Service sector

Rhode Island CIO Bijay Kumar leaves state service

Rhode Island CISO Brian Tardiff is now acting chief of the state’s IT department as Bijay Kumar leaves for the private sector, Kumar said. Government Technology. The state will conduct a national search for a permanent replacement.

“We have built a very successful management team,” Kumar said. “That’s why I feel good about leaving; we’ve been planning the succession and have an incredible team with skills that didn’t even exist when I arrived.

Kumar has served as the state’s chief information officer and chief digital officer since 2017, after being recruited by Hasbro by former Governor Gina Raimondo.

“I took the job to serve, to do public service,” Kumar said.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit a few years into his tenure, and Kumar said he wanted to stay long enough to see the state through it. He is now returning to the private sector, with a global technology leadership position in a company in the same retail/consumer packaged goods/media and entertainment space in which he previously worked.

Kumar joined the state at a turbulent time, following the 2017 resignations of the state’s Chief Digital Officer and Director of Social Services, who left following the implementation of a health services portal and of social services in difficulty, plagued by problems with the payment of benefits.

“One of the main reasons the previous governor hired me was to turn around the health and human services program,” Kumar said.

That wasn’t the only obstacle either: the state didn’t have an IT leadership team at the time and only received a mere C grade in the 2018 Digital States survey.

And, like all states, Rhode Island has had to respond to the pandemic.

In the 2020 Digital States survey, Kumar righted the ship, launching Rhode Island to a B+ score. Kumar also racked up other accolades during the year, including winning a BostonCIO Orbie Price in 2021.

As CIO and chief data officer, Kumar worked to build a competitive IT leadership team that attracted members from the private sector, National Guard, and military.

He also emphasized adopting a longer-term strategy.

“A fundamental thing we did was look at IT strategy beyond a time-limited approach,” Kumar said.

This meant acknowledging that technology persists beyond the tenure of the current executive branch or IT department manager and establishing three- to five-year IT plans that could outlast their terms.

Rhode Island also suffered a malware incident early in his tenure, and Kumar worked to advance cyber posture. It recommends actions such as promoting ecosystem-wide cybersecurity awareness training, building a strong cybersecurity leadership team, and actively participating in the Sharing and Communication Center. Multi-State Information Analysis (MS-ISAC) as well as partnering with the National Guard, State Police and the private sector. .

In 2019, the state launched a first statewide hotline where residents could report cybercrimes.

The team has also implemented a variety of technological solutions to help meet the needs created by the pandemic. This included the implementation of a vaccination and contact tracing system, enabling remote work and the use of AI tools to help monitor the flood of unemployment insurance claims to identify potential frauds, Kumar said.

Kumar said he left the IT department in good hands.

“Rhode Island has the most successful team in its history and an incredible management team,” he said. “So [when] I’m considering leaving, the impact will be minimal, because we have an IT strategy, which is public, we have advanced processes and we have a good extended management team. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, they just need to polish the strategy and move forward with the progress they make.