State and local governments spent 2021 responding in ways large and small to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has continued to reshape how agencies use technology and how citizens interact with government.
Agencies have embraced digital technology for government service delivery, streamlined government web portals, expanded on projects such as single digital identities for accessing government services and benefits, and updated government websites to make them easier for the public to use.
But significant challenges remain. Ransomware attacks against state and local governments continue unabated. Despite an influx of federal funding, it will take time to get federal grants to improve cybersecurity.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of investments in digital services, collaboration tools, broadband expansion and other areas. As we look ahead to 2022, StateTech asked state and local government IT experts and practitioners for their thoughts on the key technology trends to watch for.
The big four are zero-trust cybersecurity, the expanded use of identity and access management platforms, cloud migration and application modernization. Here’s a quick look at each of these topics, followed by links to articles with more in-depth insights.
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1. Zero-Trust Cybersecurity Is on the Horizon
Although zero-trust is a hot topic in the federal government because the White House has mandated that federal agencies adopt the framework, it is still relatively nascent in state and local governments. That is starting to change though.
“We can expect more states to begin adopting a zero-trust approach to cybersecurity,” says Eric Sweden, enterprise architecture and governance program manager for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Sweden notes that 67 percent of state CIOs who responded to the 2021 Annual State CIO Survey anticipate that introducing or expanding a zero-trust framework will receive more attention in the next two to three years. Expect state governments to begin laying the groundwork for adopting the approach — which treats every user as untrustworthy of accessing network resources until they have been verified — with more work to follow in 2023 and beyond.
“This will be incremental and will be an ongoing maturing of capabilities,” Sweden says. “Zero trust does not have to be — most likely cannot be — a one-time initiative. States already have in place many of the capabilities required for zero trust, possibly 50 to 75 percent of the necessary technology and organizational capabilities. The next step will be coordinating and orchestrating these capabilities to put in place, again incrementally, the pillars of zero trust.”
Click here for more information on zero-trust security for state and local agencies.
2. States Look to Expand Use of IAM to Access Government Services
It was all the buzz at the annual NASCIO conference this year: Every state seemed excited to implement an identity and access management program.
Some states, such as Ohio, are far along in adopting a single digital identity that residents can use to access myriad government services. Others are just getting started. But that seems to be the direction many are going in.
“Many states are working on a single identity, or superidentity that ties to all the relevant credentials, licenses and other views of the citizen,” Sweden says. “States will need to put in place the necessary capabilities to create and manage these superidentities and the various credentials managed under that superidentity,” he adds.
Click here to learn more about how IAM will evolve in state government.
3. Cloud Migration Will Be Dependent on Economics
State and local agencies will continue to migrate legacy IT systems and applications to the cloud in 2022. However, that work will likely be more measured and deliberate than in the private sector.
Following the widespread shift of apps such as email and geographic information systems to the cloud, further migrations will be more piecemeal, especially for local governments, says Alan Shark, executive director of CompTIA’s Public Technology Institute.
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“The moment of truth comes when you start looking at end-of-life issues for your mainframes,” Shark says. Governments will have to decide whether to replace those systems, come up with something better or move to the cloud.
For many agencies, the decision on whether to shift to the cloud boils down to simple economics and whether it makes sense financially to do so. “There has to be a compelling business case to enter into a migration project. There must be commitment to participate on the part of the business,” Sweden says. “This kind of project cannot be successfully accomplished without strong partnering and commitment. It is critical to show the business the value proposition, the cost savings, the new capabilities for innovation and adaptability.”
Click here for more information on cloud migration efforts in government.
4. Government Agencies Will Forge Ahead with App Modernization
The pandemic exposed state and local government IT leaders to the fact that many mission-critical applications are running on legacy architectures or in outdated programming languages that cannot be easily changed or scaled up, and clarified the need for modern, digital government services.
“I think there’s been a wake-up call that there are those who were advanced, and they had a very easy pivot to increase digital service,” Shark says. “Others were caught with aging infrastructure.”
Shark adds that IT leaders he speaks with want to “modernize and make everything digital-first.”
Click here for more on how government agencies can modernize apps.