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WATCH: Dewand Neely may not have intended to start a career in government, but has found a calling in helping deliver citizen-centric services and solve some of the nation’s most difficult problems.
Dewand Neely, chief information officer and director of the Indiana Office of Technology, didn’t expect to be where he is today, but it seems to have worked out well for him, the state and a number of its governors.
“It’s one of those right-place, right-time situations,” Neely told Route Fifty at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers annual conference in Austin, Texas last week. “It started out as a resume building effort and I thought it’d be temporary. But, 13 years later I fell in love with the public service and the mission that we have in my office around technology.”
Neely was appointed CIO under former Governor-turned-Vice President Mike Pence two years ago, and has continued in the role under Gov. Eric Holcomb.
“There’s definitely a different feel whenever you get a new governor,” Neely said.
“He challenged all the agency heads to come up with some things to take Indiana to that next level. Not only did he call those out in front of everyone and give us permission to go after them, [but] he sat and talked with everyone about those.”
Holcomb announced his priorities as five pillars in his 2017 State of the State address, outlining his vision for “Elevating Indiana to the Next Level in Its Third Century.” Neely believes that one aspect of the agenda particularly fits within his agency’s wheelhouse: “delivering a great service to the citizens of Indiana at a great value.”
Neely is hoping to help the state achieve the governor’s call by building better citizen engagement through technology and creating unified feel across multiple agencies for citizens.
“We’re looking at our four largest agencies that have the most touchpoints with the citizens and figuring out how can we make them seem more unified and give that citizen a more single experience and not have so much back and forth when dealing with those specific four agencies,” Neely explained. The end result will be a more seamless approach to multiple services citizens often access, providing a “more digital, modern feel” across the state of Indiana’s government.
Neely also spoke about how the state is also building upon its early success among states in building analytic models, harnessing government and public data to maximum effect, while keeping citizens’ personal data appropriately private and secure.
Indiana has a more mature data program than most. Where many states are still having trouble getting agencies to share various data sets, Neely believes the various agencies “got over some of those data concerns” a long time ago through common approaches to information technology and consolidation.
That doesn’t mean the state isn’t careful with how data is used, though. By building a strong data governance model, the state has classified programs anywhere from a “tier zero layer that stays completely internal in a protected area” to information that can be utilized much more publicly to solve difficult problems.
When it comes to data that is more public, “the goal there is to make that available wherever we can—not just for internal to the state but for educational areas and research areas and allow them to get creative and add assistance in that manner,” Neely said. “The goal is to have more partnerships outside of the state in the areas that aren’t as sensitive and leverage some of that crowdsource power and let them help us tackle that.”
Mitch Herckis is Senior Director of Programs for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.