State Chief Information Officer survey

The Agile State CIO: Leading in a Time of Uncertainty

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state CIO survey In the face of a pandemic that was affecting almost every aspect of life for citizens, businesses and governments, state chief information officers (CIOs) acted and adjusted with stability, resiliency and flexibility, according to the 2020 State CIO Survey, The Agile State CIO: Leading in a Time of Uncertainty. The report examines the critical issues related to COVID-19 and other challenges facing state CIOs such as state and local collaboration, broadband, digital government, disaster recovery and privacy.

Executive Summary 2020 is a year that has undoubtedly been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this eleventh annual state chief information officer (CIO) survey, we received the perspective of 47 state and territory CIOs on the extraordinary and unprecedented challenges they faced this year. In addition to directly addressing the issues and lessons learned by CIOs in responding to the pandemic, we also received updates from CIOs on many of the traditional topics covered by the survey, including CIO organization business models, digital government, adoption of cloud and emerging technologies and state and local collaboration. As might be expected, there was not a single topic area where the pandemic did not impact state CIO experiences in some way. The continuing work to address the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and to prepare for the long-term impacts to state and citizen work and personal lives is reflected throughout this year’s survey.

COVID-19 By March, the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly disrupted the United States federal, state and local governments and, like the rest of the world, state CIOs were forced to act and adjust with stability, resiliency and flexibility. In this year’s state CIO survey, we asked CIOs about the COVID-19 issues that they have faced, lessons they learned and what CIOs think will be here to stay in a post COVID-19 world. To be expected, all state CIO respondents are involved in their state’s COVID-19 response and recovery in some form or fashion, including many who serve on the governors’ pandemic leadership team. As one CIO commented, “the governor and so much of the legislative and executive leaders just found out that the CIO is not the computer guy. There is a whole new understanding that we enable the business of government.”

One of the most significant lessons learned has been that remote work does, in fact, work. Prior to the pandemic, only a few states had implemented robust remote work polices and work from home was not widespread. The pandemic has proven that remote work can be successful without negatively impacting the business of state government. Whether or not remote work is here to stay for all who have worked from home in 2020 remains to be seen, but all state CIOs agree that there will be significant and long-lasting changes to government and their workforce.

Digital Government This year we sought to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on how states were looking to change their interactions with citizens, visitors, businesses and employees. Participants were asked, “what is the biggest driver to establishing digital services?” Almost all participants agreed improving the online experience for citizens was the number one priority. As one CIO stated “government is now expected to be fully digital. Unless you need to be somewhere in person, like getting a driver’s license / REAL ID photo, you will do it online and we need to make that happen.” More than two-thirds agreed that increasing public participation and optimizing operations and lowering costs were also top priorities.

State and Local Collaboration This year, we asked what services state CIOs are offering to local governments. We changed the wording of this question from 2019 when we asked which services state CIOs provide to local governments. We made this decision based on our conclusion that there are a number of services that states offer to local governments that many local governments are not utilizing. The top three responses to this question remain consistent from last year: security and infrastructure services; network services and data center hosting. It is important to note that nearly half of states report a plan to expand services to local governments in the next year.

Broadband This year’s survey included questions on broadband, which, as the COVID-19 pandemic response has demonstrated, is becoming more crucial in the everyday lives of Americans. Broadband has consistently been one of the top ten priorities CIOs identified in the State CIO Top Ten Policy Priorities; however, when asked in this year’s State CIO Survey to rank what they believed would change the most as a result of COVID, CIOs ranked investment in broadband expansion/adoption in the top five.

CIOs understand the importance of broadband in supporting many of their needs stated in the previous sections of this report. From creating digital government channels and remote work solutions to providing education and healthcare opportunities for their citizens, they know that they need a reliable broadband network to make these needs accessible and successful. The COVID-19 pandemic response has only heightened those needs, which is why this year, 81 percent of respondents said that their states will now accelerate the implementation of their broadband strategies in light of COVID-19.

The CIO survey, which has been published annually for the last 11 years, includes responses from 47 state and territory CIOs and was released by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), Grant Thornton Public Sector LLC and CompTIA.

Download the full report: The Agile State CIO: Leading in a Time of Uncertainty.


Graeme FinleyGraeme Finley
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