DMV Director Discusses Platform, Mobile Identity, Real ID Projects

Steve Gordon, the Department of Motor Vehicles’ director, provided an update on ongoing technology work around a new platform, mobile drivers' licenses or identity cards, and Real ID work, as well as areas of potential future procurement.

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Big decisions and large projects lie ahead this year for one of the state’s linchpin departments, which will make choices that could impact millions of Californians.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has done a series of significant smaller projects with Cambria Solutions, SimpliGov, UiPath and others that have helped it automate and modernize process – and virtualize services during the historic COVID-19 pandemic. But DMV Director Steve Gordon, who joined the department in July 2019, said a great deal of foundational IT work is underway to design and deploy a replacement for its larger platform, as well as a re-envisioning of its workplace and employee experiences. Among the takeaways:

  • DMV is working with two systems integrators that are expected to produce proofs of concept (POC) this summer for the Digital Experience Platform (DXP) project. One will become the department’s “platform of the future,” replacing many aspects of its legacy technology including COBOL. The project has been through a competitive bid process and the vendors will showcase two different examples of platforms upon which DMV’s technology could rest. The department chose its smallest representative area – occupational licensing, which includes vehicle dealerships – as an arena for the work and the two companies will stand up “parallel proofs of concept,” Gordon said, with basic occupational licensing functionalities. The director said DMV expects to make its choice between the two POC later this summer or by early fall at the latest. Once that happens, the rest of the occupational licensing area will be built out, followed by vehicle registration and vehicle licensing – on a three- to five-year horizon that envisions retiring the last module in five years.
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    DMV Director Steve Gordon
    “Today, we’re kind of halfway; we’re using SimpliGov forms, UiPath robotics and some other solutions like ABBYY that help us look like we’re digitally native but (are) kind of a short-term patch until we actually get on a digitally native platform,” Gordon told Techwire on Monday.
  • As tipped in the May revision of the governor’s proposed budget, the state would – if the Legislature approves that budget – provide resources for “a new Mobile Identity (mID) Program.” Newsom is “very interested” in the idea of making mobile drivers' licenses and mobile ID cards available, Gordon said, adding DMV staff is “aggressively attacking” the idea “so we can provision it and get to the pure mobile experience that people want to have.” One of the options being considered is a solution resulting from a recent RFI by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), where DMV is a member. DMV will work with AAMVA to evaluate that solution. The department has also had conversations with Apple and Google, which offer two of the largest, best-known digital wallets available. One potential strategy, Gordon said, might be adding a mobile ID to that wallet; DMV is working with a systems integrator on this. There’s also a “similar push,” Gordon said, on “trying to get a pan-state identification card. Those two things have an intersection point.” The value to residents of being able to create one state account or identity that could be used at multiple agencies, he said, is considerable.

    “We see those two things aligning and we’re working very close with CDT (the California Department of Technology) to try to make both happen,” he said, indicating that whatever solution results from this work, “I think we’d like to have it done next fiscal year. ... We’d like to have a proof of concept up and running in the next fiscal year.”
  • DMV’s proposed departmental budget in Newsom’s revised budget would grow from $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion. And in a recent Budget Change Proposal, the department is seeking 258 permanent positions and $186.3 million in FY 2021-22, $105.7 million in FY 2022-23 and $86.3 million in FY 2023-24, plus $30.8 million in FY 2024-25 from the general fund to continue implementing Real ID. The federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last month extended the deadline for residents to get their Real ID to May 3, 2023. (Real ID will be required to fly domestically and to enter federal facilities.) DMV would use the funding in part, Gordon said, to ensure it has an “aggressive plan” in place to onboard as many Californians as possible into Real ID. Currently, approximately 10.5 million Californians have their Real ID, though DMV recommends residents plan ahead in scheduling appointments. DMV’s Real ID Automated Document Verification Project is now in production, based on two existing platforms, and is handling 100 percent of traffic in that area. But officials are watching DHS closely in case the rules around Real ID are changed later this year to a “full touchless Real ID experience” so that DMV could potentially stand up its own “truly remote” Real ID application process.

    “We’re planning for that on that same platform, by continued build-up of extensions,” Gordon said, indicating the underlying capability could be used elsewhere in the organization. A pilot in this area is underway at an Automobile Club of Southern California location.
  • As the pandemic eases, state officials continue to be very interested in preserving remote work in instances where staffers can work effectively at home, Gordon said – and that includes DMV, where more than 1,000 employees are still remote. Going forward, though, the department will need to have a “technology foundation” in place to get employees the data they need to do that. The department is working to stand up what it’s calling a “digital mailroom” that will be able to digitalize paper mail and documents employees might need to do their work remotely. DMV is also considering how it can best help its workforce develop new talents and skills and move up to “even better careers at the state than they would have had historically,” Gordon said. And it’s scrutinizing brick-and-mortar facilities that may need updating; and some of which, in the Sacramento area, could be consolidated. DMV is modernizing one of the floors at its headquarters to provide “a more hoteling, more modern way to share workspace and a modern experience” now that so many people work from home.
  • Likely future procurements include several in the area of analytics, the director said. DMV wants to “go faster with understanding data” and is interested in “people that have the right mindset and can help us make sense of our data” to assist in modernizing its operations. “We need people that understand time and motion studies, understand the data behind that, how we can streamline this process, what could be digitized ... ,” Gordon said. There may also be workforce procurements that could improve the employee experience and help move the department off paper at local offices via solutions like a distance learning platform and a modern workforce management system.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.