In 2016, Illinois declared that it wanted to become the nation’s first “smart state.” Former Illinois CIO Hardik Bhatt said the strategy had three key pillars: transforming state government through efficiencies realized by new technologies, such as the Internet of Things, data analytics and blockchain; ensuring the state supported the development of smart cities and enabled the necessary regulatory and funding changes to make that possible; and building a sustainable system that can be replicated in other states.
There is not one single path to becoming a smart state.
“Any state that isn’t thinking about being a smart state is really letting down their citizens,” former acting New Mexico CIO Maria Sanchez told StateTech last year. “How we get there is the harder part.”
In July 2018, the National Governors Association (NGA) picked five states — Colorado, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota and Virginia — to participate in the NGA Center for Best Practices’ Smarter States, Smarter Communities Learning Lab. The goal of the initiative is to “accelerate and replicate smart activities across the country,” the NGA states.
The initiative is focusing on opportunities in energy, transportation, public safety and emergency management, areas states are already making progress, according to the NGA. The learning lab also zeroes in on “fundamental components to smarter states initiatives, such as governance, stakeholder engagement and telecommunications policy in both rural and urban regions.”
What States Are Doing to Make Themselves Smarter
Leaders from the states convened in Chicago in October 2018 for a learning lab meeting, and the lab was completed in December. Since then, the NGA has had follow-up calls with the states and helped them finalize their action steps.
The NGA will assemble the lessons state IT leaders learned into a set of roadmaps, due to be released in the early summer, that will help all states accelerate their smart state efforts. The roadmaps will offer a step-by-step guide with examples drawn from across the country, according to the NGA.
Further, the NGA will host a series of webinars and podcasts featuring expert speakers and will also host events that highlight state successes to date alongside private sector partners.
In the meantime, here is a peek at what the various states are doing to make themselves smarter and bring new ideas to the table, per the NGA. Some of these efforts require the deployment of new technology, and others new ways of thinking. Most will require both.
Colorado is going big and bold on smarter transportation systems. The state is experimenting with connected vehicles and drivers with the capacity to connect to each other, which the state thinks could help prevent accidents and speed congested traffic. Colorado is also exploring more intelligent trucking that moves goods and services efficiently, for the benefit of communities and industry. And the state wants to create improved, smarter systems in infrastructure, like ramps that help improve the flow of traffic and decrease the need for additional lanes.
Nevada wants to explore how “different state agencies can overlap and pool resources in advancing multiple initiatives benefiting transportation, energy and communication/data systems.” The state also wants to figure out how to best negotiate and partner with the private sector to advance and balance the interests of both parties, and explore steps and resources needed to begin smart city planning.
Meanwhile, New Jersey wants to make its infrastructure smarter by optimizing investments and increasing the efficiency of existing infrastructure. The Garden State is also working to develop a multi-year, statewide smart grid transition plan. And it is focused on data via a “performance measurements” and a “digitization revolution.”
Speaking of data, North Dakota wants to create a framework for data management and governance to enable integration. The largely rural state wants to better serve and connect rural communities by integrating data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics and existing unmanned aircraft system capabilities. And the state wants to “enhance livability and provide opportunities for citizen feedback with IoT.”
In Virginia, the commonwealth wants to “integrate disparate information into a single operating picture to enable real-time information sharing.” Such a data platform “must support security and privacy, additional public data, private and protected data, and public and privileged access.”
Within the next decade, Virginia also wants to provide ubiquitous broadband access across the state and develop policies and mechanisms to speed up deployment.
These various states’ initiatives make clear that there is no single meaning for a smart state. In the end, it is about doing what best meets the needs of your state’s residents.