California Information Technology Annual Report 2020: Leadership in a time of crisis
The California Information Technology has released their annual report and it focuses on leadership during times of crisis. Featured in the report is Riff City Strategies CEO Brian Purchia, civic innovators Jay Nath and Kamran Saddique, and venture capitalists Bill Trenchard and Josh Felser who working with the States tech team created a “central clearinghouse to identify solutions for immediate COVID response needs and beyond” after Covid hit. Read more State of CA’s below about the Tech Solutions Group (TSG) and how one of the solutions helped bring food to those in need.
“The Technology Solutions Group (TSG) was an informal team comprised of state technology leaders, private sector technology businesses and venture capital partners who shared similar concerns about the impact of COVID-related issues. Led by CDT and former advisor to the Governor Michael Wilkening, the TSG served as a central clearinghouse to identify solutions for immediate COVID response needs and beyond. Soon after it began, the group launched a web portal that offered organizations of all kinds an opportunity to submit Covid-related technology solutions to the state. After first convening in spring 2020, the team had many successes. It was instrumental in expediting emergency procurements for the state through a challenge-based approach, and helped the state evaluate numerous approaches to exposure notification, which led to the implementation of CA Notify. Along with the technology and venture capital sectors, the dedicated group included 21 student intern volunteers. Many of those young volunteers may turn out to be California’s future technology leaders and will remember the good work they did on behalf of California’s residents through their efforts as part of the Technology Solutions Group.”
STEPPING UP TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Venture capitalists Josh Felser and Bill Trenchard are busy professionals with their own successful businesses. Although heavily involved in their own work, they used the little time they had available to help others. Early in the pandemic, the two noticed that food banks were having trouble keeping their shelves stocked. Their research showed several reasons for the shortages, including a massive disruption of the food supply chain that made it difficult for food banks to find enough food; also, food banks were paying too much. They feared these shortages could affect California’s free lunch programs. Immediately, the pair shifted to volunteer mode to do something to help Californians who were facing food insecurity. Adept at technology and armed with determination, the duo pulled together a group of concerned professionals to talk about food insecurity issues and how best to help food banks locate and secure needed supplies. That group included the California Department of Technology (CDT), as well as Michael Wilkening, who was the Innovation and Digital Services Special Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom.
What resulted was the creation of the Technology Solutions Group (TSG); an informal team comprised of state technology leaders and private sector technology and venture capital partners who shared similar concerns about the impact of COVID-related issues. The purpose of the TSG was to serve as a central portal to provide equal access and transparency to organizations that have viable technologies, and to identify solutions that can meet the immediate need and beyond. The TSG looked at several food bank solutions in the market until they hit upon the right fit. The selected solution was a web-based marketplace of suppliers that could connect directly to food banks.
Working with TSG members and civic innovators Brian Purchia, Jay Nath and Kamran Saddique, the team built a special “food bank” customer designation portal for suppliers to sell discounted food. Best of all, the services were free to food banks. The portal went live in only a week and served as a food marketplace to connect farms and farmers with organizations in need… especially food closets. “I saw a way to use my network of people to solve large problems faster than they might normally take,” Felser said. “I wanted to contribute to the challenge in whatever way I could.” Trenchard agreed: “We have the best tech infrastructure in the world. California should be seen as a leader – a beacon on this.”