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Colorado Municipalities
April 2019

By Mike Whatley, Statewide Internet Portal Authority chief technology officer


Technology Trends

As local governments continue the process of becoming digital communities, several considerations arise that enable the ability to become digital government service providers. Technology innovation continues to occur at a pace that is mind-boggling; however, there are some previous trends that will continue. A review of common knowledge sources, such as GovLoop, GovTech, Gartner, and others indicates some familiar trends and others that bear watching:

Broadband Access

Being a digital community requires an ability to provide residents access to services over the internet. Many municipalities today are using a variety of public–private partnerships to ensure broadband access to their residents. Although Colorado does have a digital divide, with rural areas experiencing a lack of broadband access, notable examples of successful partnership, planning, and implementation exist. Small towns such as Meeker and Redcliff have successfully implemented broadband access, and larger cities such as Fort Collins and Longmont have pursued a municipal utility model for broadband access to citizens.

The impact of broadband availability to Colorado cities and towns has a substantial impact on possible economic development opportunities, such as distance learning, telemedicine, and shared service provision with other towns. Several state or nonprofit organizations have the expertise and/or the capability to assist with broadband planning and funding. These organizations include the Office of Information Technology Broadband Office, Department of Regulatory Agencies Broadband Deployment Board, Department of Local Affairs, Statewide Internet Portal Authority, and various councils of governments across the state. 

Cybersecurity and Risk Management

Cybersecurity, the protection of digital assets, has been a growing requirement for local governments for quite some time. Local governments need to be responsible stewards of data, as they are the level of government closest to residents. As local governments increasingly create digital services, investment in securing and safeguarding data must continue to grow. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers reports that security and risk management are yet again the top priority in 2019. This trend is reflected by the local government priorities stated in GovTech.

Cybersecurity has many facets that extend beyond securing infrastructure and data. Risk management — including understanding and meeting compliance standards such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, Criminal Justice Information System Security Policy, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — will continue to be a major emphasis. 

As local governments increase digital services, understanding risk associated with data, particularly personally identifiable information data elements, is important. The legal and financial implications of risk management require that local governments must understand their contractual obligations with current vendors and their strategies for responding to a breach of data or interruption of digital services. 

Additionally, a comprehensive strategy of “cyber insurance” costs and benefits should be explored by local governments. At the very least, understanding the insurance capabilities of current vendors and contractors should be addressed.

Cloud Services

Assuming a local government has adequate broadband capability, the opportunity for leveraging “cloud services” continues to grow. Local governments should create a cloud strategy that is driven by business outcomes and requirements. Some considerations for a cloud strategy include operational reliability, speed and innovation, budget (capital expenditures versus operating expenditures), and security needs based on compliance and regulatory requirements.

Cloud providers offer a variety of solutions, from private to fully public clouds. Regulatory and compliance requirements may force local governments into a private or hybrid cloud solution, which will require clear policies on usage and contractual terms on risk. A recent Gartner study indicates that cloud computing is more secure than on-premise solutions. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 95 percent of cloud security failures will be caused by customer error.

Ultimately, a local government, through its cloud services strategy, should delineate the best option for its own situation. Cloud services could be a software-as-service solution, such as G-Suite or Office 365; platform-as-service solution, such as Salesforce; or infrastructure-as-service solution, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform. 

Autonomous Everything

We are living in an increasingly connected world. Statista, the online statistics portal, estimates the number of internet of things (IoT) devices that will be connected to the internet will be 35 billion by 2020 and almost 75 billion by 2025 (www.statista.com/statistics/471264/iot-number-of-connected-devices-worldwide). This surge of devices indicates we will be drowning in data. 

Examples of connected devices currently include the household use of Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Nest thermostats, and Ring security devices. These devices also are increasing people’s expectations about performing a task or getting information through an auditory interface. Why go online and search when you can just ask?

All organizations, including local governments, will need to analyze how digital services are delivered through these devices. Use of machine learning and artificial intelligence will allow local governments to utilize data both in a predictive and customer-centric manner that should improve the user experience.

 

Convergence

According to the Forbes Technology Council (Top Tech Trends in 2019: 11 Experts Detail What You Need to Watch), several technology trends will occur in 2019. Many of these topics have been discussed above; however, one trend discusses the convergence of all these technologies. 

There is a great deal of hype regarding machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and augmented reality. All of these technologies are impressive in their own right but historically have been siloed. The expectation is that convergence of these technologies will create value for organizations as they become integrated into standard business processes. 

Conclusion

In summary, 2019 will be an exciting year for local governments. We all have the requirement to do more with less. The continuing improvement and expansion in technology capabilities allows local governments to review and change what and how service delivery is done. 

As always, change is uncomfortable; however, with attention to security, compliance, business improvement, and fiduciary and legal responsibilities, these technology trends can transform public engagement. 

 

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