Sep 28 2023

Local Technology Leaders Share Their Top Priorities

The Public Technology Institute published its 10th annual State of City and County IT National Survey, shedding light on the local government IT landscape.

In June, the Public Technology Institute published its 10th annual State of City and County IT National Survey. In it, 61 local government IT executives ranked their top management and operational priorities, and to no one’s surprise, cybersecurity remained at the top of the list. 

The survey found that “following cybersecurity on the list of IT executive priorities are modernizing outdated IT systems and applications, and innovation/applying technology in new ways to help solve problems. Fourth on the list is IT workforce retention/attraction. Questions about IT workforce issues were added to or amended on this year’s survey.”

So, how is the IT landscape changing? And what should local IT leaders consider as they determine their top priorities? Here are three priorities identified by PTI that warrant special consideration for local technology leaders. 

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Take a Proactive Approach to Strong Cybersecurity

Strong cybersecurity is a necessity — not an option — for state and local governments, especially now as threats continue to evolve at an increasing rate. The survey results reflect this, as 52 percent of executives deemed modernizing defenses their most crucial cybersecurity priority.

Agencies must remain diligent, informed and proactive, following best practices and standards from trusted governing bodies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. After all, agencies will lose their citizens’ trust if they don’t have a cybersecurity posture that ensures the uninterrupted delivery of essential services and the protection of sensitive information.

To start, every organization needs to identify and address security vulnerabilities, which can be done with vulnerability scanning software, penetration testing and regular auditing. User training is also a major component of solid cybersecurity, as users are the most vulnerable part of any enterprise. The survey touched on the people aspect of cybersecurity, with most respondents identifying security awareness training as a top priority.

Strong end-to-end data encryption protocols are also critical; transmission and at-rest encryption are highly recommended.

The goal isn’t just to defend against cyberthreats but also to recover quickly if attackers breach defenses. Many organizations lack an incident response plan, which is an imperative best practice. Agencies must create and test their plans, outlining the recovery steps to take in case of a breach.

Overall, good cybersecurity is about continuous improvement. Once agencies have taken these steps, they need to continue to assess and improve their posture to defend against the latest threats.

READ MORE: PTI's annual tech leaders survey shows the need for skills training.

How to Find the Right Managed Services Provider

Managed services, in general, offer state and local governments robust solutions to address the challenges of IT infrastructure modernization. By partnering with experienced managed service providers, agencies can overcome the need for more funding compared with the private sector.

According to the survey, only 36 percent of local governments currently use MSPs, while another 20 percent are considering using them. Before jumping in, agencies need to focus on the vendor they will work with, review their service-level agreements, and ensure that the statement of work they sign is very specific and focused on the expected outcomes.

Agencies should also ensure their MSP has 24/7 availability, especially if it will be working in their security operations center. If the MSP is going to help with disaster recovery and business continuity, ensure the MSP has the knowledge and certifications to support the product they are offering.

The Potential of Emerging and Future Technologies

Emerging and future technologies hold the potential to transform state and local governments. This is about using historical data and applying it to current and future initiatives and approaches to new problems; for example, pulling up historical tickets for a water utility company, overlaying that information with the grid of pipes for residential addresses, and using the combination to pinpoint potential problems in the terrain based on historic ticket volume.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are poised to revolutionize government operations by automating routine tasks and analyzing vast data sets to identify insights. It’s no surprise that most agencies have these technologies on their radar. In the survey, 78 percent of respondents reported that they were planning for automation or in the process of adopting it; meanwhile, AI was identified by 65 percent of respondents as an emerging technology that’s on their radar or in some phase of adoption.

Another new technology that’s taking the stage: the emerging rollout of 5G, which will enable citizens to connect more reliably. 5G is also part of the backbone of smart city initiatives that will open the door for better real-time data analysis and improved emergency response systems.

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


Thapana Onphalai / Getty Images

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