Trial by Fire Leads to Enhanced Security and Bandwidth
The pandemic forced state government employees to shift suddenly from working in government offices and facilities, using state-run networks, to working from home, using personal networks. Of course, personal networks are more unpredictable when it comes to speed and pose more security vulnerabilities than state-run networks.
The sudden shift led to the expansion and adoption of remote collaboration tools and split tunneling/bandwidth through networks and VPNs
The importance of access to reliable, high-speed broadband networks also came into focus during the pandemic. NASTD's report suggests that state networks were in a good position to handle the influx of remote workers: 39 percent of the states deemed their internet bandwidth sufficient, and 34 percent indicated that it took minimal effort to adjust bandwidth.
Still, the pandemic forced some states to expedite bandwidth growth, with 16 percent of respondents reporting that the pandemic led to ramped-up efforts for broadband growth in their states. Plus, 58 percent indicated that they will continue to expedite broadband growth.
Remote Collaboration Becomes the Norm for Agencies
By all measures, we have more tools to connect with people remotely today than we ever did. Before the pandemic, the norm for communicating was just email and texting, but now most agencies use Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex or some other collaborative messaging and video tool.
NASTD’s report reflects this evolution, with states reporting that they use a variety of IT solutions to keep government business running:
- 84 percent use telecom/conferencing tools
- 78 percent use cloud-based collaboration platforms and applications
- 76 percent use VPNs
- 59 percent employ call centers
- 41 percent have accelerated state application development efforts
- 27 percent have deployed artificial intelligence solutions such as chatbots
According to the NASTD report, the rapid adoption of telework has led to 76 percent of states expecting a permanent increase in telework combined with a reduced number of staff working in state offices (19 percent of states anticipate a permanent increase in telework). Among state central IT agencies, 94 percent found that telework has increased efficiency and productivity through the use of collaborative tools, while 50 percent say it has strengthened the IT workforce.