Recently, I attended POLITICO’s “The Fifty: America’s Governors,” presented by Cisco, held during the National Governors Association (NGA) 2023 Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. This event brought together six sitting governors and leaders from both the public and private sector to discuss workforce development, cybersecurity, digital equity, reimagining government services, and supporting critical infrastructure. The convening provided a unique forum to better understand the current political and technology environments state leaders are grappling with, and in our conversations with state government leaders throughout the weekend, three key priorities for state governments in 2023 became clear.

3 key priorities

My colleague, Rachel Barger, SVP of Americas Sales at Cisco,  kicked off the program which included interviews between POLITICO reporters and six sitting governors (below) from across the country. Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s EVP and Chief People, Policy, and Purpose Officer, joined to discuss how the tech industry is working with states to help them overcome obstacles.

POLITICO The Fifty America's Governors Sponsored by Cisco Featured US Governors

During the event, three key priorities state governments will be dealing with throughout 2023 emerged:

  1. Digging in on workforce development.
  2. Investing in cyber resilience.
  3. Extending connectivity and addressing digital inequity.

Priority 1: Digging in on workforce development

Workforce shortages have reached a crisis point for the U.S. economy, with technology and cybersecurity skills gaps being major pain points. Workforce development unlocks meaningful opportunities for individuals, and investing in upskilling and reskilling in states drives economic development — and jobs create taxpayers and taxpayers fund government. In my experience, this issue is paramount for every governor Cisco’s state, local governments, and education (SLED) team supports.

POLITICO The Fifty America's Governors Sponsored by Cisco Fran Interview
WATCH: Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s EVP and Chief People, Policy, and Purpose Officer provides insight into how the tech industry is working with state governments to advance key priorities.

According to an October 2022 report by the National Association of State CIO’s (NASCIO), workforce is among the top 10 policy imperatives for state governments. One way Cisco is addressing the digital and cybersecurity skills gap is through Cisco Networking Academy, which has equipped 17.5 million students across 190 countries with quality networking and cybersecurity skills since it began 25 years ago.

As mentioned by Rachel during the event, at Cisco we’re partnering with state and local governments and entities around workforce. But we’re keenly aware that many of our customers in the private sector are also looking to fill these types of jobs. That gives us the opportunity to be that bridge to connect both the public and private sector with Cisco Networking Academy trained students, who can power the future of government and the diverse industries supporting economic growth.

Priority 2: Investing in cyber resilience

The U.S. currently has an estimated 700,000 vacancies in cyber-enabled jobs. Cybersecurity is top of mind for every state and local government, and it’s an area Cisco is acutely focused on. This includes:

Our team at Cisco is also working alongside state agencies on cybersecurity planning and helping them leverage Cisco’s Talos Incident Response Services to proactively assess, strengthen, and evolve incident readiness.

POLITICO The Fifty America's Governors Sponsored by Cisco Speakers

Priority 3: Extending connectivity and addressing digital inequity

The rapid switch to virtual environments for students and teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted uneven access to broadband in both rural and urban areas of the U.S. For example, 82% of the U.S. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are situated in broadband deserts. To help communities overcome this digital inequity, the IIJA is offering $65 billion for extending broadband in the U.S. And I’m proud to share Cisco’s efforts to partner with government agencies and educational institutions to extend connectivity to communities.

Our efforts have already bore fruit, including:

We’ve found that government leaders are curious about what their peers in other states are doing on these topics. That’s where we feel Cisco can add strong value to the discussion. By providing state governments with success stories and innovative use cases, and by offering our expertise and experience gained by supporting other states across the country, we offer a credible path to helping state governments meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Additional resources


Gary DePreta

Senior Vice President

U.S. Public Sector