Providence, Rhode Island.

Oct 31 2017

Rhode Island’s New CIO Sparks IT Progress

The small state has big technology upgrade ambitions, and its newest IT chief is working to ensure they succeed.

Straight out of the private sector, Rhode Island’s new CIO and chief digital officer, Bijay Kumar, has hit the ground running in ensuring the state has the resources it needs to complete its major tech initiatives.

After beginning in his post on July 30, the state’s new tech leader is focusing on establishing IT governance across the state.

"Together, we will deliver stable, sustainable, scalable and innovative solutions which meet requirements of all our users,” Kumar said in a statement.

He is looking to centralize and optimize IT for government systems at several departments and agencies through 60-day, 90-day and one-year plans, Kumar told Government Technology in September.

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Transportation, Health Insurance Systems See Updates

Projects on the agenda include the Rhode Island Modernization System, which will replace the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles’ current 40-year-old computer system with a more modern system that can link the central agency with partner agencies, enabling faster communication and better resident data security. The switch, which began in early July, may also have a hand in lowering DMV wait times.

Another issue on the top of the agenda is to manage Rhode Island’s struggling public health portal, the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP), which aims to unite the state’s health insurance portal as well as Medicaid and Social Security.

Earlier this year, the previous CIO froze IT rollouts until the state and vendor, Deloitte, could shore up the deployment.

“There is a governance process in place, there are escalations in place with Deloitte, the teams are working well together,” Kumar told Government Technology of the collaboration in place between the vendor and the state. “We have to make sure that we stabilize the system.”

And while he expressed confidence in the state’s IT teams, Kumar noted that it’s certainly a challenge to attract and retain IT talent in the public sector.

“In terms of people, it is definitely harder to attract and retain staff talent in government. I believe that is something which all government agencies and all state and federal folks do face,” Kumar told Government Technology. “A lot of times, the funds we have drive the amount of innovation as well as application optimization we can do. To be creative within the constraints, you have to do an exceptional job.”

Overall, while Kumar called the state’s enterprise architecture “mostly centralized,” he noted that he’s working toward IT governance that will enable a central project management function.

“My strategy is to work with all the agencies and quasi-agencies to have processes which are collaborative and cohesive and standard across everything we support,” Kumar told the site.

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