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also identify and prioritize areas they want to leapfrog old technology to get up-to-date, after which the center helps coordinate the appropriate state, vendor and university partners, Ross said. Among the technologies tested are social media listening tools, interactive kiosks, Office 365, mobile field applica- tions and computing devices (smart- phones, tablets, thin and zero clients and laptop computers), beacon technol- ogy and virtualized desktops. “One theory that that group came up with is around cloud and virtual technol- ogy, so we did a pilot with hosted virtual desktop and virtual applications,” Ross said. “We worked with a number of ven- dor partners to put together a pilot that lasted roughly six months. Through that process we learned a lot about what the requirements are, we learned a lot about our own technology, we learned a lot about how that technology would work internally and we also had a number of different agencies that were involved in that test.” Part of the evaluation included analyses of what users would need and mapping the results to a virtual technol- ogy to see how a new technology could meet those needs. Advantages of virtual include the ability to access the desktop and applications on any device from anywhere as long as there’s an Internet connection. “That’s a big focus for the governor as far as empowering the next-generation workforce as well as all of the cabinet agencies,” Ross said, which is why that evaluation was a top priority. The duration of the tests ranges from a few weeks to a few months, depend- ing on the technology. So far, iCenter has tested about 20 products and has four more in the queue, he said. iCenter has no budget; partners cover evaluation costs, Ross added. Because the center is part of Estes’ office, most of what’s tested is for enterprise use, although it has studied a specific product for one or two agencies. “The idea is that a particular test could be emulated and used across multiple agencies because we’re trying to gain efficiencies,” he said. “Most of the agen- cies, at least in North Carolina, have been operating as independent entities, so there’s a good bit of duplication of infrastructure and services. We’re trying to enable, by bringing all these folks together, a way to leverage the scale and skills we need to work together as a team.” In the private sector, the innovation function is often integrated with the production process so there’s a market- forcing element, but in government it’s more about service and cost effective- ness, said Dan Chenok, executive direc- tor of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. • SUBSCRIBE TODAY Choose a GCN Newsletter... [ TODAY[ TODAY IT’S FREE! ] SIGN UP NOW: GCN.com/subscribe • GCN Tech • GCN Cloud & Virtualization • GCN Security • GCN Mobile • GCN Big Data & Analytics • GCN State & Local [BrieFing] 16 GCN SEPTEMBER 2014 • GCN.COM 16 GCN JANUARY 2015 • GCN.COM 0115gcn_006-016.indd 16 1/14/15 9:00 AM
November and December 2014