New York CTO says building digital services 'cannot be disruptive'

New York CTO Rajiv Rao said that while digital government is here to stay, it can't undermine existing vital services.

Two years of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic cemented nearly every government’s need to increase the focus on digital services. But as flashy as it can be to put commonly demanded public services on a mobile app, these innovations can’t be implemented if they undermine the functions they’re meant to improve, New York State CTO Rajiv Rao told StateScoop last month.

“The pandemic has taught us there is an expectation digital services are here to stay,” Rao said in an interview last month during the National Association of State Chief Information Officers‘ midyear conference. “Be it the DMV or unemployment or health and human services, we’re looking at all of them right now.”

The challenge, the chief technology officer said, is that agencies need to “reduce friction so citizens are able to leverage these services on a phone or iPad versus the traditional walk into a brick-and-mortar space.”

But there are always going to be some services that can only be handled through in-person transactions. And, Rao said, digital services need to be built without undercutting existing services.

“We cannot be disruptive,” he said. “We have to continue to deliver services while transforming to a new channel.”

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