Connecting state and local government leaders

Illinois Interim CIO Discusses Continuing State’s Ambitious IT Agenda


Connecting state and local government leaders

Kirk Lonbom takes the helm at critical time for Illinois’ revitalized Department of Innovation and Technology.

Kirk Lonbom has served for two years as chief information security officer for the state of Illinois, but has a unique blend of information technology and security expertise that goes back years. Now, as interim chief information officer, Lonbom seems in the right place at the right time to help steer the state’s Department of Innovation and Technology and advise Gov. Bruce Rauner on looming public safety communications decisions.

Following roles as a uniformed police officer and an undercover detective, Lonbom worked in the world of intelligence analysis before ultimately becoming an IT leader. After information technology roles with the Illinois state police and emergency management agency, he was asked to serve as the Land of Lincoln’s chief information security officer.

“From a security perspective, it’s been an interesting mix of my career from the fact that I was in the enforcement arm, intelligence, and then into IT. So it was a nice time to come into the wonderful world of cybersecurity,” Lonbom explained. He was not pleased with the security footing in state agencies when he arrived, but believes Illinois now has a “comprehensive, business-focused IT security strategy.”

When former state CIO Hardik Bhatt left the position last month to join Amazon, Lonbom shifted into his boss’ role. Route Fifty spoke to Lonbom at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ meeting in Austin earlier this month, just two weeks after he was tagged with the interim CIO title.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Lonbom said of his new role.  While he described the shift as “drinking from the fire hose,” Lonbom believes due to the “inclusive” nature of Bhatt, and the fact that in his security role “we had our fingers and our eyes in just about everything,” the ambitious agenda that Bhatt was pushing would continue forward unabated.

Bhatt led a significant revision of how IT business was done in the state of Illinois. While the legislature and governor were at loggerheads, Bhatt was still able to consolidate 38 IT elements into the new Department of Innovation and Technology, now just over one-year-old.

“We’re going to continue our strategy, we have some very good, forward-leaning initiatives,” Lonbom said about the direction he expected DoIT to take moving forward. He cited the agency’s “smart state” initiatives, as well as exploration of utilizing blockchain technology for state government purposes as two examples of major undertakings where they are leading the nation.

The state also will have some major decision points on the horizon, including the governor deciding whether to “opt-in” to the nationwide public safety broadband network, FirstNet, or to build their own compatible telecommunications network that the state will be required to maintain.

The governor will be required to make a decision as to the project within the next two months; the results will impact the state for decades to come. Lonbom’s advice, based on his public safety and technology background, gives him some unique insight into that matter.

“Whether we opt-in or opt-out, we’re evaluating all alternatives, but the important thing is the nation has recognized the need for this type of connectivity and the opportunities are going to be endless,” Lonbom said.

Lonbom believes the state’s efforts cannot stop with that decision, explaining, “it’s partly our job to sell the business value” of the network to law enforcement so they adopt the network.

He is very excited about the applications, though—both in the near-term, like “visualization of data” and the more spectacular opportunities that people want to try, like “internet-connected firearms.” With this interconnected network providing windows to significant innovation in law enforcement, Lonbom remarked, “I think it won’t be too long before people will be jumping in.”

Mitch Herckis is Senior Director of Programs at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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