Security, data loss prevention top of list for US councils

Thursday, 28 May, 2020

Security, data loss prevention top of list for US councils

Cybersecurity and data loss prevention are at the top of the list of worries for US local government tech leaders.

New urgencies in cybersecurity and data loss prevention dominate US local and county government technology leaders’ daily concerns, with 93% of respondents reporting them to be their top priorities over the next two years.

This is according to the ‘2020 State of City and County IT National Survey’, an annual report on city and county technology and workforce trends from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and the Public Technology Institute (PTI).

At 68%, for the first time, innovation and application technologies took the number two spot of key priorities when leaders were asked to rank IT initiatives through to 2022, while modernisation of outdated IT systems and applications ranked third at 55%.

“Given the rise of ransomware attacks at the local level in 2019 and into 2020, it is understandable that cybersecurity continues to remain the number one concern of local government CIOs,” said Alan Shark, Executive Director of PTI.

Among specific areas for improving their cybersecurity posture, 70% of responses identified security awareness training for staff as the highest priority.

Other highest-priority measures for cybersecurity improvement among city and county IT professionals included:

  • modernising defences to account for cloud security
  • fostering a security mindset across all facets of city and county government
  • adopting a cybersecurity framework based on national standards
  • updating policies such as ransomware to better address the changing threat landscape.

“Local government CIOs are also looking for ways to go beyond simply maintaining and safeguarding their networks by adding new and emerging technologies to their toolbox such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, 5G, drones, and even augmented and virtual reality, to help solve problems,” Shark said.

“At the same time, skills training in areas of emerging technologies and the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity continue to be an essential component of an effective IT workforce.”

When asked to rank the importance of technology and skills training for their departments, 80% of respondents cited cybersecurity training as the top requirement, followed by improving the user experience with IT support and better understanding of network infrastructure and systems reliability and performance.

US city and county CIOs also continue to redefine their cloud computing strategies to increase efficient operation and management of their IT infrastructure, with 62% of respondents indicating local governments have implemented new cloud applications.

New to the survey, questions on local-state and cross-jurisdiction collaboration and IT procurement were included. While nearly half (49%) of respondents characterised their jurisdictional relationship with the state CIO as non-existent, top collaboration opportunities cited by respondents included cybersecurity assistance and aligned cybersecurity strategies (83%) and procurement purchasing and acquisition (53%).

“While many city and county CIOs indicated they could identify many potential opportunities and saw clear value in collaboration between one another and their state counterparts, the reality is in most cases there are no relationships in place,” Shark said.

“However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted IT operations and management to be more essential than ever in supporting critical public health services and delivering smart government systems. Going forward, it is likely that we will see the trend towards greater cross-jurisdictional and local-state collaboration accelerate.”

Conducted in the beginning of 2020, the report data serves as an accurate snapshot through the first two months of the year, prior to the COVID-10 pandemic, which severely affected US local government operations and service delivery.

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