Government's Role in Enabling Digital Disruption
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Government's Role in Enabling Digital Disruption

By Mike Wons, CTO, State of Illinois

Mike Wons, CTO, State of Illinois

Enabling sustainable digital disruption is a challenge for an organization of any size. In government IT, this is even more of a challenge due to the tremendous amount of digital debt that exists in most governments. This includes the local, state and federal government levels where a significant portion of the technology infrastructure was born decades ago. This issue is more than servers, applications and data; it is the mindset embedded and the outdated processes that hamper effectiveness and limit the usage of newer shared economy and collaborative ways of thinking.

In the State of Illinois, before we could really begin to move the digital disruption levers forward, we need first to embark on an IT Transformation that is focused on modernization. This transformation has an onerous goal of modernizing 45 years of “IT” during the initial 4 years of the new administration. The State of Illinois began this ambitious journey in 2015 to transform and modernize technology. For decades, the state operated with antiquated systems that lacked reporting and historically functioned in silos, with a lack of interoperability. The disparate IT environment consisted of hundreds of solutions that created duplicative processes hindering the efficiency of the state.

While there is still a lot of modernization work to do, progress is quickly being achieved in our new statewide agency. At the mid-point of the transformation journey in 2017, 50 percent of citizen interaction points have become mobile enabled, 9 percent of the workload has moved to the cloud and 20 percent of the state government agencies have begun using data analytics to improve decision making. In addition, a 90 percent satisfaction rating from users of our solutions has been achieved in the most recent quarter. Importantly these transformation efforts run IT more effectively as a business for the state and shift the focus to enabling innovation closest to our customers out at the state agencies.

"Transformation is clearly a journey and not a destination. Digital disruption is viewed as a key enabler for the future digital economy in Illinois"

In parallel to the IT Transformation effort, the State selected a path of “digital enablement” focused on the disruptive power of digitization, based on four core pillars; i) Internet of Things (IoT), ii) Mobilization, iii) Virtual Assistants, and iv) Blockchain and Distributed ledger technologies.

While looking at each of these disruption levers, it became seemingly most important to make sure that we clearly define the role of government as an “Enabler” in digital disruption. There was no doubt that we could quickly show the true value and ROI of the newer solutions which was not the issue, the concern was how we make it sustainable and lasting. While “Government” and “Digital Disruption” appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, we set out to bridge this gap by establishing a common approach that would enable government and also engage the private sector and the broader global business community.

This approach includes a three-pronged roadmap with an emphasis on “Enabling” and “Speed”. Exploring each of these in more depth is key to success in Digital Disruption efforts;

Developing an Ecosystem for Growth and Collaboration

While the long-term benefits of these emerging technologies for industries, the economy and society are clear, many of these are still very much in its nascent phase. Governments can play a role in catalyzing its maturity as a technology by supporting grassroots developer innovation.

Implementation examples: Using hackathons to generate interest, including local colleges and universities, working with local incubators and innovation hubs and using weekly meet-ups co-sponsored with the technology vendor community.

Modernizing Governance for a Distributed Economy

Effective governance in a distributed economy will require legislative agility beyond what rules and regulations can provide. Modern governance will need to carefully balance a combination of broad policy principles, technology standards and “code”.

Implementation examples: Publishing guidelines more so than regulations, using request for information (RFIs), request for public comments (RFCs), and working groups that include public and private sector leaders.

Integrating Services for a Highly Efficient Government

A “hyperconnected” government enables unprecedented transparency, and efficiency, where services are tailored to individual’s needs. These technologies will be used to connect disparate entities within and across regional, municipal, and state entities around citizens, businesses and assets.

Implementation examples: Use proof of concepts (POCs) to prove out technology quickly, use social media and focus groups to garner interest and ideas on how to improve services, sponsor pop-up hackathons for specific problem resolution.

Using this three-pronged approach has been effective as we have quickly proven out and launched several new solutions based on these methods. Several of the solutions have moved toward sustainable foundation for the longer-term building blocks in support of the overall State of Illinois Digital Disruption goals of “Modernization”, “Speed” and “Sustainability”.

Importantly this provides a roadmap and overall framework for digital disruption success, but the practical implementation and overall success is in the execution details.

This digital disruption is part of a larger, smart state vision, and a strategic move towards a digital economy. There has been a tremendous focus on smart cities over the past years and with good reason. Cities are the economic, social, and political hubs of the world; they contribute the most to the world economy and consume the majority of the world's resources. But U.S. cities operate with the support and influence of U.S. states, and states have an important role to play in the smart cities movement that includes:

• Transforming state government: Illinois is looking at smart community solutions to improve the overall safety and well-being and become more efficient and "smarter".

• Supporting the development of Smart Communities: Illinois will play a major role in supporting the creation of Smart Communities through cybersecurity services, cloud computing, fiber and procurement as statewide platforms.

• Developing a Smart economy: Illinois is focusing on digital curriculums, economic development incentives, national and international partnerships to build a smart economy.

Transformation is clearly a journey and not a destination. Digital disruption is viewed as a key enabler for the future digital economy in Illinois.

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