State IT leaders from around the country are gathering in Austin, Texas, this week at the NASCIO 2017 Annual Conference, hearing from each other and industry experts about the latest strategies to manage public-sector IT challenges and deliver the most effective services to citizens. Connecticut CIO Mark Raymond launched Monday’s proceedings by acknowledging the “record crowd,” with more than 700 participants and CIOs from 46 states and the District of Columbia attending.
In a prerecorded video message, Texas Governor Greg Abbott emphasized the important role of IT teams in government. “Your mission is critical,” he said. “Technology connects us with the people we serve. … I strongly encourage you to share your ideas and best practices.”
NASCIO Kicks Off with a Focus on Innovation
First-day keynote speaker Adam Steltzner kicked off the conference speaking about his work as a NASA engineer. One thing aerospace scientists and state IT teams have in common, he said, is the challenge of working with outdated equipment that can’t easily be replaced. “We were using legacy technology,” he said. “You can’t just leap to the next thing.”
Steltzner encouraged a mindset of curiosity and said that the culture of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he works is ideal for innovation. “It’s the simple idea of separating ideas from the people who hold them,” he said. “When you separate them, you allow the ideas to engage in a much more effective combat and competition.”
The NASA expert also said that he came up with a saying when talking about his innovative, but untested, approach of using a sky crane landing system to deliver the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars in 2012.
“Great works and great folly may be indistinguishable at the outset,” he said, noting that the statement helps to open skeptical minds to new ideas.
— Tom Weede (@tomweede2) October 2, 2017
The morning session also highlighted the work of Kids In a New Groove, a Texas-based group that supports children in foster care through music mentorship, which NASCIO is sponsoring with financial assistance. “Your support directly impacts our ability to forge a pathway for these students,” Laura Wood, executive director of the organization, told the audience. “We’re able to transform their futures.”
Monday featured speed networking sessions, with CIOs sharing their current thinking on IT initiatives in their states and industry representatives detailing their technology offerings.
Cybersecurity and application modernization took center stage in the informal discussions. Later in the day, five state leaders from around the country shared their insights on NASCIO’s Top Ten Policy and Technology Priorities for 2017, each delivering a five-minute talk on one of the priorities.
The city of Austin is a fitting place for a conference focused on forward-thinking IT planning and strategy. Raymond pointed out that the World Economic Forum recently named Austin the best city in the world for tech.
According to the Austin Chamber, the metropolitan area is home to more than 5,800 high-tech employers, and 13.6 percent of all jobs (nearly 130,000) are in the city’s tech industries, compared with 6.7 percent nationally.
The Austin area placed third in Forbes’ 2017 survey of the metropolitan areas with the strongest technology job growth. The location saw employment in the tech industry increase 76.6 percent between 2006 and 2016.
Read more from StateTech’s coverage of the NASCIO 2017 Annual Conference here.