Oct 15 2020

NASCIO 2020: Vigilant States Adopt Emerging Tech for Citizen Services

A new report from NASCIO and EY finds that roughly half of states are not prepared to evaluate new solutions for public use.

Many states face a missed opportunity, as two-thirds of them lack policies or procedures regarding the use of emerging technology, notes a new report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and EY.

Released Thursday during the NASCIO 2020 Annual Conference, the report, titled “How Will the Power of Emerging Technology Help Reframe Your Future?” notes that the pandemic has provided some states with openings to deploy emerging technologies in support of citizen services.

“The pandemic pushed emerging technology into mainstream and now AI, RPA and virtual assistants or chatbots are preparing to take center stage. In five years, emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR), autonomous vehicles, blockchain and quantum computing could emerge while others cycle and enter the mainstream,” the report notes.

Strong Governance Optimizes Innovation, Minimizes Risk

Several states have adopted practices to minimize risk, lower costs and improve cybersecurity while integrating emerging technologies into their enterprises. About half of states have such a governance model or are developing one, according to the report, but “the rest did not have a mechanism for monitoring the review, adoption and deployment of emerging technologies.”

The report notes, “Working with business units in the early stages encourages faster adoption as state agencies look for innovative new approaches to either cut costs or deliver digital services more efficiently.”

The EY-NASCIO report showcases several states that have strong governance models designed to evaluate and incorporate emerging technologies. During a NASCIO 2020 panel Thursday, Utah CIO Mike Hussey and Pennsylvania CIO John MacMillan highlighted their success stories, as detailed in the report.

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Utah Assesses Blockchain for Vehicle Registration

At the start of the pandemic, Utah closed all locations of its Division of Motor Vehicles throughout the state, except for three that offered drive-through service, Hussey said during the panel.

The resulting lines were long, and Utah realized it could move more services online to reduce the number of people in DMV facilities — particularly important during the pandemic. The state is assessing the use of blockchain to support vehicle registration online.

“You don’t have to pack lobbies with people who may be sick,” Hussey said. “We are looking at things like digital vehicle titles. That’s a priority right now.”

In another instance of deploying emerging technology, Utah took advantage of the Internet of Things to place sensors along its highways. The state identified accident-prone areas and installed roadside devices along those roads.

“The devices collect data from fleet vehicles outfitted with radios that report metrics like windshield wiper speeds, tire traction levels and acceleration and braking rates,” the EY-NASCIO report says. “The data from these devices alerts the department to traffic emergencies and to emerging weather conditions.”

Pennsylvania Board Reviews Tech Performance and Gaps

Pennsylvania established a review process modeled after the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework. Pennsylvania’s process includes the application of several digital reference models, including a performance reference model and a business reference model, MacMillan said during the NASCIO panel.

“It helps us understand where our gaps are and it helps us make decisions as to where we can improve our capabilities,” McMillan said.

Using the digital reference models, for example, Pennsylvania could clearly see the cost benefits of establishing common identity management services across separate state business services, thereby providing citizens with a single login across state applications, McMillan said.

In a case of adopting emerging technology, the commonwealth deployed a virtual voice assistant but realized rollout would take longer than anticipated.

“AI has to be taught and sustained,” McMillan says in the EY-NASCIO report. “It took several weeks to teach the system answers to 15 FAQs. Not all questions are worded the same way, for example. A question, whether it’s five or 15 words, needs to have one answer.”

Check out more coverage from the NASCIO Annual 2020 conference, and follow us on Twitter at @StateTech, or the official conference Twitter account, @NASCIO,  and join the conversation using the hashtag #NASCIO20.

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