Pandemic advertised need for legacy IT upgrades, says Illinois CIO

Jennifer Ricker said the pandemic alerted some key state leaders to the need for legacy IT upgrades.

Like most state governments, Illinois still operates lots of old technologies, but the pandemic brought legacy modernization to the attention of some key decision makers, said Chief Information Officer Jennifer Ricker.

“In some ways, it really accelerated for us what we wanted to do anyway, and in other cases I would say the other benefit to this, it really drove home to the business partners that we work with at the agencies what we’ve been saying for years, which is this legacy technology is a problem, we need to modernize it,” Ricker told StateScoop in a video interview last month at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference.

Legacy IT is troublesome because it often can’t scale well to accommodate many users, as states’ unemployment insurance and health agencies especially experienced during the health crisis. Ricker said it’s also tough to link old systems to new technologies, like chatbots or virtual phone agents.

“Illinois has lots of legacy technology, thousands of different applications on just about every type of language and platform you can think of, so it was certainly on our roadmap prior to pandemic and we really accelerated that in a lot of ways, gave us opportunity as we saw how residents really interacted with the state and we were no longer able to serve them face-to-face in that brick-and-mortar environment as we had in the past,” she said.

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Illinois, Jennifer Ricker