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Expanding Connectivity and Working Post-COVID in New York State

New York Chief Information Officer Angelo "Tony" Riddick explains the state's cluster CIO model and discusses how his office is working to expand broadband and close the digital divide.

New York CIO Angelo Riddick
Government Technology/David Kidd
Angelo “Tony” Riddick was named CIO for New York State Information Technology Services (ITS) in December 2020, presiding over the office amid the ongoing pandemic and all that entails for state government. Riddick talked to GT about how he has helmed central IT for the state as Gov. Kathy Hochul has approved major investments in broadband and cybersecurity.

1. How does the cluster CIO structure function in New York? 

The 50-plus agencies we support have been divided into six portfolios based on similar missions. Each portfolio is led by an executive director and supported by a team of customer relationship managers. The directors are the agencies’ central point of contact for all ITS. The portfolio team collaborates with the ITS technical and administrative teams and the project management office to design and implement technical solutions that meet the agencies’ business needs. Executive directors serve as my eyes and ears in the field, routinely raising up issues that need to be escalated or simply need attention. This allows us to deal with most challenges before they become full-blown problems.

2. How are you approaching the future of remote work post-pandemic?

We’re approaching it in a balanced way. We’re not returning to the way things were pre-pandemic. Our agency is hybrid now, so most people are in the office 50 percent of the time and working remotely 50 percent of the time. Many state agencies have similar plans. As long as we provide employees with tools they need to work remotely and securely, we know they can be productive and effective. We completed so many COVID-related projects on tight deadlines and under pressure, and we had to shift the way we provided services to New Yorkers in need. Much of that work was done remotely. 

On the other hand, we know there is value in working in the office and sharing ideas in person with colleagues. We want flexibility so our employees are happy and engaged, and supporting their agencies in the best way possible. As leaders, remote work has forced us to rethink how we manage, supervise and support people. 

3. What sort of work is ITS doing with digital equity and broadband?

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that without broadband it’s impossible to stay connected to school, work and our families. In our digital world, it really is as essential as heat, food and water. Gov. Hochul advanced a new $1 billion ConnectAll initiative as part of this year’s budget; it’s the largest single investment ever. It includes new grant programs and partnerships to expand access, affordability and equity. It also removes state fees and outdated regulations to encourage growth in underserved areas. ITS is not the agency with responsibility over broadband, but we stand ready to support where we can.

4. Why is it important that New York take a proactive approach to helping residents be safe online?

It’s never been more important to raise cyber awareness and remind state employees and residents about good cyber hygiene and best practices. It starts from the top. Gov. Hochul has been focused on strengthening the state’s cybersecurity posture to face these increased threats. She created the Joint Security Operations Center (JSOC) in Brooklyn, a hub for cyber coordination and intelligence sharing. Our partners include NYC and other cities, and ITS has a significant role. It will allow us to respond to threats in real time. In addition, JSOC builds on the cyber funding in the new state budget.

Meanwhile, we are communicating threats to our workforce, local governments and others so they can protect themselves. Information and awareness are key, and we can’t communicate too often on an issue this critical. If we know something, we are going to tell those who need to know or need to share.
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.