Real-time data is essential, Florida and Ohio CIOs say

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With just three metrics in hand, Florida officials were able to accelerate a host of projects during the coronavirus pandemic, the state Department of Transportation’s chief information officer said during an online event Tuesday.

Greg Smiley said that with just a few simple measurements — the percentage of staff who had laptops, the percentage of state-owned machines that were aging out of use and the number of staff who were working remotely — his department was able to accelerate and complete a surprising number of projects during the health crisis.

“From those things, I can be very confident at the decisions I was making,” Smiley said during the Data in Action summit hosted by FedScoop. “We went from 72% mobility to I think 97% mobility within a week. Because we were able to do that, we were able to accelerate road projects and take advantage of lower traffic counts.”

During the session, which was also joined by Ohio CIO Ervan Rodgers, Smiley also said state governments face challenges in using data, such as the necessity of cleaning data before it can be plugged into artificial intelligence platforms, as well as managing security and data-privacy measures, high priorities that he said should be balanced against the value of each data set. 

“Data’s a messy business,” Smiley said. “We’re building the airplane in the air and it has to continue to fly while we’re doing it, so that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.”

Rodgers, the former chief information security officer and CIO for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said cybersecurity is “foundational” to all of the data projects he’s involved with. 

“If you begin with security, you’re going to have a better product in the end and as long as it’s collaborative in nature,” Rodgers said. “With regards to our data portal, that information is desensitized so it can’t be tracked back to an individual. Security should be one of your top five priorities when dealing in the data space.”

Rodgers likened his state’s IT organization and its highly integrated cybersecurity operations to the style of cooperation found in comic books.

“I envision a seat, a round circular board of directors,” Rodgers said. “Because in my mind — and there’s no secret, I am into superheroes — I see a semblance of The Avengers, with your CISO, your [chief data officer], your chief privacy officer, your CIOs, etc. So you’re having a collective conversation all while having governance around it to ensure from a cybersecurity perspective, a privacy standpoint, all those things are taken into a place and it’s not just a single-threat siloed approach.”

In addition to emphasizing the protection of data, Smiley also said it was important for state governments to ensure data and services are perpetually available. 

“The model of having hours of availability are somewhat eroding,” Smiley said. “So the expectation is to make sure services are always available and that means old clockwork-style batch processing, scheduling, that’s becoming insufficient and we’re converging on real-time services.”

Rodgers, who touted a piece of automation software that ensures newborn babies in Ohio are immediately connected to any services and insurance available to them, agreed that state data and services need to be available at all times.

“This is not your granddad’s government,” Rodgers said. “They’re expecting real-time availability, they want it now, especially with all the various stay-at-home orders that were implemented across all the various states. Their expectation is real-time.”

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AI, data, Ervan Rodgers, Florida, Greg Smiley, Ohio
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