The list of 2013 advocacy priorities issued to the US government by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) reads like a wish list for any enterprise CIO.
The priorities include modernizing outdated infrastructure, bolstering cybersecurity, and encouraging collaboration and information exchange. Although there are public/private sector commonalities here, achieving these and other priorities on a national scale is exponentially more challenging than it might be for a single enterprise. Each state has multiple agencies that must interface with the federal government. These agencies must also interface within the state with other county and municipal departments, as well as with private-sector vendors. There's also a drive for enhancing state-to-state interfaces and shared services as well.
That said, most enterprises can likely relate to the spirit of these five NASCIO 2013 priorities:
- Modernize regulations and guidance to meet current technology and service models.
- Work together to protect citizen data and state digital assets.
- Collaborate on a nationwide public safety communications network.
- Support the adoption and expansion of the national information exchange model.
- Support the state role in identity, credential, and access management solutions.
Brenda Decker, NASCIO president and CIO for the State of Nebraska, said in an interview with us:
What we're really trying to do through our priorities is make sure that we, as a group, are able to say to the federal government that these are things we need to be sitting down and discussing, so we can all make better decisions when it comes to choosing technology.
NASCIO members will meet with their federal government counterparts during the organization's midyear conference in Washington, D.C., April 28 to May 1, 2013. "I expect that's where we'll see the most pointed discussions," Decker told Enterprise Efficiency. "At this point they seem receptive to the ideas." She added:
We've put a lot of work into how we would come up with these priorities. Our CIOs did some brainstorming. We went to all 50 states and asked them questions. This is not one of those things written in a vacuum. This is a backdrop of what states need to move this all forward. If we can meet one, two, or three of these things in next three years even, states will be so much further ahead than they are now. Not only will state taxpayers benefit, federal taxpayers will benefit as well.
Decker was hard-pressed to identify which of the five priorities matters most because, she said, they are all so deeply entwined:
We, as CIOs, say if we don't modernize our systems and way we deliver technologies, we'll never be able to get to how to protect our assets more carefully. And if we don't get a way for us to get an information exchange model and standards, then our current standards don't let us get to a point where we're able to monitor and authenticate credentialing.
The first step in modernization involves changing how individual federal government agencies work with their state counterparts, a process that Decker says has largely led to silo'd operations that make it difficult to share infrastructure, information, and resources. Said Decker:
When we talk about modernizing systems, we think about how the federal government works with states when we are looking to upgrade and put in a new federal system. This is one that gives us a lot of heartburn as a state. [For example] if I roll out a managed Medicare system, the Federal agency says 'Here's what we want states to put in and report on.' A lot of those monies [provided for the project by the federal government] are identified for that specific project in a way that doesn't allow us to share our resources within the state. There are so many rules and regulations and laws that would require us not to be able to share the infrastructure. [Yet] sharing infrastructure could make it cheaper not only for the citizens of Nebraska, but also for the federal government. We see where we could share systems, and federal regulations don't allow us to.
Time for a national information exchange model
Decker added that a national information exchange model would establish standard methodologies for each state to follow for solutions such as identity management. For example, Decker suggested, it would be very interesting to see an interstate MMIS system, rather than each state having its own. In addition, she noted, it would be helpful to have one standard state health information exchange, rather than having every state building its own. "If we're all using the same type of standards and identity management solutions, we all know we're getting the information moved around more securely, and providing correct security for all the PII data."
The combined trends of cloud computing and enterprise mobility make these priorities even more pressing, according to Decker:
As we look at putting up more and more mobile applications, and doing things in the cloud, we need to make sure the information we're putting out there is being handled in a secure manner and being treated in the same way. And we need to make sure that it's going over networks that are secured.
States have already begun to make strides in some areas, particularly around information sharing and infrastructure, according to Decker. For example, she says, one NASCIO consortium has launched a GIS service in the cloud that three states have currently signed up for. Another consortium is working on an infrastructure for processing unemployment insurance applications that can be shared across states.
Getting Federal agencies on the same page as the states will make such efforts even more successful, according to Decker. But she's not encouraging any state CIOs to sit around and wait. Decker said:
What we're telling our membership is that these are the Federal priorities we'd like to take forward. Start discussions within your own states about these things. For example, not a lot of states have started using National information exchange model within the state. Nebraska is just starting to look at that model for collaboration. We're telling state CIOs to start talking to their agencies that are heavily reliant on federal funds, and hopefully delivering same message we are: To make sure we're not building silos for Federal funding streams.
What do you think of NASCIO's priorities? Are they on the right track? Are they in line with the priorities of private sector enterprises? Discuss below.