Q&A: James Collins’ on growing Delaware’s broadband footprint
During his time as Delaware’s chief information officer, James Collins has worked to improve the quality and scope of the state’s broadband internet service, developed cybersecurity partnerships and implemented cloud strategies to increase the efficiency of IT solutions. He took some time to speak about how Delaware’s Department of Technology & Information is trying to help state residents.
Q: How important is it for Delaware to improve its broadband service?
James Collins: I’m super happy that [Gov. John Carney] is supportive and has made it a priority to expand broadband. If you want to have any innovation discussion, and you don’t have broadband, you are in trouble. You don’t have mobile communication. You don’t have telemedicine. You don’t have kids using technology in schools. One example is Delaware’s $8 billion-a-year agricultural industry. You’d be surprised if you went down on the farm how much technology they use, for the planters, the harvesters and in the chicken house. They’re not having any conversation without broadband.
Q: How successful have you been, and what are you targeting now?
JC: Delaware is nationally recognized for its broadband access. It’s in the top three in the country for access and speed. But a lot of that is concentrated in New Castle County and some parts of Kent County. When you get down into Kent and Sussex Counties, where there isn’t as dense a population, it’s not as good. Broadband providers want to be where there are the most people. We’ve used grant funds to incentivize them to move into those areas.
Q: Can you describe the work you have been doing with big data?
JC: I think the term “big data” is relatively new, but data analytics has been around for a long while. We’re taking different data sets and merging them together to give us insights we didn’t have. Across many enterprises, such as finance and banking, health care and government, big data is about using analytics and data to get insights you didn’t have before, how to market them and where to target them.
Q: How is your use of big data concepts helping with the Family Services Cabinet Council?
JC: The Family Services Cabinet Council was created by an executive order to bring together all cabinet members whose agencies provide services to the public. It includes housing, corrections, safety and homeland security. Its goal is to target the services to where there is the biggest demand. We’re trying to determine how to take the resources we have and make the biggest impact. You’d be surprised how much of that work leads back to data.
Q: What are some of the other initiatives you are beginning?
JC: We’re starting to do some due diligence around the use of blockchain technology. We’re also starting to see some growth in artificial intelligence, and we’re looking at how we can use that to provide services to citizens. ID