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Arkansas' Mark Myers: A Nontraditional CIO

Myers is putting his military and government backgrounds to use as the state’s IT leader.

Mark Myers’ first day on the job may have been a holiday, but that didn’t stop him from getting down to business. Starting the role of Arkansas CTO on Jan. 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Myers’ first order of business was to meet with his deputy and executive assistant before heading to the governor’s mansion to discuss an issue that’s been key to his time on the job so far: broadband.

The first item on his agenda is to roll out broadband to all K-12 schools in the state. An RFP for broadband to the schools was completed in April, with 17 vendors participating. Buildout of the network is scheduled to begin in July, and Myers estimates it will be up and running within two years. “We’re going to have the ability to go up to a gig of Ethernet access for every school and for every student on a per user basis,” he said.

The initiative also helps set up the Department of Information Systems (DIS) to provide opportunities for economic development in the state. “Private industry can piggyback on that gig and be able to build out to smaller communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access to gigabit Ethernet at the home level,” said Myers.

His other priority is cybersecurity, with a focus on event monitoring and safeguarding the state’s network. After just a few days on the job, a malware attack forced the DIS to block zip files in the state’s email system to halt the spread of infected files across the network. “Everybody’s worried about a data breach,” he said.

A self-described “nontraditional CIO,” Myers said he will put his military and government backgrounds to use as the state’s IT leader. Prior to this role, Myers spent four years as director of strategic initiatives at the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office, where technology projects included remote desktop services and automation. Prior to that he was a campaign consultant and served active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The governor and I have a long relationship,” Myers said, “and what he was looking for was someone who could be a leader, take really smart people and turn them into a team. And this is something I’ve done both from my government background and my military background.”