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In search of new ideas and tech, Illinois turns to Corporate Innovators Council

Officials say they will apply what they have learned from their corporate partners to bring new processes and technologies to state government.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Managing Editor

Colin Wood is the managing editor of StateScoop. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine. Before that, he taught Engl...

(Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology)

Illinois state government is leaning on its relationships with private businesses as part of a structured attempt to generate new ideas and expand its portfolio of technologies.

State officials told StateScoop they met regularly with Illinois-based businesses in 2017 as part of a new group called the Corporate Innovators Council. The group’s members — which include representatives from Discover Financial Services, Bosch, Northern Trust, Mars-Wrigley, McDonald's, Grainger and Cigna — share their knowledge and experience using innovative business practices. The state says it hopes to apply what it is learning from its corporate partners to find creative solutions to government’s challenges and launch new initiatives like its recent chatbot hackathon.

State Chief Information Officer Kirk Lonbom said 2018 will be the year the state makes a move to apply its newfound knowledge of innovation to operations and new projects.

“Essentially, we have some of the best innovative minds from companies in Illinois, who are coming together to bring their innovative thinking, their skills, that they use in their own companies,” Lonbom said.

The council is supporting the state’s “no wrong door” approach to constituent services that strives for seamless delivery and ease of use. Technology is proving a capable tool to help the state meet that goal. The chatbot hackathon — hosted last month by the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology – generated several new tools that the state says it may soon adopt.

“We think this is an awesome combination of moving us toward that seamless citizen engagement, better services, quicker services,” Lonbom said.

Lonbom told StateScoop the council meetings are, for the state, oriented around solving its problems.

Outside of striving to improve daily operational efficiency, Illinois faces much larger issues as it holds the worst credit rating of any state in the country. Illinois state government has $15 billion in unpaid bills, and a quarter of a trillion dollars it will owe to state workers when they retire.

The Illinois Blockchain Initiative, launched November 2016, could help the state apply the distributed ledger technology to its budgeting and recordkeeping. Several early-phase pilots are now underway to explore the challenges and viability of such programs.

Technology plays a key role in the state’s innovation efforts, Lonbom said, and how they apply the technologies they adopt is as important as which technologies they use. But for innovation, technology is mainly a “facilitator,” Lonbom said.

“It goes well beyond IT,” Lonbom said. “Our department was named the Department of Innovation & Technology for a reason, and not just because it sounded cool. We really are trying to help drive innovation in the state beyond IT.”

The original version of this story included an inaccuracy that the state was considering pausing its lottery system because of financial problems. In fact, the state's lottery commission was directed by Powerball and Mega Millions to suspend ticket sales if a fiscal year 2018 budget could not be formed thus granting the commission requisite authority.

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States, Illinois, State & Local News, Economy, Innovation, Partnerships, Tech News, Emerging Technology, Blockchain, Kirk Lonbom, Illinois Blockchain Initiative, Department of Innovation & Technology

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