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Digital Transformation in Government Insight #94:
Emerging tech and government in the US

Emerging tech was one of many discussion points at this year’s National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference in the US, with CIOs citing AI as the most significant emerging tech.

Salsa Digital 12 November 2019

What is NASCIO?

Every year in the US, CIOs from different states come together for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference. This year, Government Technology covered the conference with summary information and video ‘bites’ from key speakers.

It’s always interesting and insightful to see what others are doing in the digital government space and so we wanted to spend this edition of Digital Transformation in Government looking at one specific subject from the conference — emerging tech in government.

Emerging tech

Emerging tech is often seen as exciting but perhaps a little bit risky for government. According to Government Technology’s coverage, there’s a lot of variance in the level of caution used by state CIOs. The coverage describes State CIO Shawn Riley from North Dakota as the most ‘bullish’ on the topic. Riley said, “If you’re not looking ahead you’re dying. Evolve or well ahead of the technology curve.” He then specifically cited quantum computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning as key areas of the future.

In his video grab (just over a minute) he also stresses the importance of being aware of ethical considerations and how it’s the application of the technology that’s ‘good or evil’ not the technology itself. As an example, he talks about drones, which are often associated with their military history. However, the same drone without weapons can be used for search and rescue options. “We have to understand its implications and how do we really want to use it to empower people, improve lives and inspire success.” Great quote!

North Dakota is using drones, has about 1 billion operational IoT sensors and is planning to automate about 20% of the state’s workforce in preparation for many of its residents reaching retirement age.

Emerging tech — survey results

As part of the conference, NASCIO also released the results of its 2019 survey of state and territory CIOs. The report, titled ‘The Responsive State CIO: Connecting to the Customer’, provides an excellent summary of state CIOs’ opinions across a range of topics from customer relationship management and collaboration, to digital government and emerging tech. It’s definitely worth a read to get an idea of what state CIOs are doing in the US.

In terms of emerging tech, there were only four questions in this category. The first one is perhaps the most interesting, asking what emerging IT area will have the most impact in the next three to five years. The responses were:

  • 65% AI

  • 20% IoT

  • 6% Connected/autonomous vehicles

  • 4% Other

  • 2% Blockchain

  • 2% Quantum computing

These technologies are also being investigated here in Australia. For example, emerging technologies, data and analytics, and artificial intelligence were all cited as opportunities in last year’s Australia’s Tech Future report.

The other three questions in this category all focused on automation software:

  • The first question asked about the strategic and operational issues driving interest in automation software (83% said improving citizen services with faster and more accurate response time)

  • The second question asked if the CIO was planning to deploy automation software (either robotic process automation or machine learning) in the next 2-3 years (25% of the CIOs said it was already complete or in progress with another 25% saying it was planned)

  • The final question on emerging tech asked what the key considerations were for deploying automation software (with respondents asked to pick their top three, 72% said identifying the ‘right’ business case for automation software and 57% said ensuring data privacy and security).

Salsa Digital’s take

The role of CIOs in government has changed significantly over the past 10-20 years, with the CIO now often being responsible for digital transformation and strategy. Emerging tech is part of the digital transformation landscape, and many of the same opportunities and issues can be seen around the globe. Governments here in Australia are also investigating emerging tech. For example, last year the Victorian Government ran a Voice Innovation Hack and the CSIRO’s Data61 includes artificial intelligence and machine learning as one of its research focus areas.

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