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Unifying Tech from the C-Suite

For the past few weeks State and Local Spotlight has been exploring state and local jobs from local analysts up to the c-suite. This week we wanted to focus on a c-suite hero who was recently appointed permanent chief information officer after serving as the interim CIO for three months. Amy Tong, CIO of the state of California sat down with GovLoop to discuss her position and some of the awesome things the state of California is working on.

What She Does

Tong’s job is to provide direct technology services to the various state entities, as well as provide quality assurance and service delivery of new technology solutions. Think of her as the Yelp for government technology. She does the assessing, rating and provides quality assurance for the technology end users – the 70 California state agencies. Her team also provides oversight and vision for how the state agencies can best utilize the various technologies to help the public sector deliver services to citizens.

How She Does It

The state of California is the eighth largest economy in the world. The sheer size and scope of the technology requirements for a state with a GDP of more than $2.4 trillion, Tong says, is her biggest challenge. “We are custodians of the largest technology suite in state government. The amount of information, the number of public servants and the population that we are supporting is incredibly large, complex and diverse. This diversity translates to various levels of needs of technology. We can be that technology enabler, but we have to do it right, and it’s my job to oversee its proper implementation.

Tong has dealt in part with this challenge by relying on her history of innovation. “I come from the programmatic departments in California government, where I was really on the ground floor implementing these technologies. And we were always looking for ways to deliver services in a faster and more high-quality way. I bring that same spirit to my role as CIO. Sure, we have to provide quality assurance, but we can also support the workforce that is looking to innovate,” she said. Tong focuses on training and development for the entire IT staff to help enable faster and more efficient technology implementation.

Why She Does It

The role of the CIO is really a technology adviser for government. “It’s not my job to actually run each one of these systems, it’s my job to look across all the agencies and help decided which systems are best and most cost effective,” Tong said. The role of the CIO is fairly new to government, only popping up in the last 15 years, but the evolution from a technology implementer to adviser has made a big difference. For Tong, it allows her to take an enterprise view of government IT and not just focus on one individual system.

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