Digital future envisioned in governor’s budget

Published On: January 19, 2021

In his 2013 book “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom, laid out a bold vision for transformation of the state’s aging – and often failing – technology infrastructure. The goal was to improve how state services function and are delivered to better meet the needs of state government and of Californians.

While several projects have been launched since Newsom took office, the focus in 2020 has been on response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only drove home the need for modernization, but led to rapid deployment of some innovative solutions.

In the newly released Governor’s Budget Summary for 2021-22, the Government Operations Agency (GovOps), Department of Technology (CDT), Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) and Department of General Services (DGS) set out a comprehensive modernization agenda.

“The events of 2020 highlighted the urgent need to modernize government services in an online environment,” according to the summary. “The state recognizes the need to optimize technology infrastructure and investments, foster digital services, and use data to inform decision-making.”

The budget proposal includes over $31 million to enhance the state’s information technology infrastructure so that it’s secure and more stable to prevent future failures and enable easier recovery when they do occur.

Modernization projects proposed for the next budget year include: Development of a new CA.gov portal where digital state services can be found on a single website; a digital ID system for use across all state departments; acceptance of credit card payments for all public-facing departments; a move from paper to electronic forms; and an all-electronic process for regulations submitted for approval to the Office of Administrative Law.

With an eye toward making state processes and policies more equitable, GovOps also is proposing a $290,000 to establish the first Chief Equity Officer to oversee the creation of equitable policies, practices and metrics for hiring and procurement.

The state also aims to transform its procurement processes for a better vendor and state agency and department experience, according to the budget summary.

“The state needs to leverage its buying power as a force for economic recovery and equity, while also achieving better outcomes,” it states. “On the project delivery side, the state will no longer pursue large “rip and replace” capital IT projects. Instead, it is adopting a modular and iterative approach…”

In the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, ODI, established in 2019 to improve the online experience for people interacting with state government, moved quickly to support the state’s multi-faceted response.

COVID19.ca.gov was created in four days to serve as the web portal for all news and information related to the pandemic. The EDD Strike Team was set up to respond to multiple deficiencies in the online system for filing unemployment claims, working to understand and fix the problems that have led to massive pandemic-related fraud and frustration for users. ODI also created a prototype for a redesigned Ca.gov website, which utilized user research and efficient technology to make information easier to find and understand.

Because of challenges in transitioning employees to remote work during the pandemic, GovOps and DGS also launched an online resource to provide telework strategies and other support to agencies and departments. The budget summary anticipates an increase in telework over the long time, which is predicted to save money and conserve energy.

About the Author: Dorsey Griffith

Dorsey Griffith is a seasoned, strategic communications professional and veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors. She spent more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter focused on health and medicine with additional experience covering education, government and regional affairs.