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Boring Bureaucracy? Not in Texas

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 4th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2014 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick off the NextGen Training Summit on July 23rd in Washington, DC. We have 18 finalists in six different categories. All month long we will be introducing you to the finalists.

Meet the Finalist:

Who: Karen Robinson, CIO, State of Texas

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Finalist, Advocate Category

“As the CIO of Texas and Executive Director of the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), Karen Robinson manages the IT needs of more than 4,400 publicly funded entities, including the operation of the state’s IT security, communications technology services, cooperative contracts, data center services, and the award-winning Texas.gov. This Texas native is a national role model for young women and men in public service as well as in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. She brings more than 35 years of government and private-sector experience to Texas.” – Thomas Johnson, Chief Communications Officer, Texas Department of Information Resources. Johnson nominated Robinson for the NextGen Advocate award.

In 2011, Karen Robinson launched a two-year pilot program to study the benefits of cloud computing. Back then, cloud was a buzzword, and very few people actually understood the technology. Robinson was determined that Texas needed to understand and explore the cloud as an option for government service delivery.

“I kept hearing about the cloud, but I really needed to get my head around how the cloud worked,” Robinson said. “I needed to better understand what the definitions were because it’s my job to help educate the legislature and leadership about technology.”

Robinson launched the Pilot Texas Cloud Offering (PTCO) project. It was focused on infrastructure as a service, but many of the lessons learned can be generalized for government agencies adopting any cloud offering.

“We gathered a few vendors and did a pilot project. The lessons learned from that pilot gave me the fodder I needed to go across Texas and say, ‘The cloud is here, it’s not going anywhere, this is the direction we need to go, and this how we need to approach things.’”

As a result of PTCO, the legislature encouraged agencies to consider going cloud first when doing large projects.

But the cloud isn’t the only area of Texas in which Robinson has been instrumental. She has also been a force on the redesign of Texas.gov.

“I was involved in promoting mobile awareness, and the ability to go online and do things like renew your driver license, renew other licenses. We really focused on reaching out to the community. We had to say, if state agencies who use Texas.gov are happy, and their customers are happy, then I’m being a good provider. Texas.gov is an award-winning program, and because the redesign makes those services available on any device, we think it will continue serving customers well.”

Robinson says the mission of government drives her to succeed. “I have been in state government for almost 20 years. I felt like this was such an opportunity to work with amazing talent and really highly recognized elected officials. I took hold of technology because I see it as a way to move the state forward. And through the advancement in technology, we’ve really focused in Texas on economic development and capitalized on our public and private partnerships.”

Don’t even try telling Robinson that government is dull. “People think government is stifling or bureaucratic or boring, but they are wrong. There are really energetic, bright shining stars in government, and it is so fun to watch them grow and change government for the better.”

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list here. And register for NextGen!

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