Campbell: Policymakers need tech reassurance

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-State chief information officers and industry officials need to translate their technology concepts and ideas into practical policy terms, so nontechnical policymakers can comprehend and embrace those ideas, said the morning keynote speaker at the 2003 Annual Conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

Kim Campbell, the former prime minister of Canada, said a lack of understanding of the finer points of information technology coupled with a fear of making costly project mistakes can paralyze policymakers, such as governors and state lawmakers.

Campbell was Canada’s first woman prime minister and is a visiting professor of practice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“Many people are not comfortable with the technology you’re encouraging them to buy,” Campbell told the audience. “To be an effective [IT] advocate, you must understand the agenda of the person you’re trying to persuade.”

For state CIOs and industry officials to be effective marketing new ideas to governors and state lawmakers, they must consider how their technical recommendations will influence the states’ fiscal crises as well as understand how technical goals can be translated into policy goals and vice-versa, she said.

“You have to get your head inside public policy,” she said.

The existence of the state CIO is a recent phenomenon in the government world, Campbell said. As such, state CIOs are part of a “pioneering enterprise” that represent a new approach to government operations, she said.

Because of the newness of the function, state CIOs are engaged heavily in pioneering best practices in government, she said. The newness of the function also allows them to think in visionary terms that might not be afforded other state officials.

Forty-four state CIOs are among the more than 450 people from government and industry attending the three-day conference, which kicked off today.

William Welsh writes for Washington Technology magazine.

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