Digital government starts with ‘evangelizing’ new ideas

“Ironically, the biggest thing in digital government we’re working on is not technology,” New Hampshire state Chief Information Officer Denis Goulet says in a video interview with StateScoop. “It’s evangelizing the ideas that the way we project our digital assets or our services in a digital manner have to be aligned with what citizens and businesses want.”

A greater emphasis on the user and structuring digital content and services around users who may not have a detailed understanding of how their government is structured, or which agency they need to visit for various services, has become a rallying cry among state and local technology leaders in recent years.

Many government websites have become simpler, emphasizing search functionality or highlighting several of the most commonly used services to users, rather than presenting a long list of links to agencies that the user must then stumble through.

New Hampshire’s own website boasts both a prominent search function and a “Are you looking…” section that provides a conversational prompt that attempts to steer the user to what they’re looking for, whether it be a criminal background request form, to renew a notary public or to get a hunting or fishing license.

“[There’s] also a lot of blocking and tackling that you have to do on the hygiene side with the hosting and content management and all that kind of stuff,” Goulet said. “But really the biggest thing is getting that idea out there that we have to change the way we think about how we do things.”

Goulet said he also had a request into the legislature for additional funding for “a single citizen identifier, which many would say is the gateway to good digital governance.”

Goulet on his top priorities:

“As always, cyber’s way up on the list for New Hampshire. … Cyber Yankees is coming to New Hampshire for the first time this year. We’re planning it now with a number of federal agencies.”

Goulet on how he sees his role changing with emerging technology:

“I really do agree that more and more our agency partners are having trouble understanding the fast pace of change and the complexity of the market.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.