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California Homes In on IT Innovation and Cybersecurity

With a new CIO on deck, the state is putting significant energy, talent and resources behind improving the way it works and securing that work better than before.

While the Golden State is home to Silicon Valley, in many ways the state’s IT still strives to match the innovative pace of that technology nirvana. But if California CIO Amy Tong has her way, the state government will take more cues from Facebook, Google and the startup set.

“A lot of these entrepreneurs will say to keep it simple and streamlined. Don’t overcomplicate things. That’s my motto as well, and it’s what’s helping the state look at things differently,” said Tong in an interview with NationSwell.

These are just two of the innovations the state has put in place so far:

  • The Office of Digital Innovation and Technology Engagement
    In an attempt to put a digital-first stamp on state government operations and services, California launched this group in February. The group’s mission “will define an approach to government technology innovation that will drive the CDT forward as a thought leader and technology innovator in state government.”

  • The California Innovation Lab
    This summer, the Digital Innovation office launched its own initiative: The California Innovation Lab. With a focus on agile application and software development, the state hopes to produce code at the pace of the private sector. “It will open new doors to very innovative thinking,” said Scott Gregory, deputy director of the Office of the Geographic Information Officer and chief of the Office of Digital Innovation, in a recent StateTech article. “A department can team up with another department to develop a proof of concept to solve a shared organizational issue.”

California’s Security State of Mind

While talk of IT innovation, digital services and cloud computing are top of mind for Tong, so is the unglamorous task of beefing up the state’s cybersecurity. When Tong assumed the position in June, she made it clear that she would refocus the nation’s largest state IT organization on cybersecurity.

“We want to take a holistic approach in addressing information security overall,” said Tong, according to a StateScoop article. “There was a lot of work being done by the individual departments and staff behind the scenes. But I think it was just a matter of it being time to really consolidate these efforts to a coordinated effort and articulate what that coordinated effort is.”

California’s security setup is unique. Gov. Jerry Brown created the California Cybersecurity Integration Center by executive order, which combines resources and forces collaboration between federal agencies, such as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, and state agencies.

In Tong’s view, four state agencies are critical to defining and defending the state’s data and information: the California Department of Technology, the Office of Emergency Services, the California Highway Patrol and the Military Department, reports StateScoop.

“The four partners working very closely with the federal and local [agencies] to put together a perimeter check, access monitoring to look at the various attempts that are coming into the state of California for this public information that we’re protecting,” she told StateScoop.

First up on the California Cybersecurity Integration Center’s plate is an assessment of vulnerabilities and threats to the state, according to a feature story from Techwire.

“One of the early efforts we’ve identified is to address the scope of threats that face us,” said Danjel Bout, assistant director of response at the California Office of Emergency Services. “We’re trying to do a careful assessment, because one of the dangers is to ask for something without understanding the full scope.”

moodboard/ThinkStockPhotos
Oct 19 2016

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