October 20, 2023
IT challenges abound these days, and that applies to any organization that relies on tech — which is pretty much all of them. Municipal governments are no exception. If their digital infrastructure breaks down or glitches (online applications for unemployment benefits are a great example), thousands or millions of people are potentially impacted.
That’s why lots of municipalities are taking IT — and tech in general — more seriously than ever before. And those that aren’t really should. According to Gartner, “By 2025, 75 percent of government CIOs will be directly responsible for security outside of IT, including operational and mission-critical technology environments.”
Also from Gartner: “Digital maturity in government remains low. Government CIOs recognize the value of digital government transformation and understand that their agencies must be agile and innovative to succeed but struggle to be responsive in developing and successfully completing digital initiatives. Agencies need a digital change agent to enable them to harness the power of data and drive efficiency.”
Maintaining robust digital systems takes an IT village — or at least a dedicated staff of specialists who are trained in crucial areas like cybersecurity, data analysis and infrastructure maintenance. All of that, of course, requires money — of which there’s too often precious little in these tight times. On the local level, anyway. That’s where Federal dollars come in; local governments across the country are flush with them.
“With plenty of federal funding still available and the dust starting to settle in the post-COVID era, we anticipate local government looking very different by the end of 2023,” this article on OpenGov.com predicted in January. “The year will be a continuation of the digital revolution…”
But that won’t last forever, and things are looking fiscally bleaker across the municipal spectrum. According to reports, including this one from the Tax Policy Center, states are getting hit particularly hard. “Preliminary data for the first seven months of fiscal 2023 (July 2022 through January 2023) illustrate how much revenue growth has stalled,” it notes. “Overall, state tax revenues declined 0.2 percent in nominal terms in that period. Personal income tax revenues saw year-over-year declines of 9.3 percent while sales and corporate taxes fared better. There is also significant variation across the states. California and New York are reporting large declines in overall revenues, whereas many states are still reporting growth in nominal terms – albeit much weaker compared to the prior two years.”
That all means less money for much-needed upgrades in an ongoing “digital revolution” involves moving things like data storage and communications to the cloud, updating rickety old legacy systems and greatly enhancing security measures to protect against rising ransomware attacks and other potentially damaging incursions. That last one is too often short-shifted in favor of other priorities. But as Mindsight’s own Mishaal Khan has noted time and again, a surprising number of organizations wait until something catastrophic happens before pulling their heads from the sand.
As this recent essay in Forbes pointed out, “The challenge for state and local governments around emerging cybersecurity threats is even more significant given the highly distributed nature of the systems and limited resources available to deal with challenges.”
Cybersecurity is one of several areas that needs attention, Stephen Goldsmith wrote recently at Govtech.com. And he’s no casual observer. Besides being the Derek Bok Professor of the Practice of Urban Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, he’s also director of Data-Smart City Solutions at the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University.
“Now is the time for local and state officials to modernize business processes that produce ongoing operational and financial benefits. Too often, near-term budget considerations hinder these necessary investments because the cost of new systems is often frontloaded, but the savings accrue over time. With billions in federal funding (much of which remains unspent), mayors and governors should prioritize investments that will produce transformational benefits for years to come.”
In addition to migrating operations cloud-ward to bolster storage and security capabilities (here are some good tips for doing so), Goldsmith offers a host of other suggestions for improvement — all of which would necessarily be implemented and overseen by IT specialists. They include environmental hardware, automation, machine analytics and optimized logistics, among several others. (Read more here.)
“While local officials cannot influence the national economy, nor control declining property or local income tax revenue,” he concludes, “policymakers should focus on technology investments that will improve service delivery to residents and drive long-term cost savings for the next year of these relatively good times — before it’s too late.”
Only with those investments in hand, especially once Federal funding dries up, can municipal IT professionals upgrade and maintain crucial technology in meaningful and long-lasting ways.
About The Expert
Mishaal Khan, Mindsight’s Security Solutions Architect, has been breaking and – thankfully – rebuilding computers for as long as he can remember. As a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CCIE R&S, Security Practitioner, and Certified Social Engineer Pentester, Khan offers insight into the often murky world of cybersecurity. Khan brings a multinational perspective to the business security posture, and he has consulted with SMBs, schools, government institutions, and global enterprises, seeking to spread awareness in security, privacy, and open source intelligence.
Mindsight is industry recognized for delivering secure IT solutions and thought leadership that address your infrastructure, cybersecurity, and communications needs. Our engineers are expert level only – and they’re known as the most respected and valued engineering team based in Chicago, serving medium-sized to enterprise organizations around the globe. That’s why clients trust Mindsight as an extension of their IT team.
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