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GT on the Street: Does the Private Sector Have a Monopoly on Innovation?

To help populate its workforce with the next generation, government has some work to do — on its reputation.

Gov Tech on the Street Utah Chief Information Officer Mike Hussey
Many young people looking to make their mark in the workforce are drawn to the allure of a company like Google, where they feel their ideas and creativity would be nurtured. Those same young people tend to view government work quite differently. 

LaVonda Bonnard, a business analyst at a healthcare consulting firm, told us that while the prospect of government work is appealing, it doesn't compare favorably to the private sector when it comes to innovation.

"I get the impression that I can go to Google, throw out an idea and they’ll actually listen to it, and maybe even vet it out and examine it, whereas the government, not so much," Bonnard said.

State chief information officers weren't surprised by government's reputation where innovation is concerned. Utah CIO Mike Hussey pointed to the sloths at the DMV depicted in the movie Zootopia as a commonly held stereotype. But it's one that he and other public-sector technology leaders are actively working against.

"I’d like to think that we’re different," Hussey said. "We look at some of the things that we’re pushing the envelope on and I think we are both working with the private sector and understanding technologies that are coming out, and we’re right up there in lockstep with them."

Delaware CIO James Collins chimed in on the topic too, providing evidence that the state can put what recent graduates in computer science fields have just learned in the classroom to use.

"We're working with some of the most modern technology that's out there, so if you come work with us, you're working with mobile-enabled platforms, you're working with commercial cloud, you're working with infrastructure as code, you're working with the most up-to-date infrastructure from a networking or compute standpoint," he said. "So yeah, we do still have mainframe and other things like that, but we're at the other end of the spectrum as well." 

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter. Follow @GovTechNoelle
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