Connecting state and local government leaders
A look at the association representing state government IT executives ahead of their meeting in Texas’ capital city next week.
Next week, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, better known as NASCIO, will hold their annual meeting in Austin, Texas. The association represents state chief information officers and from the states, territories and the District of Columbia. What that means today is radically different from the organization’s roots in the 1960s.
Once a group using punch cards to store government data, information technology now sits at the center of government functionality and efficiency, and with it NASCIO’s members. State executives and legislators speak about technology’s power for reaching citizens, rooting out “waste, fraud and abuse” and “doing more with less.”
States sit at a sweet spot in government technology when compared to most local and federal government entities: they have enough money to do “big things” while often still nimble enough to experiment with newer technology. While “automation technology and data processing,” which was the core mission of NASCIO when it originally formed in 1969, will be discussed in Austin, the conference will also feature discussions on cybersecurity, blockchain adoption and agile development.
The true change, however, is that with many state governments having consolidated IT functions and guidance into a single authority under the chief information officer, it is an increasingly vital, central and powerful position.
In full disclosure, I previously worked for NASCIO, along with quite a few non-profit membership organizations in the government space. In my various roles in both the public and private sector, I have had plenty of chances to peak behind the curtain of government membership organizations.
Most of these groups have wonderfully important missions, and their employees strive to meet that mission every day. Beyond that, though, how these organizations function behind the scenes varies widely. Just like the public and private sector, some are well-oiled machines where strategy, policy, and execution tie to their mission at every opportunity, while others are a bit… less so. There’s also a small handful that resemble a Potemkin village—the lights may be on, but there’s not much behind the scenes.
NASCIO is a well-oiled machine, among the best-run government associations I have encountered. The organization can be credited with helping guide the transition of information technology in state government, as NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson often puts it, “from the back room to the boardroom.” It has done a tremendous job of supporting—and sometimes leading—its members as state governments attempt to navigate a world that is continuously being disrupted by technology.
NASCIO has done this by having a clear sense of their mission to their members—the individuals who lead those states’ information technology missions and the states themselves. They have backed up the direct work with state members by bringing robust research into the mix—including a yearly state CIO survey and a biennial state cybersecurity survey. The organization has also delivered “calls to action” on vexing technology and policy issues that are either holding back progress in state government or threatening to disrupt its future.
There is also another reason, though.
NASCIO maintains one of the few bastions of pure non-partisanship among state government leaders. In an era where virtually every issue has at least some small stench of national bickering or divide, finding opportunities to make government more effective through technology solutions and data is a unifying and pure policy opportunity.
Even in the areas where technology is leading us down difficult paths, from cutting across the digital divide to securing citizen data and privacy in an increasingly difficult environment, state CIOs are eager to learn from each other and tackle the problem together.
This coming week, I’m looking forward to hearing about the exciting new solutions state governments are implementing and how it is helping support better government for citizens across the country.
Mitch Herckis is the Senior Director of Programs for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.