He loves a challenge and – with so many of us working from home – Minnesota’s Commissioner of IT Services, Tarek Tomes, is in his element. “If you love technology and love making a difference for people, you’re in the right place,” he says. Tomes adds that, with unprecedented numbers of people relying on technology for school and work from home, “Technologists wake up with bounce in their step right now.”

Perhaps it’s the coach and athlete in him that thrives under pressure. Tomes was the last commissioner Gov. Tim Walz selected in a process that took almost half a year. He came in with an enormous problem to solve: how to salvage the state’s failed licensing and registration system, MNLARS. “The biggest thing was MNLARS, delivering on DMV needs was going to be a really big challenge,” he recalls. “Little did we know that nine months later, 12 months later, our world was going to change. I think public sector technologists are really in a amazing space right now.”

As a record number of Minnesotans work from home, technology becomes a top-of-mind concern.

With the lack of connectivity for many communities in rural or impoverished areas, Tomes is also concerned about the resurfacing of the digital divide. “It’s incredibly heartbreaking and a personal concern of mine and others in cabinet,” he adds. Due to COVID-19, “You certainly see many of the disparities that already exist in our society are magnified through something like this. When you think about online learning…the role that potentially state government and technology plays in continuing to work on these disparities is really important.”

________________________________________________________________________

Sparked by the pandemic, Minnesota’s rural communities have also had to swiftly ramp up telehealth services so that patients don’t have to go without important medical check-ups and consultations. One Greater Minnesota reporter Kaomi Goetz examines how they’re leveraging digital technology as shelter-in-place orders continue.

In the time of the coronavirus, Minnesota’s arts educators have gotten creative in their approaches to keeping students inspired and motivated to continue pursuing even the most social of artistic genres. Find out how they’re leveraging digital technologies to keep students drawing, dancing, singing and performing.