North Dakota’s new chief data officer said the state is focused on finding ways to use artificial intelligence as she helps the state “mature” in its ability to use data.
In an interview with StateScoop, CDO Kimberly Weis, whose hire was announced last week, said that North Dakota is currently looking to define the state’s AI strategy. She said the state’s IT department is still planning how to use AI and support state agencies in their use of AI, and that creating an AI strategy is also one of the data division’s focus areas.
“What’s the support that our agencies will need around [AI] because they’re asking a lot of questions, really excited about the potential of AI,” Weis said. “They’re looking to be more efficient, free up staff time, better be able to provide services and respond to changes and needs among our population. That’s an area that we’re really focused on, and it aligns with our data strategy as well. So it’s all about, again, how do we can we just use data more effectively, whether that’s through AI or other emerging technologies that are yet to come?”
She said the state’s IT department last summer created an AI team, convening staff with skills in automation and data science as a starting point for developing a statewide AI strategy.
Before she was chosen for the CDO role, Weis supported the previous data chief from her role as the director of data and analytics. She worked on initiatives such as Project Lighthouse, a program that aims to use data for social good and encourage policymakers to use AI ethically.
“Phase one is planning, then we’re hoping to move into actual implementation of transformational use cases,” Weis said. “I don’t think it’s unusual that in state government, the data side of the house, the analytics piece in particular, is less mature in many cases than the transactional application development work we’ve done. In moving that along, we’re trying to mature our data capabilities.”
Weis pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as an event that brought a need for the state to mature its use of data. She said that there’s a need to look at a “scalable, sustainable approach to managing, using, governing, securing [and] protecting our data.”
“It’s just making [data] accessible — data is everywhere, we’re using it all the time in every part of our lives,” Weis said. “So really empowering and enabling our agencies so we support our state agencies to use that data for better decision making and really to impact people’s lives.”