In this modern world, technology is the backbone of how our citizens interact with government. As the commonwealth of Virginia’s chief information officer for the past four years, my organization, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), has been charged with finding new ways to deliver services to citizens faster.
Let’s face it — we all look at the world through a glass screen, and we all want government services to work as easily as ordering an Uber. Gov. Ralph Northam is challenging the commonwealth’s agencies to use new technologies to improve customer service. He is promoting initiatives such as Tech Pathways to create awareness of technology careers for K-12 students and cultivating an economic development environment capable of attracting companies such as Amazon to our state. The commonwealth is a leader in the technology industry and our government agencies should operate accordingly.
How can government keep up with these expectations? Governments are large organizations with rules, customs and practices that have been developed and implemented for decades upon decades. While government has the passion, vision and people to accomplish great things such as sending men and women into space and to the moon, it can struggle with adopting innovation at a pace that meets citizen demand.
Over the past few years, VITA has been on a mission to “deliver agile technology at the speed of business.” That means we must find new ways to help government agencies deliver services to citizens and adopt new technologies at a faster pace. To meet those expectations, we are eliminating outdated service contracts with legacy technology companies and hiring the industry’s “best of breed” companies. Our modernized “multi-supplier” model is designed to be more responsive to customer, citizen and market changes and will provide a much stronger return on investment for the commonwealth’s taxpayers.
We now have the flexibility and adaptability that will enable our agencies to utilize many of the innovative technologies found in the private sector. This is why Virginia was recognized recently by the National Association of State Chief Administrators with its Innovations in State Government Award in the category of infrastructure.
VITA is working through the implementation of this new model, while developing the skills and people to create an innovative, diverse and inclusive culture. Just recently, VITA hosted the commonwealth’s first ever “Women in Innovation Conference” where First Lady Pam Northam and Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner helped us celebrate the achievements of women innovators. Moments such as these remind all of us working for the commonwealth that we must do more to improve government responsiveness.
As a retired naval officer, I know that it takes time to turn a ship. VITA has much to do and we have implemented a tremendous amount of positive change over the past few years. Our employees are dedicated to serving the commonwealth and to improving the manner in which we serve Virginians. We demand that of ourselves and more importantly, Virginians demand it of us.
We have embarked on an exciting journey of technological advancement in the commonwealth. I am proud of VITA’s role in leading the commonwealth forward and cannot wait to seize this opportunity for all Virginians.