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10 Government Innovations that Matter in 2016

I recently had the honor of speaking at the Esri Public Sector CIO Summit in California, which connected public sector leaders for a discussion about how to make the most of government IT. It was a great way to learn more about how state and local governments approached their tech strategies.

In turn, I also had the opportunity to share some of the amazing research GovLoop has recently produced. There are several macro-trends that are shaping the government landscape like increasing demand for government services, budget deficits, rapid technology change, and a retiring experienced workforce.

As government is changing, new opportunities for innovation and development are opening up. Below are the top 10 areas for innovation I highlighted in my presentation. I’ve also included an example of how governments are already taking advantage of these trends.

1. Data analytics – Data and analytics are both words often thrown around in conjunction with one another, but when governments take advantage of the information they have at their disposal, they can do incredible things.

Example: By collecting, compiling, and analyzing different sources of data, the state of Indiana has been able to use information on opioid-related deaths, location of found illegal substances, and certified treatment providers to create a cohesive story to inform policy decisions.

2. Machine learning – Although you shouldn’t expect a government-issued robot to start filling out your tax forms for you, it might be time to prepare for artificial intelligence in government. As agencies attempt to keep up with new user expectations and private-sector technologies, they increasingly find themselves short on resources, time or know-how to get the job effectively done. To fill this gap, organizations may start turning to cognitive technologies, which use data analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, speech recognition and other functionality to automatically adapt to new needs, preferences and scenarios.

Example: Homeland Security’s cybersecurity programs like Einstein and CDM are prime examples of how agencies are creating technologies that constantly evolve to counter new threats.

3. Focus on citizens – Citizen expectations are rapidly rising, and governments are updating their strategies to focus on the people they are serving.

Example: Lubbock County, Texas and Hamilton County, Ohio are exploring the boundaries of this field with online reporting for jury duty in the former and emergency call centers with text-messaging capabilities in the latter.

4. Talent – The workforce is transforming; that cannot be stated enough. But what is even more interesting is how government agencies are dealing with this transition.

Example: The state of Pennsylvania has established a cross-generational mentorship program, pairing experienced employees with new hires for a direct knowledge transfer. By the end of the yearlong program, the mentor has trained the mentee in the management of a product or project process, ensuring that the product will persist even after the old experts have left.

5. Agile development – Processes like Agile development and DevOps are changing the way agencies deal with project management. Instead of a one-way inflexible process, agile development takes an iterative approach to project management, emphasizing adaptive planning, evolutionary development, and continuous improvement. Combined with DevOps, a cooperative management process that melds together developers and operations staff operationally, culturally, and technically, agile development can reduce costs, improve the work process, and create a better product.

Example: The state of California used an agile approach infused with DevOps collaborative principles to rapidly update their Medicaid eligibility portal.

6. Proactive security – In light of mounting threats, cybersecurity has become a top government priority. Now, government is not only trying to react to threats but proactively prevent them, and put plans in place for potential future breaches.

Example: Colorado’s Integrated Office of Technology put together a Colorado Information Security Advisory Board who helped created Secure Colorado — a strategic vision to proactively implement security improvements across the state.

7. Cloud – Many parts of the government have moved towards cloud-based technology systems. Cloud can offer greater flexibility in services, lower costs, and increased collaboration. However, testing, purchasing, and implementing new cloud solutions can strain local government budgets.

Example: To solve this problem, five communities in Michigan have joined to create G2G Cloud Solutions, forming a technological network to reduce costs and improve services.

8. Internet of Things – The Internet of Things has taken off, especially at the state and local level. Agencies can use data from the countless devices, appliances, vehicles, and wearables present in a community to build a map of information.

Example: San Francisco uses the Internet of Things to connect sensors on parking meters with a mobile app that drivers can use to find open parking. In addition, the data from the parking meters can help set pricing based on demand, helping increase city revenue.

9. Civic tech at state and local level – In recent years, more and more civic companies and federal groups have expressed interest in working with state and local governments. While they previously worked alongside the public sector, civic technology organizations are starting to be integral partners in government innovation.

Example: 18F, the digital services agency within the General Services Administration, provides federal grants for state and local programs to upgrade their digital services. Bloomberg Philanthropies has given more than 150 communities across the globe with the resources to invest in tech innovation.

10. Legacy modernization –The modernization of legacy systems can help reduce agency spending and improve the customer experience. Now, many state and local governments are trying to navigate the balance between updating with new technologies without decreasing reliability or disrupting service in their existing infrastructure.

Example: Under the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts’ healthcare program MassHealth added hundreds of thousands of new participants. The increase overwhelmed the system, and the state began a thorough update. The new MassHealth has a greater emphasis on customer service and better integration of different types of care. The payment model has also shifted, focusing on patient health and reduced costs.

For more information on innovations in state and local government, check out my presentation from the summit. You should also read GovLoop’s recent State and Local Government, Data Analytics, and Top 30 Government Innovations guides.

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