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Illinois Announces Consolidated Department of Innovation and Technology

The state's hodgepodge of overlapping IT desks will consolidate under the control of CIO Hardik Bhatt.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order on Monday, Jan. 25, that will consolidate the state's IT offices into a new Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT). Executive Order 16-01 is the initiative that creates the new agency, which will be led by CIO Hardik Bhatt, and also creates a strategic, statewide technology plan to accelerate Illinois’ modernization.

“We are in the midst of a digital revolution. Technology has made us more efficient, more informed and better connected,” Rauner said in a press release. “The Department of Innovation and Technology will modernize our aging technology systems and lead to better, quicker and more efficient service for taxpayers. This technology transformation is critical to enhancing our competitiveness.”

Under the new IT structure, DoIT will assume responsibility for all IT decisions and spending. The state also intends to use data to provide "tailored services" and reduce costs to taxpayers. The consolidation effort also aims to reduce redundant operations and improve cybersecurity amongst the "patchwork of systems" that had become the state's IT.

"We're in the stone age in our software and our systems," Rauner said during a press conference. "And every department is basically on its own to create its IT systems, its IT infrastructure. Each department works independently, on an uncoordinated basis. I've been told we have hundreds of independent separate financial reporting systems throughout our state government. They don't interact with each other, and it's one of the reasons our audits take many many months to complete and are filled with hundreds of millions of dollars in accounting errors. It's wasteful for taxpayer money, it's ineffective, inefficient government, and we've got to change it."

When asked at the press conference how he would go about creating this new consolidated IT agency, Bhatt said he intended to draw on his experience from helping cities around the world become more effective and efficient IT machines.

"The same principles that we used in Barcelona to make that one of the smartest cities on earth or the same principles that we used to make Hamburg one of the smartest ports in Europe can be applied in Illinois so that we can again become globally competitive. However, as the governor said, we have a long way to go," Bhatt said, adding that many of the state systems were built in 1974, when he was just two years old.

"One of the key points I focused on as I joined state government is to build a leadership team," Bhatt continued. "We have a strong leadership team I built from inside the state government as well as we have brought some people from outside, from the business sector. It's a team we can depend on to make this transformation because they have done this before."

Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 26 to include details and quotes from the state's press conference.

Colin wrote for Government Technology and Emergency Management from 2010 through most of 2016.