In just a few short weeks, the crème de la crème of state IT dominions will gather for their first in-person event in 24 months. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) will convene their annual conference October 10-13 in Seattle. In addition to the 50 or so state CIOs, another 100 senior state and local government IT officials, and several hundred members of the state IT vendor community will join the gathering for lofty rhetoric; best practices recapitulation; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) sessions; and a major opportunity for networking.

The last several in-person conferences prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the spring midyear and the annual in the fall, have threatened to break the 1,000 attendee milestone. However, with the pandemic still persistent, and a number of states and major IT vendors continuing or re-instating ‘no travel’ policies, attendance will suffer somewhat, but NASCIO staff expect well over 500.

NASCIO events have always been enjoyed for their highly participatory and interactive nature. However, given the circumstances, and in an effort to continue providing this experience while keeping the health and safety of participants at the forefront, full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 PCR test (taken within 72 hours of arrival) will be required to attend the 2021 conference.

Participants will also be required to adhere to NASCIO’s mask policy, which currently mirrors the State of Washington Secretary of Health’s order on face coverings. Masking protocol may be revised to reflect changing pandemic-related circumstances and the latest guidance from appropriate public health officials. As of publication, attendees will be required to wear masks inside the hotel, and in the hotel’s outside venues.

It’s been hard enough for vendor attendees in the past with these crowds to search out and find a CIO to buttonhole for a few minutes. With masks, it will be even more of a challenge. However, I expect all attendees will overlook the inconvenience, and relish the NASCIO experience after the two-year exile from in-person attendance. I don’t have an official count but over these two years, NASCIO membership has experienced its typical ‘churn’ as there are nearly 20 new state CIO’s who have been appointed since the last in-person conference in October 2019. It will be a grand opportunity to meet them; even if it includes only a fist bump.

The conference agenda itself is rather familiar with several leadership-themed keynotes, and focused sessions on AI, cloud, cyber, IAM, digital services, workforce trends, and DEI. Plus, there will be the always popular review of NASCIO’s annual CIO survey, along with everyone’s favorite – Speed Networking & State CIO Q&A. Finally, there will be a session apropos for the last two years’ experience entitled – Leading through Complex Changes and Leadership Lessons Learned.

Plus don’t forget, the annual conference ushers in a new President of NASCIO. Having enjoyed that honor during my term as California CIO in the late 1990’s I am always pleased to welcome the new leader. Our friend, Mike Leahy, secretary of information technology and CIO for the State of Maryland, is the current NASCIO vice president. That position has traditionally assumed the presidency although a member election at the annual meeting would make it official. If that pattern holds, Mike will take over the reins from current President Denis Goulet, CIO for Vermont. Though perhaps premature, let’s plan to congratulate both.

Sounds like a great event. Look forward to seeing everyone there, with your mask on.

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John Thomas Flynn
John Thomas Flynn
John Thomas Flynn serves as a senior advisor for government programs at MeriTalk. He was the first CIO for the both the State of California and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and was president of NASCIO.