Prior to the pandemic, Maryland’s Department of Human Services had been halfway through the process of modernizing service delivery for its welfare programs by moving virtually all of its health care and justice agencies to the cloud, the state’s human services CTO, Subramanian Muniasamy, said on Wednesday.
The MD THINK project, or Maryland total human services integrated network, comprises data from Maryland human services, juvenile and health agencies on one platform. While the pandemic forced state employees to move online earlier this year, Muniasamy said the modernization “had to keep going” even amid a sixfold increase in food stamp applications and training 1,500 employees to work remotely.
The key, he said, was remaining “adaptable” in changing policies and business processes to handle an influx of benefit applications or enabling people to work from home.
“We gathered an executive management team and asked, ‘What are the various hardware and software needs to make this transition quicker, is there anything we can leverage with existing technology and what we have in place, and is there any business process change we have to make to adapt to this situation?” he said.
For example, he said, the state waived in-person interviews requirements for food stamp benefits, and by purchasing 3,000 laptops for remote workers and taking advantage of existing co-working tools from Amazon Web Services, Maryland has been able to deploy 90% of its online child welfare services over the past four months by “quickly adapting” to remote training.
“This is one of the greatest opportunities [for government technology],” Muniasamy said. “This pandemic situation really helped everybody start realizing the benefit of technology.”