That unusual sensation you’re feeling may be optimism. Let me explain: After years of recession, state and local economies are on the mend.
Last month Government Technology, along with e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government and the industry group TechAmerica, held the Beyond the Beltway conference in Virginia. The meeting is our annual briefing on the condition of the state and local government IT market. This year, the news wasn’t so bad.
My colleagues from e.Republic’s research and analysis division put some numbers around the upward trend. State tax collections are projected to grow by 6 percent this year and 7 percent in 2014, they said. And this year, 42 states enacted higher general fund spending compared with 2012.
For state and local CIOs, this means the purse strings may be a bit looser than they’ve been in quite a while. On the other hand, there’ll be plenty of competition for that new money, since programs across state and local government have pent-up demands after years of tight revenue.
“Lots of needs have been put on hold,” Todd Sander, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, told attendees. “IT leaders will need to tell a better story if they are going to get some of the dollars.”
Now is a great time for CIOs to sharpen their powers of persuasion. The need for technology renewal is tremendous. Our research shows that half of all critical IT systems used by health and human services agencies are outdated and in need of upgrading. The estimated price tag on that work is nearly $5 billion. Shoring up the nation’s crumbling infrastructure presents an even bigger challenge. It’ll take an estimated $2 trillion to perform needed repairs and add critical technologies like smart transportation systems, data and asset management, video and mobility. And those are just a few of the examples.
Along with making the case for new technologies, it’s clear that IT leaders also must continue championing procurement reform. In too many places, IT procurement is too slow and too restrictive. “Procurement is hell. I think we all recognize that,” said Massachusetts CIO John Letchford, one of the conference speakers. For new IT budget dollars to be spent effectively, the purchasing process needs to promote innovation and competition and deliver new solutions quickly.
So, there you go: an opportunity wrapped in a couple of challenges. Are you ready to tell your story?
Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.