Dec 14 2022

States Embraced Digital Transformation During Pandemic Response

During lockdowns, states made tech investments that still pay dividends.

State governments made many investments during the pandemic lockdown that are still paying dividends, fueling continued digital transformation efforts. The National Association of State Technology Directors highlights many of these successful efforts in a report recapping 2021 investments made by state IT agencies.

Central IT agencies strengthened virtual private network connections, accelerated the availability of online collaborative tools, purchased laptops for remote workers, increased their already vigilant security efforts, boosted call center support and made network adjustments to accommodate the sudden shift to a remote workforce, among other investments. Many government organizations more widely adopted communications tools such as videoconferencing, webinars and online communities.

NASTD Research Committee Chair John Hoffman, deputy CIO and CTO for the Texas Department of Information Resources, summarizes what’s happened since the advent of COVID-19.

“The pandemic response drove significant change to how government supports constituents,” Hoffman says. “The long-term impacts will be assessed for years, and sharing and understanding other states’ efforts and challenges has been very helpful.”

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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.

DISCOVER: How hybrid work solutions can modernize government services and workplaces.

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.

This article is part of StateTech’s CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.


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