Texas CIO Amanda Crawford is accelerating adoption of digital services for state agencies. 

Feb 09 2022

Q&A: Texas CIO Amanda Crawford Accelerates Digital Service Adoption

The IT chief in the Lone Star State also tackles priorities ranging from remote work to cybersecurity.

Amanda Crawford has served as executive director of the Texas Department of Information Resources since February 2019. So, she had a great deal of ­knowledge about the department when she added responsibilities as Texas CIO to her portfolio ­beginning in November 2020.

She assumed leadership of the state tech agency at a time when the country was intensely battling the ­coronavirus, and ­government ­agencies were embracing digital ­transformation to serve more ­citizens remotely on demand. That heightened focus on digital services has continued throughout Crawford’s tenure to date.

Crawford recently talked to StateTech about her ­priorities for Texas digital services, the remote work environment for state ­employees and the state’s ­evolving cybersecurity posture.

STATETECH: You’ve been CIO of Texas for well over a year. Have you ­encountered any particularly pleasant or unpleasant surprises on the job?

Crawford: It’s been a busy year, but I do have a tremendous team, and it was no ­surprise to me to experience how much that team came together to rise to the challenges we faced during the pandemic.

I will say that a very pleasant surprise was the strong support from the state CIO community. It really does feel like a family, and it’s wonderful to know that I can reach out to other state CIOs to celebrate successes, to seek advice, to vent occasional ­frustrations and to look to other CIOs as a group for support. They are simply tremendous public servants.

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STATETECH: You’ve identified digital services as a big priority for Texas. What’s on your radar?

Crawford: Texans expect the government to deliver the same level of service as the private sector. During the pandemic, you could order groceries, schedule mobile dog grooming, receive ­prescriptions and more, depending on where you are — all online. Certainly, Texans expect that their government, now more than ever, can deliver its ­services on demand and remotely.

To aid digital transformation, we’ve created a strategic digital services program that’s aimed at walking agencies through the digitalization journey. The technology is available, but often it’s the culture of an organization that determines what’s possible.

One of the projects that we’re really excited about is Texas by Texas, or TxT, which is our new digital assistant that provides an easier, faster and more secure way for Texans to take care of government services. Through TxT, you can create a single account and profile and access a personalized dashboard with stored payment information and transaction history. You can complete government transactions with just a few clicks — anytime, from any device.

It has been a web application, but it’s being developed as a native iOS and Android app available in the Apple and Google stores as of January. Some occupational licenses have been in the app since 2019, and we recently added vehicle ­registration renewals, driver’s licenses and commercial ­driver’s license renewals and replacements. We’ll add more services soon.

Texas CIO Amanda Crawford
Texans expect that their government, now more than ever, can deliver its ­services on demand and remotely.”

Amanda Crawford Texas CIO

STATETECH: What is the state of remote work for Texas government employees?

Crawford: Texas is a federated state, and so every state agency is deciding its own return-to-work process, obviously with guidance and feedback from state leadership. Some agencies are back in the office 100 percent, and others might require one or three days in the office. 

Not all government jobs can be done remotely, but for those positions that can, we’re going to continue expanding hybrid work. Where possible, making telework available for our state employees is not only a positive for recruitment but also for retention. There are challenges that come with it, and the key is to ensure that managers are actively engaged with their employees, no matter where they’re officing. 

RELATED: How can state and local agencies make hybrid work a success?

STATETECH: A few years ago, some 20 Texas towns were hit by ransomware. How has the state continued to respond to and learn from that attack?

Crawford: Any time you experience an event like that, you must look back and take those lessons learned to heart so that you can grow and improve from that experience. We sought to promote strong cyber hygiene practices throughout the state. We saw more focus from our state ­legislature, which required all public employees throughout Texas to take c­ybersecurity training.

With any cyberattack, it is a crime, and the folks who are hit are victims. Folks must be willing to come forward and share that they’ve been hit. When you find out that somebody’s been hit, you can share some of that information with other local governments through secure threat-sharing platforms to make sure that people know what might be coming. We’re really focusing on a whole-of-state approach to cybersecurity. That’s our emphasis.

EXPLORE: How will zero-trust approaches to cybersecurity start to impact state government?

STATETECH: What actions has the state taken to protect agencies in the meantime?

Crawford: Before a state agency can create any new or renewed cloud computing contracts, as of Jan. 1, 2022, they must have TX-RAMP certification. FedRAMP will suffice. Our state wants to make sure state leadership is very clear that these cloud computing products and services need to go through an approved vetting process.

The state legislature also recently required us to establish mutual aid agreements with local governments across different regions. The state also must create a volunteer incident response team. 

We also are working on establishing a pilot program to create a regional security operations center in partnership with a university in Texas.

Photography by Darren Carroll

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