How Governments Are Using ARPA for IT, Broadband
State and local governments have significant flexibility in deploying ARPA funds. While much of the funding will go to projects that do not have a direct IT connection, some state and local governments have already allocated funding for technology-related projects.
Virginia plans to spend $20 million on digitizing health records; Colorado put $35 million toward digital inclusion programs; and Indiana will pour $1 million into an “internet of things” laboratory.
New Hampshire CIO Denis Goulet tells StateScoop that the state will use $30 million to invest in upgrading the state’s technology architecture and digital citizen services, including the rollout of software-defined networking.
States are also using ARPA funds to expand broadband access. As the Pew Charitable Trusts reports, California, for example is using “$3.25 billion for the Department of Technology to oversee construction and subsequent maintenance of a statewide open-access middle-mile network and $500 million for the Public Utilities Commission to oversee last-mile projects.”
Montana has also “appropriated $275 million of its ARPA money to a new effort to fund communication projects related to broadband infrastructure, which the legislation says could include cell towers or public safety improvements.”
State and local agencies are also investigating using ARPA funds to improve the delivery of government services via revamped IT help desks to aid constituents and provide timely information and updates on COVID-19, for example.
State and local agencies can and should consider using ARPA funds to improve their cybersecurity architecture. Cybersecurity remains one of the top IT priorities of state CIOs, according to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Governments should take this opportunity to bolster more than their cybersecurity posture.
Best Practices for Long-Term Government IT Investment
While the infusion of funds is certainly welcome for state and local governments, IT leaders and government officials need to think strategically about ARPA funds.
They need to think about new projects they are using ARPA funds for — whether it’s broadband, new digital government services or new IT architecture — and how those projects will be funded not just in the first three years but in years four, five and six.
The funding might provide a sugar high right now, but as technologies age, they tend to get more expensive to maintain. Governments must make sure they will have adequate funding streams to sustain newly created programs, otherwise their value will be short-lived.
This includes everything from personnel to extended warranties for equipment and long-term patching for cybersecurity.
ARPA represents a major opportunity for state and local governments to invest in broadband, new digital services and tools to make the delivery of government benefits more efficient. They should not waste their chance — and should also plan for the future.