Pandemic proves value of online services, says acting state CIO

The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced resistance to online services, the state’s acting chief information officer told an audience of technologists at California’s first in-person Public Sector CIO Academy since 2020.

In remarks that opened the two-day event* on Tuesday at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, Acting CIO Russ Nichols, who is also the acting director of the California Department of Technology (CDT), congratulated those in attendance. for enabling the almost immediate shift of about 180,000 state employees to remote work when the pandemic took hold – and said the following months have clearly shown the value and the incredible need for digital services. Nichols singled out California’s Departments of Motor Vehicles, Employment Development, and Parks and Recreation for their remote offerings and praised Governor Gavin Newsom for posing the question, “How do we bring government closer to the people who consume Services ?

“Whatever the service, let’s find a way to make it better. And that’s what he challenged us to do; the pandemic is helping us do that,” Nichols said. “And now we have an opportunity that we’ve never had before and actually we have funding that we’ve never had before.” He pointed to three initiatives at CDT as being particularly representative of this:

  • The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) – for which officials chose the first round of four IT projects in December – is aimed at “that niche of projects that are just below the PAL”, the CIO said, referring to the process of project approval life cycle. It’s intended to enable smaller projects, Nichols said, with high value that can be delivered quickly. The proposal process, he said, is not unlike television’s “Shark Tank,” with an audience of “undersecretaries, some chief undersecretaries, some businessmen from the ‘State’, and he recommended that applicants bring a good business proposition and demonstrate if this is the case. good team ; if the project can be realized – in less than a year – and if it is an “investment-worthy result”.
    “And if the answer is yes to those three things, you basically get a grant,” Nichols said. “It’s an example of how we’re trying to change the way we do business. Good things need to be done and we don’t necessarily need a 24 month budget process for a six month project.
  • The California Stabilization Service aims to drive the assessment of critical services and systems and their ongoing preventive maintenance — to “avoid the emergency downstream if we can do it,” Nichols said. Per CDT, there is no application process, but for those selected, the department will lead “the mission-critical services evaluation effort and help determine the best project approval and path to funding to implement stabilization recommendations”, with TMF potentially used to pay for urgent needs revealed by an assessment.
    “And really one of the results that I want to achieve, on the way out, I want to have a stronger connection between the CIO and the director of this department, where they talk about IT infrastructure and investments because these are long-term investments in the operation,” Nichols said. “And I want those two people to be as close as possible and well-aligned to make sure we’re spending money in the right places so that we don’t ‘let’s have no urgency.’
  • On digital ID/single sign-on, officials have been authorized by law to do a pilot project and demonstrate that the technology works, Nichols said. Industry Insider – California. Officials are currently working with a regional transportation group in the Bay Area, he said, on a digital connection to access city bus service — and with the ability to access similar services across the country. ‘State. “It’s really focused on that aspect of privacy and security, to go back and show that not only can we have the utility and the outcome of using digital identity, but we’ve protected people’s information same time,” Nichols said in an interview. “And so, that will be the next step is to launch a few more elements of the pilot and then go back, present it to the legislature with the intention of pushing it forward statewide.” A key value of digital ID or single sign-on, he told the audience, is that authentication thresholds can differ depending, for example, on whether a resident pays the state or whether the state issues a benefit payment. And in line with its unique identity mission, the system should also allow changing, for example, a person’s name or information in one go.

*The California Public Sector CIO Academy is produced by e.Republic, parent company of Industry Insider – California.

Veronica J. Snell