By: Lauren Harrison, GovTech
Jonathan Askins took over as Arkansas chief technology officer and director of the state’s Division of Information Systems (DIS) at the end of 2020. While his career has primarily been in private industry, he has worked periodically on state initiatives, most recently as vice-chair of Arkansas’ Data Transparency Commission. GT talked to Askins in April about IT modernization, broadband, and why a government IT agency should be thinking like a business.
1. What brought you to government from the private sector?
Gov. Hutchinson was a customer of mine when I was at Acxiom and he was at the Department of Homeland Security, way back in the early 2000s. I got this phone call [about coming to the state] and I thought it would be pretty neat to try to implement his vision in an agency that really should be thinking like a business. When you’re talking about cost allocation and you’re pushing out to agencies, you’re a B2B company from a standpoint of providing good customer service and doing things right.
2. What’s the status of Arkansas’ ongoing data work?
We’re building out a statewide longitudinal data system, and DIS in particular is focused on the identity management and governance around that. Think of a typical hub-and-spoke diagram: I would not presume to hire data scientists that could talk about health and epidemiology. That’s the health department. They can run those kinds of analytics, but we will run the analytics around identity management, create the links and push that data back out to the agencies. From a governance standpoint, we want to make sure we don’t have any cowboys out there trying to share agency to agency without permissions. We try to make sure privacy policies are in place, and each agency gets “keys” or “IDs,” and my key [as a citizen] over in this agency might be 123 and in this agency, it’s 794, and there’s no way to make that match without coming back through [DIS].
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