Governments Urgently Need Better IT Systems

In these first few months of 2020, it has become clear that government efficiency is absolutely imperative to our health. Effective communication between citizens, leaders, emergency services and other stakeholders can actually save lives.

In a world where almost all work suddenly must be done digitally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cities and municipalities that have taken services online have been able to serve residents to a greater degree than those that have not. And it’s not just constituents who have been impacted by their government’s technological investments. Many government employees are being asked to work remotely, and their productivity is tied to the effectiveness of remote working tools.

Tech CEOs have stepped in to offer pro bono services and tools such as cloud storage and processing tools to help local governments parse coronavirus data. However, the current climate is highlighting the benefits — and perhaps even the necessity — of updating government technology and tools even after the pandemic ends.

Opportunities for Improvement in Government Technology

Even before COVID-19 shone a spotlight on this need, many small governments had begun leveraging new technologies to improve access to services and support vital governmental entities, such as EMS. Specifically, the following technology applications have been used to great effect:

  • Moving services online, allowing citizens to schedule electrical hookups, pay parking tickets and take care of other government interactions virtually.
  • Using dispatch tools and communications technology to help police, EMS and other first responders perform life-saving work.
  • Installing IP surveillance cameras to record and monitor crime in various areas.
  • Using specialized programs to manage city works projects, assist with city planning and streamline utility processes.

Some cities have taken it one step further, building complete “digital city halls” that offer unprecedented access to government services. At Indianapolis’s digital city hall, for instance, residents can register to vote, apply to foster a pet and check out open government project bids all in one spot. 

Notably, investing in this concept has made it easier for those cities to distribute information and roll out initiatives during the pandemic, such as food and worker support programs, donation requests and even a list of city resources for at-home entertainment.

Challenges to Going Digital

The potential for new technologies in government is tremendous. But implementing these tools is not without obstacles. Government IT departments are often hampered by a lack of funds, time and human capital, making it difficult to complete complex initiatives. 

However, one of the biggest challenges facing governments — and virtually every organization — online is the issue of cybersecurity. Cyber attacks are getting much more sophisticated, and local governments have become a favorite target of phishing, ransomware and other techniques. 

Threat actors realize that governments have access to highly sensitive information, and they actively seek out ways to exploit vulnerabilities in government IT systems. In fact, CNN found that in the first 10 months of 2019, 140 local governments, police stations and healthcare facilities had been attacked by ransomware. 

As more information and processes go online, the risk of cyber attacks grows as well. However, as we’ve seen recently, we may have passed the point where government officials can simply delay making these changes. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for improvement — including some simple changes that governments can implement today to harden and streamline IT systems and processes. 

In our free e-book How Government Facilities Can Improve Technological Efficiency, our experts describe these techniques and explain how you can maximize spending and prioritize new IT projects to fit your budget and needs. Download it for free now — and start planning your government’s future today.