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Tech Experiences from the Pandemic: Moving Local Government Forward

Aug 5, 2020, 19:39 PM by Dale Bowen
The IT response to the pandemic has provided an opportunity to identify innovative or new practices that local governments will be looking to implement over the coming months, if not years.
Over the past several months local government IT leaders have been under tremendous pressure to help maintain governmentwide operations during the pandemic. And they have risen to the challenge by implementing new telework procedures, working with the private sector to secure needed equipment and solutions at a fast pace, by ensuring a safe and secure cyber environment, and being on-call as new issues arise.

The IT response to the pandemic has also provided an opportunity to identify innovative or new practices that local governments will be looking to implement over the coming months, if not years. As cited in an earlier blog post, local government budgets will take a significant hit. In that blog post we share why local government IT must be spared the traditional budget ax by highlighting how local government played a vital role responding to the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Here, we expand on that idea by presenting several new practices or areas of interest that local governments will be exploring as they continue to move government service delivery forward, based much in part on the lessons learned over the past few months. You will see that they are all interconnected. These new practices are based on discussion topics raised during the webinar series Cybersecurity & Emerging Technology in Local Government that PTI has been presenting over the summer.

A Move to Connected government
There is a push to transition many government services and functions to online platforms. In other words, to truly put the “E” in E-government. What transaction-based activities can be moved online, reducing the need for the customer to go to city hall, and reducing the safety risk for residents and employees? How can communities continue to use public virtual meetings, which in many cases led to more community engagement, to connect with one another and to stay involved?

The New Normal for Government Employees

Thousands of local governments implemented work-from-home for many of their employees and for the vast majority, it worked well, and even exceeded expectations. Does it make sense to continue to allow employees to telework, even when government facilities open? What does a continuation of telework mean in terms of productivity, working and reporting relationships, and overall service delivery?

Re-examining Digital Equity

The implementation of telework has also shown a spotlight on the inequity that many government employees face: Many do not have broadband access from home, many are not issued laptops or phones for them to communicate with their supervisors or coworkers, meaning that, their only option was to report to a government facility. Local governments need to re-examine who in their workforce currently has and should have access to tech.

Positioning IT as a Valued Partner

This is particularly important as local government leaders explore budget cuts. But it is also an opportunity to show how IT came through; how IT worked with other departments and agencies to help them continue to operate. Now is a chance to build on the partnerships and the relationships created as local governments explore new services and solutions. As one CIO explained, “A cut to the IT budget is really a cut to another department or several departments.”

Cybersecurity

Network and cyber infrastructure security must continue to be a priority. As connected government takes hold and more employees work from home, IT leaders must continue to monitor threats, implement new security tools, continue to push cybersecurity as a priority with elected leaders, and be vigilant in promoting employee awareness.

Expanding Government Collaboration


The government response to the pandemic has shown how much local governments technology leaders depend on each other and rely on their counterparts in state governments – if for nothing more than sharing information. For some leaders this is an opportunity to build on recent successes in collaboration and to build on these relationships. For others, this is the time to reach out and connect and identify opportunities for collaboration.

It is important to remember, tech does not stand alone: It takes a coordinated approach between IT and the various departments and agencies – IT’s partners - to implement these new practices and to ensure they are sustainable. And while IT can drive these new services and practices, it is important that elected leaders and top management be the champions of your organization’s move forward.