UI to help Illinois become first 'smart state'

UI to help Illinois become first 'smart state'

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois and the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications today will announce a partnership aimed at helping the state address data analytics, cybersecurity and other technology issues.

The partnership is part of a larger initiative in the Rauner administration aimed at making Illinois a "smart state," using technology to help improve Illinois' economy, retain and attract residents and make government more efficient.

"Illinois is recognized nationally as the first state which has a vision and a road map to becoming a smart state," said Hardik Bhatt, secretary designate and chief information officer in the year-old Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology.

"You hear a lot about smart cities, but we are the first one that is talking about a smart state and how do we use technology — mobility, analytics, cybersecurity — to make the government efficient, improve customer service and also eventually impact the economic growth of the state."

The foundation of the partnership with the NCSA, Bhatt said, "is built on making Illinois a smart state."

Soon, he said, the partnership will be extended throughout the university's system, using faculty members and students at all three campuses.

"We have this great asset in Illinois and it's about time that we find synergy to use it," he said.

Michael Hites, the UI's chief information officer and senior associate vice president for administrative information technology services, called the work with the state government "extremely exciting."

"I've worked with Hardik for a little over a year because he's in the process of transforming the way IT looks in the state of Illinois," Hites said. "They're rapidly looking at modern new technologies in analytics. If you've heard of the internet of things, every device that's out there is going to have some connectivity to the internet and devices will talk to each other and we'll talk to those devices and there will be a synergetic relationship. He's trying to bring that into state government."

The state government has used the UI's technological and human assets before, Hites said, "but not for something this coordinated across the state."

"When he talks about the smart state initiative that is trying to affect life in Illinois, that is trying to have more businesses come here, that's different because we have this grand challenge in front of us about how to improve life in the state of Illinois," Hites said.

The partnership will help various state agencies crunch data to work on everything from making health care more efficient to reducing recidivism in the criminal justice system to lessening congestion on roadways.

"They know all of those big challenges and that's the idea behind the partnership: You could get the UI, which is doing cutting edge research in these things at the NCSA, and people at UIUC to work on these projects so that our research gets to be directly impacted into the state goals," Hites said.

Bhatt said that UI President Tim Killeen — who said that the partnership will help "make Illinois a place where the world turns for pioneering research" — has been helping the state's "overall technology transformation" along with UI faculty members.

"The state has not invested for many years in building these kinds of tools and talent around analytics. So with the help of the University of Illinois, we can start building that," he said.

One issue, he said, is the 20 percent or so of Illinoisans who use 80 percent of health and human services.

"How do we make them more self-sufficient so that they don't have to depend so heavily on state services and we can start freeing up dollars on others? That's one big health and human services question," Bhatt said. "That requires tremendous analytics about who is using it and why they came into the system and what factors drive them, and how can we start changing the trajectory of their lives? All of that requires analytics."

Another issue in need of analytics is the criminal justice system, he said.

"How do we track an individual from arrest to parole because that individual is going through multiple jurisdictions, starting with the local police department, into the county courts, into the correctional facility at the state and then getting back into the community?" Bhatt said. "How do we start integrating the data vertically and also using analytics to see how we can reduce this whole recidivism issue we have?"

The partnership with the NCSA is the first step in the UI/state of Illinois arrangement, Bhatt said.

"Once we get this in place — we're moving extremely fast — we'll start putting the project list together and deciding how do we put a plan into action," Bhatt said. "We break everything into 75-day chunks. Our goal was to get this partnership done in the 75-day chunk that ends on February 15.

"We'll continue moving fast. I'm hoping we can do these things in weeks rather than months."

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David Green wrote on February 02, 2017 at 1:02 pm

This self-gratifying hocus pocus by highly paid technocrats does nothing to address fundamental issues.

Anonymous71 wrote on February 03, 2017 at 7:02 am

A self-gratifying comment by a low-paid burger flipper also does nothing to address the fundamental issues. 

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