Getting to the ‘so what?’ with new technology initiatives

Nelson Moe is tired of buzzwords.

Speaking to StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in April, Moe said that while his state has made progress on ideas like data analytics, he thinks the buzz around new ideas distracts from progress.

“It’s not that I’m tired of [data analytics] — it’s something that we want to move forward with,” Moe says. “[But states must focus on] making sure you ask the right questions for analytics and get that done. I think that’s the ‘so what?’ test.”

With regard to data analytics, Moe says Virginia has the right tools to analyze the data, but the next step is determining the business needs the state should address.

“How do I take that information from that data and use it as an actionable event?” Moe says. “It’s just one of those things that I say, ‘OK, it’s not analytics [itself], it’s what you do with it.’”

And that’s something that the state addresses annually through the Governor’s Data Analytics Summit. The summit tackles different topics each year and brings together the state government, local government and civic technology communities to look at those issues.

The 2017 summit — held in conjunction with the state Department of Health and Human Resources — tackled creating data value, governance, open data, machine learning and several other topics.

The state also holds an annual Datathon — a two day civic tech showcase devoted to developing specific solutions to problems. In 2016, the state focused on workforce innovation. Later this year, the state will tackle the opioid crisis, Deputy Secretary of Technology Tony Fung told StateScoop earlier this year.

Events like the data summit and the Datathon are all centered around bringing in outside entities — public or private — to collaborate with the state IT agency.

“Collaboration is a very low profile cost model,” Moe says. “It’s a forum for companies to come and demonstrate their products, demonstrate their ideas in a safe environment with the agencies.”