Why Ohio aspires to be ‘the next Amazon’ for user experience

Since becoming Ohio’s statewide chief information officer in January, Ervan Rodgers has made citizen-centric government and a new innovation initiative the central pillars of the state’s Office of Information Technology. In a recent interview with StateScoop, Rodgers says these efforts are continuing on to 2020 with the goals of enabling the state government to make better-informed decisions and to improve operational efficiency, ultimately with the goal of improving life for all the state’s citizens.

Rodgers is leading the InnovateOhio initiative alongside Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, collecting data from across state agencies, boards and commissions to inform policy and spur economic growth through what the state calls an “integrated and scalable” platform.

“Innovation is key and critical to how we see the State of Ohio evolving,” Rodgers says. “We want to evolve not only as a state, the services that we’re providing to customers, but we want to also be able to be that innovation hub to be able to attract businesses.”

According to the state’s InnovateOhio website, key projects under the initiative include improving user experience, digital identity and data analytics. Rodgers flagged the opioid addiction trend as a timely concern to which smarter use of state data could be applied.

“If we’re able to pull those data points together based on the issue at hand, we’re able to make more intelligent decisions, direct those resources to where they need to be in a timely fashion so we can address epidemics such as the opiate crisis, everything from children with foster care who are being affected by those parents that are being affected,” Rodgers says.

Rodgers also says new uses of data and technology are improving the state’s operations, including giving case workers iPads for data entry, rather than taking paper notes and entering them into computers later. Together, the CIO says, all these efforts can combine to provide a citizen-centric experience that improves convenience and quality of life for everyone.

“We want to be that next Google, if you will, or that next Amazon,” he says. “We want to deliver that same experience. Soon citizens will demand that type of service from us and we want to be ready from a technology perspective.”

Rodgers on data and analytics:

“It’s citizen-centric, data-driven. Our governor wakes up every morning and he wants to make decisions but he wants to make decisions based on data.”

Rodgers on identity and access management:

“We are really trying to ensure we’re putting the citizen first.”

Rodgers on how he sees his role changing in the future:

“Really that role is along the lines of collaboration outside of the government walls. We’re working with private industry. Again, we want to make Ohio a bed of innovation where we’re attracting companies and innovations.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 2019.