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State CIOs Lead Digital Transformation During the Pandemic

In conjunction with its annual conference held this past week, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has issued several timely reports that are worth reviewing. Here’s a roundup.

As NASCIO concluded its annual conference virtually this past week, an extensive list of deliverables offered road maps for 2021 and beyond. Member profiles for all 50 states can be found at this interactive website, and an encouraging aspect to this year’s virtual event was the excellent level of participation from the states and U.S. territories.

This week's blog will highlight some of these resources that are available (and valuable) to the public, including non-members.

First up is Digital Government Rising: How AI is Providing New Opportunities to Deliver Value.

“This report is a follow up to a 2019 survey by NASCIO, The Center for Digital Government and IBM, exploring how state CIOs and other state technologies are thinking about artificial intelligence. This follow-up study includes new interviews with state CIOs in the wake of COVID-19 and the increased use of chatbots and other AI to respond to the pandemic. The report also details new pilot projects and uses cases for AI outside of COVID-19.”

Second, we have the 2020 State CIO Survey, titled The Agile State CIO: Leading in a Time of Uncertainty.

“2020 is a year that has undoubtedly been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this eleventh annual state chief information officer (CIO) survey, we received the perspective of 47 state and territory CIOs on the extraordinary and unprecedented challenges they faced this year. In addition to directly addressing the issues and lessons learned by CIOs in responding to the pandemic, we also received updates from CIOs on many of the tradi­tional topics covered by the survey, including CIO organization business models, digital government, adoption of cloud and emerging technologies and state and local collaboration. As might be expect­ed, there was not a single topic area where the pandemic did not impact state CIO experiences in some way. The continuing work to address the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and to prepare for the long-term impacts to state and citizen work and personal lives is reflected throughout this year’s survey.”

Watch the session from the first day of the conference covering the 2020 State CIO Survey here:  

Third, we have this report issued by NASCIO and EY on emerging technology. The goal is to answer questions around how the power of emerging technology will frame the future.

“State CIOs are under increasing pressure to deliver a seamless, digital experience to citizens while providing key IT infrastructure support for state agencies. They will likely be asked to do more with less as state governments face ongoing budget pressure, especially in light of revenue shortfalls related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this survey from NASCIO and EY, we explore how states are (or are not) governing their use of emerging technology, the challenges they face, and what technologies will be most likely used in their states.”

Fourth, we have the biennial cybersecurity survey of state CISOs. The excellent and often-quoted report is entitled 2020 Deloitte-NASCIO Cybersecurity Study — States at Risk: The Cybersecurity Imperative in Uncertain Times.

“The sixth biennial Deloitte-NASCIO Cybersecurity Study reflects insights from all 50 states and 1 territory on the CISO’s role and budget, governance, reporting, workforce and operations. The CISOs filled out this year’s survey in May/June 2020—an unprecedented time as the world adjusted to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. State governments responded by moving their enterprise operations, services and employees to a virtual environment, and the study captures COVID-19’s impact on state cyber posture to the extent visible during the early response to the pandemic.”

I was closely involved with the first four cybersecurity survey reports (three of which occurred while I was Michigan CSO or CTO) from 2010 to 2016, and this effort has always provided great data and metrics that can be compared to previous years. The journey of the last decade has been eye-opening in state cybersecurity, and this report shows where things have improved and where progress is still lacking.

This Government Technology article highlights the NASCIO Annual Conference cybersecurity session which went over the report, and offers helpful details and snippets of the report:

“While there are obviously things for governments to be hopeful about when it comes to cyber, the report also offers insights into a number of ongoing challenges that governments continue to struggle with. 

  • Workforce Retention: One of the biggest challenges for state-level cybersecurity continues to be attracting and retaining a substantial and consistent workforce, the report says. “Inadequate cybersecurity staffing” is still listed as a “top barrier” for CISOs to overcome, with “state salary rates” being one of the primary reasons for this. The salaries for state workers being what they are, governments should attract talent with the promise of steady, consistent work, and the opportunity to serve, the report says. 
  • Budgets: While there exists an opportunity to seek increased investment in cybersecurity, the current reality is that states still lag far behind federal agencies and financial services companies when it comes to prioritizing cyber in IT budgets. According to the report, there has been no real progress in this area since 2018: a majority of states still do not have a budget line item for cybersecurity and most allocate less than 3 percent of their overall IT budget on security (for reference, federal agencies typically spend 16 percent and financial companies approximately 10 percent). Dedicated funding doesn't just translate into more resources; it also gives cybersecurity more visibility politically, which allows for a broader conversation about resources and investment in the future.
  • Cyberattacks: Cybercriminals have become more powerful in recent years, growing in sophistication and prevalence, according to the report. In particular, this year governments ranked financial fraud as a leading cause of data breaches — with the rate rising substantially from just 10 states in 2018 to 30 states in 2020.”
NASCIO State IT Recognition Awards

The NASCIO Awards program has always been the highlight of the annual conference, in my opinion. These best practices are used all over the world, and they provide great examples for other states to follow. These are easy wins and takeaways that make NASCIO such an important group for federal, state and local governments.

The recipients for the 2020 NASCIO State IT Recognition Awards include:

Business Process Innovations
State of North Carolina: Modernizing Environmental Mapping with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Cross-Boundary Collaboration & Partnerships
Commonwealth of Virginia: Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT)

State of Georgia: Who Let the “Cyber Dawg” Out? A Live-Action Cybersecurity Exercise

Data Management, Analytics & Visualization
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Maintenance-IQ – Empowering PennDOT Professionals with Data Visualization

Digital Government: Government to Business
State of Colorado: MyBizColorado

Digital Government: Government to Citizen
State of Colorado: myColorado

Emerging & Innovative Technologies
State of Indiana: Management Performance Hub, Enhanced Research Environment

Enterprise IT Management Initiatives
Commonwealth of Virginia: Virginia: Pioneering a New Method of State IT Services Delivery

Information Communications Technology (ICT) Innovations
State of Maryland: Maryland First: First Responders Interoperability Radio System Team

State CIO Office Special Recognition
State of Washington: Paid Family & Medical Leave

To review these and other submissions, please visit NASCIO’s Awards Library:

2020 NASCIO Conference Opening Keynote – Plus Other Sessions

There were many other sessions that I enjoyed from the virtual NASCIO Annual Conference this year. The opening keynote was fascinating and very educational regarding how each of us can have more presence in any room or any situation. Entitled Presence: Leadership in Crisis by Dr. Aaron Anderson, you can watch it here:   

There were also a series of “deep dives” on various topics that can be seen on this list. One was on the topic of building the business case for securing funds during the pandemic. You can see that session below that I participated in with Delaware CISO Solomon Adote and Egress CEO Tony Pepper.

Each deep dive session also had several 30-minute Q/A sessions. Some of those sessions can be seen here.

Final Thoughts

Almost everyone I spoke with this week who is associated with state gov tech enjoyed the 2020 NASCIO Annual Conference, but missed the traditional face-to-face element. I certainly hope that we will be back in person in Seattle next October for the 2021 Annual Conference. In the meantime, I urge readers to leverage these great NASCIO resources available online now.


Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.