As we wrap up 2023, it is a great time to reflect on the current state of technology in state and local governments and look ahead to the priorities for the coming year. As we enter 2024, we are seeing IT leaders in government crystalizing their efforts in four key areas:
- digital services
- artificial intelligence (AI)
- and modernizing transportation infrastructure.
Cybersecurity continues to be top tech priority
Maintaining the security of networks and the data they carry continues to be the primary concern of top government officials and has been for the last 10 years, according to NASCIO’s annual survey of State CIOs. As the volume and impact of malware and breaches continue to rise, states are evolving their security capabilities and focusing on cyber-resilience to quickly react and recover from security incidents.
Most states are also leveraging Federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) grants to improve the security posture of their local government and schools, which can add the responsibility for State CIOs and CISOs to coordinate whole-of-state security plans. This heightened coordination and information sharing (plus sometimes resource sharing) is needed most in the smallest and under-resourced cities, counties, and schools.
States have conducted assessments to identify the capabilities and needs of their local governments and schools. They are focused on addressing fundamental needs such as training, endpoint protections, e-mail security, and multi-factor authentication.
While approaches differ by state, everyone is focusing on ensuring the sustainability of their approach beyond the IIJA funding window. States are also establishing centers of excellence, fusion centers and cyber ranges, often in partnership with local Universities or state network providers. These partnerships are delivering fundamental cybersecurity education, leading table-top exercises to better prepare for breaches, and in some cases creating regional security operations centers (SOCs) to provide security monitoring services for local governments and schools in the region.
While many States require local governments and schools to notify the State of security breaches, several have a long-term goal of sharing real-time security telemetry to create a more complete picture of threats and bad actors across their State.
Delivering digital government services still of high importance
Serving residents faster and at a lower cost by deploying secure and reliable digital government services also remains a top priority in state and local government. From online tax payments to virtual renewals of licenses and permits, digital services accessible from mobile devices are becoming the norm.
States and cities are consolidating portals to present a single face of government, with a single resident identifier and login for all services. This represents an intentional shift from agency-centric to resident-centric service delivery and can significantly lower the barrier for residents to identify the services they need and meet qualifications for.
Cities are also leveraging video technology to connect residents in need with government workers directly, allowing them to get timely and personal service without the scheduling and travel to a government office. The City of El Paso, Texas El Paso Helps initiative is a prime example of this shift.
States creating policy guardrails for appropriate use of AI
Just over a year after the public release of ChatGPT, Generative AI has taken center stage in the technology conversation (see what Cisco is doing with Generative AI). State CISOs are leading the policy creation for proper use of AI, and requiring registration of AI capabilities in all government systems and commercial applications used by agencies to ensure they follow the rules for appropriate use.
As Generative AI technology rapidly advances, the definitions of proper use will need to be adjusted. AI is widely viewed as a tool to augment humans in conducting their work, not as a tool to make decisions. With persistent workforce shortages across government agencies, government agencies are interested in technologies like AI-powered chatbots to continue to meet the needs of residents with their reduced workforce — especially in critical services that often experience spikes in demand (such as unemployment service at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic).
States have increasingly created the position of chief data officer and chief privacy officer to ensure the privacy of resident data as it is managed within and between agencies. By harnessing the power of data, states can gain valuable insights into resident needs, monitor trends, and inform policymaking. This evidence-based approach can lead to more effective and efficient public services in critical areas that touch multiple agencies like homelessness or opioid abuse.
States and cities are also focused on modernizing transportation infrastructure
Departments of Transportation (DoTs) are connecting traffic lights and adding cameras to move traffic more efficiently. They are also using these technologies to preempt stoplights, allowing ambulances and other first responders to reach people in need faster while responding better to accidents and road conditions (learn more).
Transit authorities are upgrading payment systems, delivering free and easily accessible secure WiFi to passengers, improving end-to-end journey management, and adding digital signage to promote events and community resources.
Transportation agencies also have significant data about historical ridership to improve efficiency and make data-driven decisions about routes based on time, weather, or events. Given the reach of transportation and city assets such as streetlights, projects like these can often be the start of a broader smart city strategy that expands into public safety and digital equity.
The ongoing push for IT modernization continues in 2024
As we discussed, cybersecurity remains the top concern for government leaders. But their emphasis on cloud services, digital government, data management, and analytics underscores a commitment to broader digital transformation. 2024 will see state and local governments continue to modernize infrastructure. The focus will be on simplification and automation, partly due to the persistent IT and cyber talent shortages, but also due to the need for improved flexibility and responsiveness to agency needs. 2024 should be a year of transition from policy creation around Generative AI to active use within the approved policy frameworks.
As technology and resident expectations evolve rapidly, government IT leaders continue to lead the way. We look forward to seeing new priorities and opportunities emerge in the new year.
Learn more: state and local government priorities 2024