Oct 12 2021

NASCIO 2021: State CIO Survey Details Tech Priorities Post-Pandemic

In an annual study, IT leaders plan to expand digital services, fraud detection, and identity and access management solutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic sped digital transformation across state governments, and many of the innovations will continue into the future, agreed state CIOs at the annual conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers on Monday.

Speaking during a panel on the release of “Driving Digital Acceleration: The 2021 State CIO Survey” from NASCIO, Grant Thornton and CompTIA, Ohio CIO Katrina Flory and Illinois Acting CIO Jennifer Ricker observed that the pandemic stressed the importance of investments in digital services, collaboration tools, broadband expansion and other areas.

“We certainly had plans for agency adoption, but when the pandemic hit, we said, ‘Oh, we need to do this now,” Flory said. Later, she added, “All of these things we have implemented were in our plans, but we quickly saw a need to accelerate them to meet demand.”

The citizen experience remains paramount to state IT agencies, Ricker said. With greater-than-ever need for government support and physical agency offices closed to the public, it was critical for state governments to expand their online presence.

“What we experienced in the past year and a half or so made that evident as the world shut down,” Ricker said. 

Automated Responses and Fraud Detection to Endure

One state quoted in the Driving Digital Acceleration survey described the rollout of digital services during the pandemic as “10 years’ worth of deployments in eight months.”

In the survey, 74 percent of states said the biggest driver of expanded digital services was better online experiences for citizens. Many anticipated digital services and work practices instituted during the pandemic would remain in place, with 86 percent of states identifying remote work as a regular occurrence, 82 percent identifying enhanced security and fraud detection for web-based services, and 80 percent deploying additional web-enabled services.

Speaking on the NASCIO panel, Graeme Finley, principal for public sector advisory at Grant Thornton, said, “On one side, you have increased demand for online services and access to information. On the flip side, there is increased risk associated with cyberattacks and fraud in particular.” 

To support enhanced digital services, many state governments turned to automation and emerging technologies, and CIOs were asked in the survey to rank those solutions that would continue post-pandemic. The top answers were chatbots for online inquiries, automated fraud detection, voicebots to support call centers, robotic process automation to streamline business practices, and mobile apps for contact tracing and exposure notification.

States Augment Cybersecurity and IAM

The rapid shift to remote work when the pandemic struck in 2020 increased cybersecurity risks for government enterprises; 20 percent of states said they experienced a cybersecurity incident due to employees working remotely.

“While cybersecurity has long been a priority for all state CIOs, several indicated that there is now an elevated focus on and appreciation of the importance on the topic due to the pandemic,” the Driving Digital Acceleration survey reads.

The top security risks facing state governments today include ransomware attacks, threats to the software supply chain, use of shadow IT solutions, and fraudulent claims for benefits, according to survey responses.

At 83 percent, CIOs overwhelming ranked the adoption or expansion of enterprise identity and access management solutions as their top cybersecurity initiative in the survey. 

“Identity and access management has been discussed for many, many years, and just recently it has begun to see some deployment in states,” said NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson, speaking on the survey panel.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Ohio CIO Katrina Flory discusses IAM and other state initiatives.

Indeed, CIOs regularly invoked their IAM initiatives in anecdotal discussions throughout the NASCIO conference, including Ohio’s OH|ID, Illinois’ ILogin, Michigan’s MILogin and others. Ohio has fully implemented its IAM solution, Flory said, while Ricker said Illinois was only beginning to implement its program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for a strong IAM program, both internally with increased remote work and externally with citizen digital services,” noted the Driving Digital Acceleration survey. Strong IAM programs increase access to digital services while decreasing fraud, CIOs said.

In the survey, 60 percent of states said they had partially implemented an enterprisewide IAM solution, 21 percent said they planned to implement one, and 13 percent said they have fully implemented a solution.

Check out more coverage from the NASCIO 2021 Annual Conference and follow us on Twitter at @StateTech, or the official conference Twitter account, @NASCIO, and join the conversation using the hashtag #NASCIO21.

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