California’s Digital Future: Insights from CTO Jonathan Porat

By Published On: March 14, 2024

State CTO Jonathan Porat speaks at the Government Innovation California Conference on March 13, 2024.

California’s Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Porat outlined his vision for California’s digital future, giving a bird’s eye view of the state’s goals and initiatives to help modernize, innovate, and increase its scope.  

At the Government Innovation California Conference on March 13 in Sacramento, Porat’s narrative of California’s digital vision aimed for inclusive and accessible services, redefining how residents interact with their state across various levels.

The state seeks to prioritize a service-first mentality and inclusivity, and Porat criticized past practices of simple digitization, advocating for a more comprehensive approach that considers broader policy goals.

“The thing that I find so frustrating is we spend all this time on modernization efforts, digital transformation efforts. But a lot of times all we’re doing is taking a paper process and putting it into a PDF format or using an application or website and just trying to translate an in-person process into something that you’re online,” Porat said.

Porat advocated for innovative digital transformation, moving away from traditional digitization towards services designed from scratch for digital platforms.

He identified government IT’s rigidity as a barrier to innovation. He calls for a more flexible approach to governance, fostering creativity and adaptability to drive innovation.

“When we’re coming up with guidance, we’re coming up with policy, when we’re coming up with approaches we need to be thinking ‘how can we create platforms and enable our partners and our community to better develop digital services,’ not create a bunch of specific individual rules that everyone needs to follow.”

Porat highlighted projects like build.ca.gov and the state-wide emergency alert system as examples of the strategy in action, showcasing innovative uses of technology to meet public needs.

Porat outlined three key focus areas in his speech: the California Design System, open data platform, and digital identification projects. All three initiatives aim to streamline digital services for enhanced user-friendliness and efficiency.

“We need to make sure that we’re empowering our community. Our partners of the state are partners in the for-profit space and the not for-profit space to work together to better serve our residents. We need everybody to work together and come together to be able to successfully implement the kind of services that we’re hoping for, especially based off of new technologies.”

 

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org