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Challenges At All Levels

Shrinking budgets, and aging workforces, and cyber threats, oh my! State and local governments face these obstacles and more while trying serve the community. In the effort to better tool government to face these challenges, GovLoop brought together a virtual training of experts to show how advanced technology and innovative practices can help public servants do their job better.

Kicking off GovLoop’s State and Local Tech Trends Virtual Training with Identifying Challenges at Your Level, our keynote speakers identified some of the primary challenges that government faces and practical solutions that will allow for greater job efficiency. Our keynote speakers included:

  • Emilia Istrate, Director of Research and Outreach of the National Association of Counties
  • Stu Davis, State CIO and Assistant Director at Ohio Department of Administrative Services

Dr. Istrate and Davis discussed the following questions and delivered some great advice as to how state and local governments can best address their problems with technology.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing state and local governments?

Davis: “To get the workforce to understand and work from an enterprise perspective can be a challenge. To put government in the perspective of the citizens and breaking down silos is key. From a technology standpoint there is a ton of disruption that government needs to understand the impact of, such as Internet of Things, body cameras on the local and state level, bandwidth and storage, and, most significantly, cybersecurity.”

Dr. Istrate: “When it comes to counties, it’s important to remember that they are arms of the state. The biggest challenge is the constraining environment in which they operate. As they operate by state law, most of their financial obligations are state mandated; that leaves limited options in spending and raising money. They are stuck in a space of state mandates and limited revenue.”

What are state and local gov’s top cyber priorities for 2016?

Davis: “Sharing information and communications needs to be a priority to serve the public. The risk management aspect and governance process that helps state and local governments communicate will put us in a good place. Focusing on cybersecurity is crucial to protect the communication and shared information as it becomes more technological.”

Dr. Istrate: “Counties are the record-keepers from cradle to grave. They need to make sure that all that information remains secure. Cybersecurity is a major concern for them. Securing the data that is consistently being digitized is a top priority in the upcoming year.”

The average age for state IT workforce is 49. What can state and local governments do to attract, retain, and train the next generation?

Dr. Istrate: “The retirement issue goes beyond IT folks. The recession may have stalled the retirement of the baby boomers but it will eventually happen. It’s difficult to replace a vast number of employees, especially at local government, because two thirds of local government employees are considered knowledge workers, significantly higher than the private sector so they won’t be replaced. Local governments are at a competitive disadvantage because they are not able to compete with salaries, which is a huge struggle because unlike the federal government, local government can’t just shut down. The right package of salary and benefits is key to attracting and retaining new employees.”

What is one thing about the budget process you wish more people understood?

Davis: “You can’t skip steps and it always comes back to bite you. A lot of the things the state deals with are not budget issues. Many CIOs are operating on a charge back model. Consistency in message and transparency in desired outcomes are important, but the most important thing is to remember that the budget process is indeed a process.”

What technologies are you looking forward to in 2016 and beyond?

Dr. Istrate: “We keep track of trends because they mean dollar signs to counties. In this age of big data, I’ll be the most excited about digitization of recordkeeping and how these services can help counties that cannot afford big technological overhauls but still are responsible for storing records.”

Davis: “I would reiterate the data analytics component that can help data driven decisions become more effective and accurate.”

Want to learn more? The virtual trainings from the State and Local Tech Trends are available on-demand!

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