Local governments from across the country are no strangers to stretching budget dollars to pay for IT initiatives. Here are four technology trends that CIOs are spending their technology dollars on.
1. Cloud services of all shapes and sizes have appeal to local governments. For the purposes of this article, cloud services refer to the delivery of computing services—storage, servers, security, applications, and more—over the Internet. They are often delivered by a provider on a pay-as-you-grow subscription basis with elastic-use pricing commonly available.
For a cash-strapped CIO, the advantages of cloud-based services are numerous: smooth and predictable cost growth, certified and compliant facilities, and dedicated security personnel—just to name a few. Ransomware attacks reported in Atlanta, Chicago, and other municipalities add to the allure of cloud-based services, where the task of infrastructure security is shared between the government and service provider.
2. Digital government is a term used to describe a framework for digital services—such as a portal used to improve citizen interactions with government, identity management, digital assistants, and chatbots. Chatbots are digital personalities often powered by artificial intelligence and are designed to perform rudimentary social tasks and answer questions. Chatbot use has surged as local governments seek ways to stretch their IT dollars. Since chatbots never eat, sleep, or take PTO, they’re ideal for expanding service hours and reducing workloads.
This year, Todd Ross, CIO for the city of Los Angeles implemented “Chip” the chatbot to perform password changes and act as the city’s “anytime, anywhere resource to understand how to do business with the city.”
In June, the state government of Kansas added a chatbot named “Agent Kay” to its Facebook Messenger. Agent Kay is powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. It can answer over 200 questions, and more responses are being added each day. Some say Agent Kay outperforms its human counterparts, but when Agent Kay faces a question it can’t answer, a live agent steps in on its behalf.
3. Consolidation and optimization describes centralizing, consolidating, and optimizing infrastructure and data center resources. CIOs of local governments are replacing servers that have large physical profiles with faster, smaller computers or virtual machines (VMs). This trend is driven by the federal government’s Data Center Optimization Initiative that seeks to consolidate its 4,477 data centers into a more manageable number. The practice of consolidating data centers has become so commonplace that the General Services Administration (GSA) publishes monthly forums and best practices for undertaking such a project.
4. Data management and analytics includes business intelligence, predictive analytics, big data, data governance, and data architecture. Local governments across the United States have been growing their adoption and use of big data and predictive analytics to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver better outcomes to constituents. With analytics software packages becoming more available and easier to set up, departments have begun utilizing these tools.
In Philadelphia, the police department used data analytics to reduce violent crime by 42% in two high-risk neighborhoods. In Colorado, the Department of Transportation uses performance analytics to make informed policy decisions.
While local governments can benefit from mining constituent data, citizens often oppose initiatives to collect and share data across government agencies. In China, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia—where legislative hurdles are somewhat muted—government agencies share data to improve public services.
While significant cost savings can be had with proper use of analytics, the infrastructure, data architecture, and hiring of data science specialists can be both expensive and challenging. CIOs warn that data analytics—if not done correctly—can be very expensive and not achieve their intended objectives.
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