Dr. Alan Shark, CompTIA’s Public Technology Institute, shares his thoughts about the top tech trends that will impact local governments in 2021. It is clear that 2020 will not be remembered with regret or nostalgia. Everybody will have their own stories to tell for many decades. 2020 was the year that local governments made the “great pivot” to online services and remote work. This transformation transformed government in a matter of weeks. After speaking with hundreds of tech leaders from local governments and reviewing the many futuristic tech predictions made in recent months, I have compiled a composite of what cities/counties can reasonably expect in 2021.
As the shift to remote workers becomes more common, cybersecurity is becoming more important. Ransomware attacks are increasing in severity, which means IT must be more proactive and require greater investment in IT resources. Cyber funding will be a priority for localities.
As local governments struggle with cybersecurity, storage and application requirements, managed services are growing. Many local governments will discover that managed service providers can help them achieve their operational goals. They can share their infrastructure with many accounts, which can offer better and more secure services. This can also be cost-effective.
The CIO status has increased and is now recognized for its leadership role during the pandemic. The overall role of CIO is rising and will continue to have a significant impact on the way services are offered to citizens and internal customers for many years to come. The rise of CIO is also a boon for tech professionals in all fields.
The importance of a citizen-centric focus is growing. Citizens are insisting that they be treated as stakeholders and not as mass consumers of services. Public managers have noticed that a greater citizen focus leads in turn to better communications and citizen satisfaction. It also builds a sense of community pride and meaningful community involvement.
Public managers realize the value and efficiency of allowing workers to work remotely. This shift is based on the recognition that productivity can also be measured and that accountability can be maintained as well as that of onsite staff.
The future of the office has changed forever. Many are questioning the necessity to expand, build, or maintain expensive office space that may not be economically viable based on the “Great Pivot of 2020”. With the rise of online services, workers can access them from anywhere. While physical space will always be needed to meet, individual offices may shift to temporary workstations that can be used by workers when they’re not in the office. Office space could be a top priority for local governments as they seek to reduce operational costs.
The pandemic accelerated broadband expansion in affordability, accessibility, and accessibility. The pandemic has increased the pressure to provide better digital broadband solutions. This will increase attention and encourage action. Digital equity and the digital divide were further exposed when school-aged children without adequate broadband were unable keep up with their peers. The pandemic also revealed other shortcomings, as families discovered that the broadband they had was not sufficient to support a family who stayed mostly at home. Many local government workers were left without adequate broadband coverage due to limited plans or their location. You can expand broadband by building mini-WiFi systems, providing equipment to the underserved and public private partnerships with telecom providers. Also, subsidized broadband plans are available.
As the need to share and collaborate increases, there will be greater local state collaboration. Many state CIO’s expressed a desire for local governments to be included in their strategic planning. They also expressed strong desire to do more through service offerings, information sharing and group buying. Cybersecurity always comes first among the priorities.
State and local governments are embracing emerging tech such as AI, blockchain, and autonomous vehicles. Innovation in the use new technologies is not only the domain of the Federal government. Local governments have been able to augment staff with citizen-facing apps powered by machine learning, artificial intelligence, and chatbots. Blockchain applications are already being used in land records and deeds. They are also growing into more secure and sophisticated database applications. Autonomous computing is the final step.