Dec 21 2023

Resilience for the State Government Enterprise

See how CIOs can help states strengthen their infrastructure, operations and workforce.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers, the Center for Digital Government and IBM recently released a report titled “Preparing for Future Shocks in State Government.”

The report comes at an opportune time, NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson said, according to an IBM press release: “The past few years have presented a multitude of challenges and increased demands on state CIOs.” The report is intended to help position state CIOs to be more resilient, approaching the concept from several angles, from enterprise and IT resilience to workforce and employee resilience.

Cyberthreats are evolving more rapidly, emerging technologies are bringing new challenges, and workforce shortages continue to disrupt state and local agencies. And with the prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, the risk of unknowingly sharing sensitive or confidential information with bad actors increases significantly. Another IT challenge at the state level has been getting past a mountain of technical debt. Agencies tend to hold on to IT assets for a very long time; I see it in multiple layers of government.

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It’s clear that state CIOs are taking on more responsibility and face more potential threats to the continuity of essential government services. In response to these challenges, CIOs need to push agencies to modernize their IT environments, embrace agile operations and help their workforces become more resilient.

To Strengthen IT Infrastructure, Embrace Cloud Migration

One way to enhance resilience is moving assets to the cloud. Many CIOs are reducing their reliance on state-owned physical infrastructure by adopting hybrid environments. That’s not to say states shouldn’t have any physical infrastructure. There is still a place for traditional infrastructure, and some critical data is best left secure on-premises for disaster recovery.

But what we’re seeing in more and more organizations is an agile methodology with developing newer applications, getting out of antiquated systems, and updating not just websites but how they treat data and their data schemas. The cloud has transformed the way organizations have had access to infrastructure at scale and helped simplify the application modernization process.

Among the newer challenges for state CIOs who have moved to a hybrid cloud model is managing costs. When it comes to cloud strategy, a major movement that CIOs need to focus on is cloud optimization, identifying what should live in the cloud and what should live on-premises.

READ MORE: State and local governments can do more with hybrid cloud. 

How to Promote Responsible Use of AI

State CIOs have the opportunity to think beyond just modernizing their IT infrastructure when it comes to building resilience. States would benefit by being more forward-thinking and using the data and tools they have to fuel AI to bolster citizen services. Agencies are continually asked to do more with less, which automation can help accomplish.

Perhaps state CIOs could push to leverage some AI to automate certain systems, such as the processing of unemployment claims to reduce backlog or training AI to detect fraud in Medicaid payments.

AI has unbelievable potential but poses staggering new risks. The key to success is to communicate to employees how important responsible AI use really is and oversee automated operations to weed out mistakes or biases that result from skewed data sets. If an agency — such as a state’s department of motor vehicles — is trying to automate a task such as processing documents but deals with unfiltered inputs from citizens, the AI the agency is training could be receiving data sets that are inherently biased or flawed.

At the end of the day, any automated processes need firm guardrails and oversight. How you manage data and how you detect biases comes down to quality data governance, and CIOs could bolster governance by establishing AI ethics committees to oversee the responsible use of emerging technologies.

AI isn’t new, but what you can do now with generative AI in terms of complex decision-making is becoming extremely disruptive. An ethics committee could evaluate outcomes created by AI and identify drawbacks to mitigate risks. For example, if an agency uses AI tools to detect fraudulent claims, the committee could evaluate how accurate those efforts are and adjust accordingly. There should be a group that looks at what the technologists may not see.

FOLLOW these five steps to improve data analytics for success with AI.

The Importance of Building Workforce Resilience

State and local governments have trouble acquiring and retaining highly skilled talent because of how complex the digital ecosystem is now. Agencies need to nurture the talent they already have or work to better incentivize professionals to enter the public sector.

CIOs would do well to push agencies to partner with local universities to reach young professionals and to provide established training opportunities to current employees. According to the NASCIO report, the Georgia Technology Authority partners with local technical and community colleges to take advantage of already developed IT training courses. And in Nebraska, state CIO Ed Toner reported building talent pipelines by partnering with schools, recruiting successfully enough that 47 percent of Nebraska’s application development workforce has come from one community college.

This article is part of StateTech’s CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on X (formerly Twitter).


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