In 2017, technology will make the jump from the hypothetical to real-world applications, the head of Cisco Systems’ state and local and education government business for the western U.S., told StateTech.
Britt Norwood, who’s been with Cisco for over 16 years, says that technology that has been hovering on the horizon will this year begin to have real-life implications in our cities and states. In 2017, many technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), are making their way onto city streets and enabling everything from Smart Cities to cloud computing and more centralized management for state and local governments.
Here’s a look at what new challenges will rise up alongside this new technology, and how it will reprioritize the focus of states, counties and municipalities across the country.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has generated a lot of buzz for the last few years, but with 53 percent of CIOs reporting to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) that they are in formal discussions to implement IoT applications, 2017 is shaping up to become the year that IoT comes of age — and we begin to see its impact on how cities and states are run.
“While we have long talked about IoT, now you’re going to begin to see it fast becoming a real-life application,” said Norwood. “It’s beginning to be translated into the applications that the citizens need or the ways that the government can become more efficient in delivering services.”
He points to applications such as connected parking meters that can offer dynamic pricing based on the time of day, as well as apps that track buses in real time, delivering accurate wait-time information to patrons at bus stops.
“Every town has different priorities and every town has different problems that they’re trying to solve. You’re starting to see each locality figure out how to implement IoT as real-life applications that will change the ways that we run our cities and our states. You’re beginning to see that this year more than ever before,” Norwood added.
For the last four years, NASCIO has ranked security and risk management the top concern in their “State CIO Top Ten Priorities for 2017” report.
“And we don’t see security and risk management falling in importance any time soon,” Yejin Cooke, director of government affairs for NASCIO, told StateTech.
The continued investment in digitalization and increasing connectivity, such as IoT, goes hand-in-hand with an increased risk of vulnerability and a focus on ensuring security throughout the network.
“Cybersecurity is an absolute priority. Any time you’re looking to make investments like IoT, which are cutting-edge investments connected to a network, you really have to think through the cyber and security ramifications that come with that, because you’re connecting new areas of your business that are going to come back into your network,” said Norwood.
“We can talk about using the network as a defense mechanism but we obviously want to stop people ahead of the network. And if someone does gain access to the machine, we need to make sure that we put mechanisms around it to contain it and ensure it doesn’t spread and become a citywide or statewide problem,” Norwood added.
Migrating data to the cloud is proving to be a way that governments can bypass restrictions created by tightening budgets and legacy technologies, says Chip George, NetApp’s senior director of state and local government and education for the U.S. public sector. And plenty of governments are poised to hop on board, according to a recent MeriTalk survey, which found that 76 percent of state and local agencies are planning to increase spending on cloud computing in 2017.
“Cloud adoption is no longer just an esoteric concept — state and local agencies are actually giving ample amounts of consideration to the cloud, more so than they were just a few years ago,” George said.
In migrating to the cloud, George encourages state and local governments to consider their environment to ensure they are moving to a model — public, private or hybrid cloud — that best suits their need. Moreover, data management can prove an issue if governments are relying on multiple cloud management providers.
“Agencies must adopt a ‘data fabric,’ so that data across all cloud environments is seamlessly integrated and managed with the same set of tools, no matter the cloud provider,” said George.
Potential cost savings, a tight cybersecurity plan, and the ability of contractors to strengthen cloud-procurement services are also important factors to consider. The National Association of State Procurement Officials, for example, offers its “ValuePoint” cloud solution to help provide states with high-quality cloud service providers.
“With all of the elements that can influence an organization’s cloud journey, it’s no longer a clearly defined track of choosing between public and private clouds. Most agencies will not exclusively use one or the other and instead will develop a hybrid cloud environment which is a combination of both the private and public models, in order to maximize the benefits of both,” said George, noting that with increased cloud adoption in the coming years, state and local agencies will need to properly evaluate all the factors surrounding implementation as they decide which model fits the needs of their constituents.
In Ohio, just five years ago, 26 agencies were using approximately 9,000 servers to support more than 32 data centers that were each running at less than 10 percent capacity, with nearly one billion dollars of the budget going toward IT, NASCIO’s recent report on IT harmonization notes. By consolidating and restructuring these services, including migrating 5,000 servers to the cloud, the state was able to save more than $100 million and estimates it was able to avoid more than $60 million in added costs.
“We can assume that the effort to consolidate/optimize is an effort to find savings and efficiencies within state government,” NASCIO’s Cooke said, noting that consolidation is the second most pressing priority for CIOs in the coming year, according to the organization’s 2017 report.
Alongside consolidating current systems, centralizing IT procurement processes can also help to reduce software redundancy and offer significant cost savings. New York state, for example, has reported savings of between $10 and $20 million by unifying their approach to cellphone contracts.
“When we consolidated, we negotiated having these cellphone lines as a pool, so on average, nobody was going over their allocated minutes within the pool,” Mahesh Nattanmai, executive deputy CIO of the NYS Office of Information Technology Services, said in an interview. “That helped us reduce the cost of cellphones and gave us a very predictable line item in our budget.”
With budgets in state and local governments shrinking across the board, centralizing resources, as well as optimizing and centralizing technology through new collaboration tools, is quickly becoming a priority. The local government in Kansas City, Mo., for example, is currently being equipped with a connected digital platform through a public-private partnership with Cisco. That parternship aims to create an open-platform for idea sharing and troubleshooting.
“Everyone is looking for ways to conserve budgets, and using collaboration is a prime example of how they can do that,” said Norwood. “People are trying to learn how to add the efficiencies into their governments and how they can use technologies and products to have more efficient meetings, keep conversations going, work quickly across committees and get all the right constituents tied into a conversation.”
“There’s no reason to talk about technology for technology’s sake, but when CIOs begin to realize what it is they are going to accomplish for their state or city, they begin to see how a good collaboration tool can help, and that’s what’s really drawing these things to the forefront right now,” Norwood added.