February 2, 2023
Michael "MJ" Jackson
Vice President and Global Head of Industries, Docusign
Industry Principal for Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, Zebra Technologies
Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of the Interior
Deputy Chief Information Officer, Department of Veteran Affairs
Roslyn Layton, PhD
Senior Vice President, Strand Consult, Visiting Researcher, Aalborg University Copenhagen
Having outdated processes in place — especially at the government level — has larger implications for the country as a whole and affects healthcare, the economy, and many other integral industries. Outdated processes create concerns around the security and accuracy of information, as well as efficiency in processes.
Many thought leaders in the technology industry are currently creating innovative solutions using digital tools to help connect constituents with local governments more securely and efficiently. During the U.S. Chamber’s inaugural Digital Transformation Summit, leaders in the public and private sectors discussed solutions to modernize outdated technology.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Highlighted Outdated Processes
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how outdated processes were harming distribution and communication. Paul Brubaker, Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department of Veteran Affairs, spoke to the difficulty of modernizing technology quickly to help outpatient clinics or hospitals remotely.
“We wound up relying pretty heavily on telehealth visits through the pandemic,” Brubaker said. “We went from 45,000 telehealth visits a month to 45,000 a day during the height of the pandemic. We really weren't ready from an infrastructure perspective to accommodate that.”
John Wirthlin, Industry Principal of Manufacturing, Transportation, and Logistics at Zebra, faced similar hurdles when it came to tracking packages during the pandemic.
“We were trying to find out where our ventilators [were] and what condition they [were] in, where our PPE [was],” Wirthlin explained. “And it kind of dawned on us that we have companies like Walmart that are putting RFID tags on all their items and having their suppliers do that. So why didn't we know where those properties [were and] what their condition was, but we knew where every package of underwear [was] in the supply chain in the store?”
According to Wirthlin, using new technology that could allow distributors to see the contents of a pallet without opening it or reading the purchase order would streamline this process and eliminate the guesswork.
The Future Requires Digitized Processes for Advancement
Having learned from the inefficiencies and breakdowns in communication experienced during the pandemic, thought leaders are now looking forward.
“We're acutely aware, based on our experience around COVID and the pandemic, that we have to transform these underlying business and mission-related processes,” explained Brubaker. “We want to get rid of as much paper as we possibly can, and move [forward] completely digitized.”
Michael “MJ” Jackson, Vice President and Global Head of Regulated Industries at DocuSign, seconded the idea of a digitized mindset moving forward to even the playing field in terms of access to information.
“Oftentimes when we talk about equity, we're talking about individuals who need to apply for services or benefits at the most vulnerable times in their lives,” Jackson said. “We want to ensure that everybody, regardless of socioeconomic background, ability, or disability, is able to do that. We want to start with a mobile-first mindset to ensure that everybody at least has access and the training to proficiently engage with those devices.”
Moving New Processes Forward Will Involve Government Cooperation
Though there is a real desire from many to move new innovations forward, there are various factors holding federal, local, and state organizations back from making the necessary investments.
Brubaker believes that “if we can take the friction out of the transaction — the retail transactions of the government in terms of how we interact, how we relate to the people that we serve — [we’re] not just going to see it, but [we’re] going to feel that level of transformation.”
Darren Ash, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of the Interior, added that it’s important to remember why change is important: to help people.
“I think really why we do this is for the people. It is for the citizen and for the mission and for staying focused on the right things,” he said. “This is not about technology for technology's sake.”