GovTech: Q&A with Technology Agency Secretary Carlos Ramos

By Steve Towns, Government Technology

Carlos Ramos was appointed California CIO by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. He’s spent more than two decades at various state agencies, including several years leading California’s Office of System Integration.

Why does the governor’s 2012-2013 budget proposal shift the California Technology Agency into a consolidated administrative agency that handles procurement, IT and human resources?

The proposal has to be looked at in the larger context. The governor is trying to group together like functions and organizations across state government. So he has proposed to move our agency into a large agency called the Government Operations Agency, which would consolidate departments that do cross-cutting governmental administrative operations. The idea is to make government more effective and efficient. In terms of functions, mission and authority, that really doesn’t change. We’ll have all the power we need to continue to do our job, and the head of the organization will still be the state CIO. I think it makes it easier to align some of the external factors that often are critical to the success or failure of an IT operation.

Brown also slashed the number of cellphones used by state employees in 2011. Is he anti-technology?

You’d have to be a casual observer of what’s going on in California government to come to the conclusion that he is anti-technology. He is not. The governor sees technology as a driver of California’s economic competitiveness. He’s made trips to Silicon Valley to meet with tech companies and gets very involved to see that they have the government support they need to be successful. The things that he laid out as challenges for me were to use technology to make government more effective, efficient and responsive to consumers, so I think that he very much sees the potential and the promise of technology.

Your predecessor, Teri Takai, is a rock star in the government CIO business. Where will you put your stamp on California’s IT organization?

Teri had the right idea about what needed to happen: consolidation, centralization, making better use of technology across the enterprise, and leveraging and reusing components. Now that the train is on the track, my job is to see that it gets all the way to the station. I am trying to put in place a collaborative governance structure and a collaborative policy and standard-setting process — and really engaging the tech community to make sure they buy into the concept.

What are you doing today from a technology perspective that you never would’ve imagined two or three years ago?

We are going hard and heavy into the mobility space. We have developed and launched a resources kit for public-sector agencies where we have a template for ready-made application launching, so folks can develop stuff in a couple of hours. It leverages social media and some of the cloud technologies that are out there for mapping. It’s location-aware and free. So we are moving into the space rapidly.

This story is published with permission from Government Technology.

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