Jan 24 2024

State and Local CIOs Expect AI to Benefit Digital Services

Surveys of government tech officials ranked digital services as a top concern and described artificial intelligence as a force multiplier.

Artificial intelligence is very much top of mind for state and local government CIOs, and they may well examine how AI can accelerate digital services for citizens, note the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the Public Technology Institute in a recent joint webinar.

The webinar, hosted recently by NASCIO and PTI, reviewed CIO priorities over the next year. Both organizations found a growing interest in AI applications in their respective surveys of government IT officials.

NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson reported that cybersecurity and digital services tied for first place among state CIO priorities in the association’s survey, “State CIO Top Ten Policy and Technology Priorities for 2024.” While cybersecurity has topped the list for a decade or longer, no other priority has tied it for first place until now. CIOs placed a greater emphasis on digital services for citizens after the pandemic, Robinson said.

CIOs are motivated by “some of the realities that they saw during the pandemic and the fact that citizens were somewhat frustrated,” he said.

AI entered the annual list of priorities for the first time, rising to the No. 3 position. Identity and access management ranked No. 8 on the priority list.

“Identity and access management continues to have a high degree of interest, particularly coupled with the need for more security and the need for enhanced digital services to citizens,” Robinson said. “Both the internal and external perspective of IAM is important, and we see a number of states have rolled out statewide initiatives creating enterprise identity services for their citizens.”

Click the banner below to explore the value of government IT modernization.

Tech Officials Seek to Enhance Digital Services

In September, NASCIO published “Creating A Citizen-Centric Digital Experience: How Far Have We Come?” The guide recommends actions that CIOs should take to enhance digital services for citizens, and Robinson reviewed those recommendations in the webinar:

  • Create an enterprise vision and strategic roadmap
  • Engage stakeholders
  • Prioritize cybersecurity, privacy and identity management
  • Embrace a “no wrong door” approach
  • Create a promotional agenda
  • Look toward the future

“A big gap that we identified in the current study was the fact that states are not marketing their availability to their citizens. And so, quite frankly, they don’t know that the states are delivering, in some cases, hundreds of services digitally that they can take advantage of,” Robinson said.

WATCH: State CIOs discuss the potential of generative AI in government.

AI will play a role in expanding government digital services, he added.

In “The 2023 State CIO Survey: The Force of Automation and the Reality of Modernization,” published last October, NASCIO asked state CIOs to identify emerging technologies that will be “most impactful” in the next three to five years. In the survey, 53 percent said generative AI, 20 percent said AI and machine learning, and an additional 8 percent said robotic process automation.

“We deliberately separated generative AI from the from the stack of artificial intelligence and other automated intelligence services simply because we saw such an interest,” Robinson said.

In the 2023 State CIO survey, NASCIO asked state CIOs which business processes will benefit most from AI in the next three to five years. In ranked order, the responses were:

  1. Digital citizen services
  2. Cybersecurity operations
  3. Fraud prevention and detection
  4. Procurement and acquisition
  5. Human resources
  6. Licensing and permitting

For AI within state government, “...the focus continues to be on enhancing digital services and improving processes,” Robinson said.

AI Can Benefit Digital Processes for Citizen Services

PTI Executive Director and CEO Alan Shark joined Robinson on the webinar presentation to discuss local government priorities. Local IT directors also ranked AI and digital services as important issues in PTI’s surveys.

In the 2023 State of City and County IT National Survey, local governments were asked to rank their top ten concerns. Cybersecurity headed the list, with digital services appearing at No. 5.

“Much of this came about as a result of the pandemic, where we were really forced to confront the reality that we need to be prepared,” Shark said.

He expressed his opinion that local governments have come a long way with customer service and digital services over the past few years. Public perception tends to rate private sector companies above local governments for their responsiveness with digital services, but “I'm not sure that’s true,” Shark said.

“If anybody's ever tried to go off-menu with Amazon or any other services, trying to find somebody to provide help, assistance is nearly impossible. I believe that local governments are doing a much better job,” he said.

PTI conducted a local government survey on AI for the first time, publishing the results last summer. The institute asked local tech leaders where AI would play the greatest role. In order of importance, officials identified these areas as the top five tasks that would benefit from AI:

  1. Cybersecurity management
  2. Data analysis
  3. Citizen engagement
  4. Predictive analytics in crime prevention
  5. Improved decision-making

PTI also asked respondents if they would like to have AI training, and 80 precent said yes.

Shark revealed that he is writing a book which he hopes to publish this spring that will serve as an AI primer for cities.

alvarez/Getty Images

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.