2020 State CIO Priorities and COVID-19

August 7, 2020

If we’ve learned anything in the past 5 months, it’s been that Government Digital Transformation is essential. 

No industry has been immune to the sudden changes and hurdles brought about by COVID-19. We can no longer simply go about “business as usual”; the new normal for the foreseeable future is online and remote, with minimal human contact, and a heavy reliance on online services and systems like never before. 

The global pandemic has forced many industries, including government, to transition to a predominantly remote workforce in a matter of days or weeks. Agencies’ adaptability and continuity plans have truly been put to the test, and those who hadn’t been amidst or in the planning stages of a complete or partial digital transformation have faced significant challenges. 

COVID-19 has only accelerated the need for digital government services - no matter the situation, agencies need to be able to maintain critical citizen services and data security, and adapt to sudden change. 

Ultimately, it’s State CIOs who are tasked with leading the technology response to the current situation, and in adopting a future-proof solution. Through cloud adoption, agencies can quickly react to change, and CIOs can meet their top priorities. 

How Government Digital Transformation can Help State CIOs Drive Change

Digital government, cloud services and legacy modernization were already among the top 10 priorities for state CIOs in 2020 pre-COVID, as NASCIO reported in their survey last year -  the pandemic has only increased the urgency at which these changes need to happen. A suddenly remote workforce and disruption to the status quo has highlighted the fragility of legacy systems and their lack of elasticity. Location-dependent on-premise systems simply don’t cope well with sudden change.

State CIOs are the ones in charge of driving digital transformation across the state; their role is to evangelize change, and to inform, educate, communicate and reinforce the changes they plan to deliver. In this digital age, the demand and need for online citizen services has never been greater. 

Online Citizen Service Success

Globally, Australia is among the leaders of digital government success, having adopted a country-wide cloud-first policy as early as 2015. They aim to be one of the top 3 digital governments in the world by 2025, and are well on their way, as is evident by their progress outlined in their Digital Transformation Strategy. As a result of this strategy, both local and state agencies are able to offer many essential services online, and are more adaptable to sudden change, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With a large majority of services available online, citizens are able to quickly access resources and services, including instant government payments in emergency situations. The New Payments Platform, a cloud-based payments platform, provides real-time payments to Australians with unforeseen and urgent financial needs, 365 days of the year. The system has played a crucial role in response to past emergencies, providing immediate assistance to citizens affected by the 2019 Townsville floods and Tasmanian bushfires. On average, residents received financial assistance within 2 seconds of applying online. 

Other online government services available to Australian citizens include: tax services, disability and unemployment, medicare and health records. These services are uninterrupted by physical office closures or state-wide stay at home orders. 

In emergency situations and beyond, the Australian government’s digital strategy has proven successful in allowing citizens quick and easy access to government services. And while there’s still progress to be made, North American CIO’s can look to the Australian government as an example of an adaptable digital agency. 

The Rise of E-Governing with Digitized Government Services

Rock Regan, former CIO of Connecticut, in his article about the 7 strategies of a successful state CIO, explains that, “in this environment, 21st-century state CIOs must deliver smart, efficient, effective government with integrity. As changemakers and visionaries, they are expected to lead rather than manage, to transform as well as reform, all while facing unprecedented socio-economic challenges and digital disruption.”

With a cloud-based system, CIOs can drive digital change, and agencies can easily adapt to disruptions, whether they be policy changes, natural disasters, or global pandemics. 

A true cloud solution offers wireless access, scalability and extensibility to give users complete flexibility to innovate operations as business and legal requirements change and grow. It also allows citizens to access services online, without the hassle of paper processes and long wait times; and allows for continuity of service during times of uncertainty. Further, the risk of system shutdowns and data loss - a common issue with legacy systems - is slim to none. 

With data stored in the cloud, both employees and citizens benefit from real-time, accessible data. Citizens benefit from improved transparency into the systems they rely on, and employees benefit from consolidated, centralized data - a win-win situation.

Aside from the most important benefit of adaptability to change, given the current global situation, a cloud solution can ultimately improve the citizen experience, and help government agencies achieve the level of customer satisfaction most often associated with other commercial services.

Next Steps for State CIOs and Digital Transformation 

With 2020’s unexpected challenges, it’s been noted wide and far how impactful the pandemic has been on digital transformation of public- and private-sector operations. 

Now, with an uncertain future still looming on the horizon, it’s impossible to mitigate the critical nature of accessible, virtualized services that are secure and compliant. 

Government digitization has many benefits and opportunities, from ways to improve the citizen experience to how different governments are coping with Covid-19.

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