Connected Nation

On the road: 2024 Govtech Digital Government Summit (Part 1)

June 11, 2024 Jessica Denson Season 5 Episode 19
On the road: 2024 Govtech Digital Government Summit (Part 1)
Connected Nation
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Connected Nation
On the road: 2024 Govtech Digital Government Summit (Part 1)
Jun 11, 2024 Season 5 Episode 19
Jessica Denson

The Connected Nation Podcast is back on the road today in Lexington, Kentucky at the 2024 Govtech Digital Government Summit. In this episode, our host, Jessica Denson, speaks with the Executive Director of State Programs at Connected Nation, the CIO of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, and an account executive at Dynatrace.

Stay tuned to our socials this week to listen to parts 2 and 3 of the Digital Government Summit podcast coverage!

Part 2 - click here
Part 3 - click here

Recommended Links:
Tim LeDonne's LinkedIn
Connected Nation

Liz Rodgers' LinkedIn

Marjan Irannejad's LinkedIn
Spurlock Seasonings

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The Connected Nation Podcast is back on the road today in Lexington, Kentucky at the 2024 Govtech Digital Government Summit. In this episode, our host, Jessica Denson, speaks with the Executive Director of State Programs at Connected Nation, the CIO of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, and an account executive at Dynatrace.

Stay tuned to our socials this week to listen to parts 2 and 3 of the Digital Government Summit podcast coverage!

Part 2 - click here
Part 3 - click here

Recommended Links:
Tim LeDonne's LinkedIn
Connected Nation

Liz Rodgers' LinkedIn

Marjan Irannejad's LinkedIn
Spurlock Seasonings

Jessica Denson (00:08):

This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds with talk technology topics, and impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods. For today's podcast, we're taking you on the road to the Digital government Summit, which is taking place in Lexington, Kentucky. The summit is hosted by Govtech. So far today I've talked to the executive director of state programs for Connected Nation, the CIO of Lexington, and a woman who works for a company who says they were doing AI before AI was cool. I'm Jessica Denson, and this is Connected Nation. I'm at the Digital Government Summit in Lexington, Kentucky, and I have run into one of my coworkers, my peers, Tim Ladon, who is the executive director of state programs. Welcome Tim.

Tim LeDonne (00:57):

Thank you, Jessica. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Jessica Denson (01:00):

Tell me what's going on today. What are we doing here?

Tim LeDonne (01:03):

So today is a digital government summit, like you mentioned, which I sit on the advisory board and we basically have technology leaders throughout the area, specifically in state and local government out here to listen to current trends, network and interact with providers.

Jessica Denson (01:22):

And so you have everybody from ISPs to WHO to government leaders, what other kind of people?

Tim LeDonne (01:29):

That's right. The CEO of Lexington is, or the CIO, excuse me, of Lexington is out here. There are state and government representatives from the Commonwealth Office of Technology, the Department of Education, the educational labor cabinet state, and local agencies that have some sort of technology group within their agency are out here represented.

Jessica Denson (01:51):

So I know we're only about an hour, hour and a half into the event, but what have you seen so far that you've liked and what are you looking forward

Tim LeDonne (01:57):

To? So we had a really good keynote speaker and he spoke on the age of digital disruption and moving forward and faster. It's all about AI or as he presented it, synthetic intelligence. So just talking about how to embrace artificial intelligence and use that to help make your organization much more efficient.

Jessica Denson (02:18):

And what are you looking forward to hearing today?

Tim LeDonne (02:20):

I'm specifically interested in the advancement of technology broadband, specifically in the state of Kentucky. So later on today, we do have a speaker that we contract with directly, Megan Sandfoss with the Kentucky Office of Broadband Development. She's just going to speak and update everyone on the advancement of proposed fiber technology throughout the state.

Jessica Denson (02:44):

Megan is doing a lot of really great things for the state when it comes to broadband. Right?

Tim LeDonne (02:47):

Absolutely, yeah, yeah, advancing it tremendously.

Jessica Denson (02:50):

Talk a little bit about what the broadband office is doing, which she leads.

Tim LeDonne (02:54):

So she has a significant amount of funding from the feds, about 1.1 billion, and the goal is to provide fiber to the home in every hill and holler of Kentucky.

Jessica Denson (03:09):

That's great.

Tim LeDonne (03:09):

So her job is basically to identify where we have it, where we don't and where we need to put it. So she interacts with a lot of the other governmental agencies, but a lot of the providers to make sure that we have a plan to implement a good broadband coverage throughout the state.

Jessica Denson (03:26):

And as the executive director of state programs for Connected Nation. Talk a little bit about what your role is. You help states all across the country, correct?

Tim LeDonne (03:36):

That's right, that's right. So Connected Nation is involved in about 17 states and territories throughout the US right now. And what we're doing mostly is we're helping with their bead funding. The same thing that I just spoke about earlier, that Megan's going to talk about specific to Kentucky, and we're just helping states and consulting with states to make sure that they spend their funds effectively and efficiently and have a good plan going into it and help them get through that.

Jessica Denson (04:04):

All right. Well, what do you hope to see for Kentucky and other states that you help in the future?

Tim LeDonne (04:09):

Coverage everywhere. Really. Every hill and holler, not just in Kentucky, but throughout the United States. We don't want to repeat ever again what we did when Covid came around and kids had issues receiving instruction from teachers at school and issues with people going to work and being able to work. So we want to make sure that that doesn't happen again.

Jessica Denson (04:30):

And what if a state program director for state broadband office or something would like to talk with Connect Nation? What should they do? How should they get ahold of you?

Tim LeDonne (04:38):

Oh yeah, just reach out to us via email, look for us on the internet. We're all over the place. Listen to our podcast and respond to those and we'd be happy to give back to you.

Jessica Denson (04:48):

Alright, thank you so much, Tim. I really appreciate your time. Sure, thank you. I'm at the Digital Government Summit in Lexington, Kentucky, and I'm with Liz Rogers who is the CEIO of, excuse me, I'm sorry. Lexington Fayette, urban County Government. I wanted to make sure I got it right. So I was looking at her name badge. Thank you so much, Liz for joining me.

Liz Rodgers (05:05):

Thanks for having me.

Jessica Denson (05:07):

Tell me what's going on today and why you are here.

Liz Rodgers (05:10):

What's going on today is state and local. IT leaders, individual contributors, people from all across the technology spectrum are gathering to talk about their common challenges and their ideas for solving them. They're here to hear from vendor partners about how they can contribute to that strategic vision. They're learning about what's on the forefront in the industry, what's coming next, and how that's going to impact us and our teams and our forward strategies for the agencies that we support and reconnecting with familiar faces and learning some fresh ones.

Jessica Denson (05:55):

So I can imagine that during the pandemic, anybody who was in a politics heard it from everyone, I need a better connection. I need help. So are you really tackling this now and thinking long-term with how can we better connect people or what are the technologies that we need to look toward? Well, what is your focus?

Liz Rodgers (06:14):

My focus really, so fortunately the area that I support, Lexington and Fayette County and Kentucky, it is fairly well connected. We've got a few pockets of low density locations that are still a little bit challenged. We're looking forward to hoping to solve those problems in the next couple of years with a lot of provider activity in the area. But my concern is more about kind of creating a virtual city hall for our residents to engage with government. Lexington is starting to skew younger. Those citizens and residents demand an online interaction with their government. They don't want to, in many cases, drive down to city Hall to fill out paper forms or go through a lengthy application process that requires in person or even a phone call in some cases. So really my focus has been on creating digital experiences for the people who live here.


Just bringing government and those services closer to them and more accessible to them. Digital democratization, early factors into that. We want to make sure that that's a level playing field for everyone who lives in the community. So that's really where my area of focus is. Fortunately, that aligns really, really well with my colleagues across the other business verticals and city government from public works to our social services groups, to everybody who has some sort of outreach in the community realizes that they have to utilize technology strategically to be able to meet their missions as well. And they're willing to work with me on that, which is awesome.

Jessica Denson (08:04):

Yeah, I definitely think it's something most people can agree on that we need to look forward on technology. This is a national podcast. So I do want to say that the Lexington area is one of the fastest growing areas in Kentucky. You can't throw stone without seeing a little bit of construction. It's true. So how are you working in plans to connect and become technology forward looking, I guess is what I'm trying to say while you're doing all this construction.

Liz Rodgers (08:32):

So fortunately, I think Lexington, maybe uniquely, particularly in this part of the country, has been very focused on making technology part of that city infrastructure. My predecessor, actually previous CIO, did a whole lot of the legwork when it came to making sure that Lexington was a gig city, that the denser areas were covered in solid fiber optic infrastructure alongside with all the other traditional construction projects that are going on. There's not a competition there. There's plenty of room for everyone. So we have been very intentional in trying to figure out how to merge those activities to create a city that is completely accessible, whether it's by road or by the information super highway as it were.

Jessica Denson (09:37):

And do you think that's even more important? This is the home of uk, university of Kentucky, and so education is a big deal here as well in most cities, but even more so I would say since it's a college town, would you say

Liz Rodgers (09:52):

Since it's a college town? Well, and it's not only a college town, we do find oftentimes those graduates stick around. They stay in this community. So yeah, I think creating that experience that allows them to really leverage technology throughout their learning and their post K 12 studies and everything, and then kind of have that move seamlessly into employment is beneficial to the city in so many ways. It creates this ecosystem of talent that benefits us across the board. It creates a connection to the community, multi-generational in the cases where we're luck. So I think that's an important part. We work very closely with the University of Kentucky on projects that we think can benefit in both dimensions, their community and ours, and really, really exciting things happening on both sides.

Jessica Denson (10:55):

Okay. Last question. I know you're in a hurry on several panels today. People are looking forward to hearing from you what is, because you are speaking on these different panels, what are some advice that you would offer other CIOs or other leadership across the country when they're dealing with technology and trying to move towards being a gig city?

Liz Rodgers (11:17):

Advice for CIOs when it comes to how to operate within the government that you're supporting, you have to become obsessed with your colleagues lines of business. You have to understand what's happening in public works, what's happening in your financial department. You really have to understand what their mission is, what their immediate commitments are, because that's where our opportunities come from. We have to learn how to solve those problems. So we have to have real connection and a real obsession with our colleagues in those other verticals. When it comes to the community outreach part of it, there are Lexington's residents are very engaged. They have many channels and many opportunities for sharing with their local government what their concerns are and what their priorities are. And we have to tap into those. We have to figure out where those exist, and we have to tap into that feedback and be able to meet that in a way that resonates with the community. So I think that'd be my best advice. You have to keep an ear to the rail with the community, and then you have to maintain an equal focus on the internal operations and make sure that you are enabling and supporting their collective missions as well. And that all wraps up into a really nice place to live for the residents. Yeah,

Jessica Denson (12:53):

Lexington is a great place. It

Liz Rodgers (12:55):

Really is. Lexington's a wonderful place to live or to visit or to work or to play in. It's diverse. It's a thriving community, really exciting and still growing. So we're excited.

Jessica Denson (13:08):

Well, I know you have several panels to talk to, and I know you have limited time, so I won't keep you too long. That's true. But thank you so much, Liz.

Liz Rodgers (13:14):

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate you guys being here today.

Jessica Denson (13:18):

I am at the Digital Government Summit in Lexington, Kentucky, which Govtech is putting on, and I have been wandering around the vendor booths, and there's one that really caught my eye. That's because there's a bunch of spices, different kinds of spices on here. Southern style spices. No salt, no sure, no fat. I don't like that one. But I asked to speak to Marjon. Don't kill me. Say your last name for me. I want to get it wrong. Marja, Iran. Did I do it right? All right. She is with Dynatrace and she is an account executive who handles state, local and education. Talk a little bit about what Dynatrace is and your role.

Marjan Irannejad (13:57):

Sure. So as you mentioned, Marja, Iran. I'm the state and local and education representative. I manage accounts and cabinets within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We're here to talk about what we do for Dynatrace. Dynatrace is an observability platform. So what that means is we provide the ability to allow our customers to have access to their important applications when they need them. So the user experience becomes very critical these days. So we help kind of manage that experience and help it folks understand where problems are and where they can go to fix them.

Jessica Denson (14:37):

So do you work, you don't work at the individual level, you work with state governments, local governments, education institutions. What are some things that you're seeing that they're really needing right now?

Marjan Irannejad (14:48):

So I think one of the biggest things that we're hearing across the board is enhancing the user experience, right? Because since Covid, we've had a lot of cases where customers needed to access a particular service that they couldn't have access to. So we help understand where are some of those issue areas when they're trying to access a service, and how can we get to them before the users so that we can fix those issues so that they have access to all the critical services that they need. So that's one piece. Another piece is security. Right now security is very important. So we help kind of augment what the security folks are doing within these agencies by helping them see what the vulnerabilities are within their applications so that they can get to them before it becomes critical.

Jessica Denson (15:39):

There's several panels that deal with AI today, and AI is the thing that everybody is talking about lately. Is that really something that's in this sphere that you guys are looking at?

Marjan Irannejad (15:49):

So it's interesting that you say that because when we built our platform from the ground up back in 2016, the piece that really is our secret sauce is our AI engine. It's called Davis, and it's a woman. So the AI engine is actually the core of what we do. Our AI capability is really around hyper modal and causational ai because we're actually going out and finding the cause of an issue where right now a lot of talk is about generative ai. How can I look at something or ask a question? Our system really works behind the scenes. Our AI works behind the scenes to find those critical issues within an application so that folks aren't having to sift through that data to try to figure it out. Our AI does that for you.

Jessica Denson (16:41):

Did Dynatrace just say, oh, we see this coming and so we're going to jump in before the big move? Or was it something that a lot of companies were doing and working in 2016, as you said?

Marjan Irannejad (16:54):

No, I don't think a lot of companies had even a vision of what AI was back in 2016. I think it's a testament to our leadership, and they saw an opportunity to use that capability to bring something to the market. And if you look at our competitors, none of 'em were really doing what we do, and they still really don't do the modal capability that we have. So I think that's why we're a leader on the magic quadrant with Gartner 13 years in a row. I think it's a testament to the way we manage our ai.

Jessica Denson (17:30):

And what are you looking for next? Think's next on the horizon? Have you been talking about that yet? Or is it where you're at, where you are now and that's where you're going to sit for a bit? Or is there something you're looking forward

Marjan Irannejad (17:44):

To? So specific to Dynatrace or, yeah. Okay. I think one of the biggest pieces right now for us is the amount of data that's being captured in agencies or commercials. So how do you take all this data and really make sense of that data? So we are doing a lot of work from that side of it to help customers take all that data into a data lake, so to speak, and make sense of it so that we're using that AI capability to help 'em enhance the way the data is being captured and also understanding what that data really means. So I think that's kind of the next generation.

Jessica Denson (18:27):

Dynatrace. Is it a national organization or is it regional?

Marjan Irannejad (18:31):

It is a worldwide organization. Our headquarters is in Waltham, Massachusetts. We actually have two Detroit, Michigan as well, but we are all over. We're worldwide. We have a North America apac. We work with folks in South America, so we've expanded. We're about 1.6 billion in revenue and growing.

Jessica Denson (18:53):

Well, I'll include a link to your company in the description of this podcast so people can look at you up. Meanwhile, I can't let you go until we talk about what's happening at this table, which I'll take a picture of for our audience so they can look at it. But there's all these spices. This definitely Are these, what is it, Spurlock Seasonings. Is this your secret sauce to get people to get here?

Marjan Irannejad (19:14):

It's certainly our spice sauce. My marketing manager, Jen, she's very creative, and so when we go to these events, she tries to find local vendors that we can support.

Jessica Denson (19:30):

Oh, that's a fantastic idea.

Marjan Irannejad (19:32):

Yeah, so she found this particular company, small business, and she ordered the spices. We thought it would great to have Kentucky seasoning, and it's been a hit, so

Jessica Denson (19:42):

Well. I'll include a link to that company as well. Thank you so much. Again, Marja Iran. Jean, did I get it right? Yeah. With Dynatrace. Thank you so much.

Marjan Irannejad (19:51):

Thank you so much.

Jessica Denson (19:57):

Still ahead today, we'll have more from the Digital Government Summit taking place in Lexington, Kentucky, and hosted by govtech. I'm Jessica Sen. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connected or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.

Tim LeDonne joins
Liz Rodgers joins
Marjan Irannejad joins
Conclusion + Outro