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2020 in Review: The Gov Tech World Turned Upside Down

Government Technology’s editorial staff looks back on the year that was and the complex ways the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everything from policing and civic tech to infrastructure and telework.

Reflection on ceiling of people walking in the rain
In searching for bright spots from this most disruptive year, those of us doing the writing, and not the doing, got unparalleled opportunities to use words like disruptive, transformative, unprecedented, extraordinary and so many more. And, thankfully, with the bulk of 2020 behind us, it’s clear that the work of government technology leaders gained new respect. Never before has the need for robust connectivity, sound technical infrastructure, intuitive online services and digital literacy been laid so plain.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, telehealth was slowly increasing in availability and adoption. But the risks to patients and providers of in-person visits during COVID-19 led to a dramatic increase as 2020 wore on.

“The meteoric rise of telehealth during the pandemic has not only helped us combat the virus, but also prompted a new conversation around the future of patient-centered care,” reads a press release from late July from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, nearly 44 percent of in-person primary care Medicare visits utilized telehealth in April 2020, compared with less than 1 percent in February.

Another area with far-reaching impact from the pandemic was the American justice system. Courts at every level, jury trials and so many other procedural operations ground to a halt when stay-at-home orders were first issued. But as the spread of COVID-19 continued, tech experts were called upon to enable new ways of conducting court business with significant remote components. In September, characterized virtual jury trials, piloted in a few rare instances this summer, as “morphing from experiment to expectation.”

Below, we consider eight other areas of government life that have experienced large-scale disruption this year, and the leading role that COVID-19 played.

— Noelle Knell, Editor

States Prioritized Broadband as COVID-19 Took Hold

In 2020, a Reckoning for Law Enforcement and Tech Ethics

Grim Forecast, Pandemic Collide in Banner Cybersecurity Year

Swift Shift to Telework Proves Public-Sector’s Agility

COVID-19 Fueled Innovation in Public Transit Solutions

COVID-19: The Ultimate Stress Test for Major Government Systems

Emerging Tech Gets Off the Ground Amid Pandemic Response

COVID-19 Pushes Digital Services from Luxury to Necessity