technologies like micro-services that can be reused and repurposed are especially important and will be adopted more regularly moving into the future. As more transactions move online, being able to plug into a common payment service is an example that has a clear connection to delivering services and generating much needed revenue. Governments are also leaning into automation, using technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) to help make processes more effective and efficient. We’ve seen the popularity of this technology rise dramatically, and I suspect we are just scratching the surface of what is possible. Given the budgetary constraints state and local governments are likely to face in the new few years, I expect this will continue to grow out of a short-term need, but mature into core technology that helps agencies operate more effectively on a day-to-day basis. Hardly a day goes by at this point without another op-ed on the importance of Internet connectivity, and with good reason. The educational and professional disadvantages people face when they don’t have access to reliable Internet access have been in full view over these last 10 months. Broadband and fiber deployment are top of mind across the country, and I think we can expect to see major investments aimed at bridging the digital divide in the next 12 to 24 months.
Budget uncertainty and the onslaught of new needs during and beyond COVID mean that partnerships with industry are critical for filling gaps in public infrastructure and funding. That will require industry to do more, be more flexible on contractual terms and service delivery, and frankly, pitch in more than they ever have before. On the government side, pursuing strong partnerships without meaningful investments could mean harsh consequences. Partnerships have to be just that -- true partnerships. This isn’t about industry parachuting in to save the day; it’s about collaborating to solve problems that neither would be able to solve alone, and that’s true whether that partnership is pro bono as with our Tech SWAT effort or a more traditional procurement. For government IT leaders looking to invest their effort in building strong partnerships, first look at the local network and ecosystem. There are organizations there who want to help and a lot of them don’t know how. Find them and bring them on board. Also, look to see what has worked in other places, like our Tech SWAT program or Civic USA. Finally, there are national organizations like U.S. Digital Response and Code for America that are eager to assist. They have an incredible amount of experience working with governments across the country and have helped put the right people in the right place to solve some really difficult problems.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Visit Medium for the full transcript.
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