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NASCIO Survey Shows a New Post-COVID Landscape for CIOs

Most state CIOs expect remote work to continue and for digital services to keep proliferating. That introduces a host of shifting priorities, including a renewed need for cybersecurity enhancements and identity tools.

More than a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape of state government technology has changed — and a new survey from the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO), Grant Thornton and CompTIA has shed some light on how.

The annual survey, which included responses from 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, reveals steadfast confidence in telework becoming a more permanent option in state government, as well as redoubled efforts to deploy digital services. Perhaps as a consequence, there’s also great interest in strengthening digital identity tools and cybersecurity structures to make sure those programs can work as intended.

When asked which efforts they expect to last beyond the pandemic, the No. 1 answer state CIOs gave was remote work. A large majority also expect work to continue deploying web-based services, as well as to secure those tools and prevent fraud associated with them.
Of course, remote work is a better fit for some than others. At NASCIO’s annual conference, held in Seattle this year, CIOs said remote work in their state governments is very much a mixed bag, even this far into the pandemic.

“We did start a phased-in return in July, based on facilities, and we wanted to keep occupancy rates lower,” said Katrina Flory, Ohio’s CIO. “(The Department of Administrative Services) starts back this week. We’re seeing most in a hybrid approach, two days on site, three days remote. Very small pockets are going 100 percent remote.”

Jennifer Ricker, CIO of Illinois, said that the big lesson from the pandemic has been proving that flexible work setups are even possible — though they might look different from place to place.

“Every agency is doing something a little bit different. Some have had some of their workforce back already. Most are working through longer-term hybrid options,” she said. “The great thing is that we’ve been able to prove that it works …. It’s been very successful.”

Though many CIOs have pointed out that remote work creates new security challenges — how secure are employees’ home Wi-Fi routers? — the survey found that, at least thus far, it hasn’t resulted in more security incidents for most.
Since digital services have become more important during the pandemic, NASCIO also asked about identity and access management (IAM), which can help enable access to those services for both the public and employees. The results found that states are generally farther along in establishing enterprise-wide IAM for the government workforce than they are for the public, but a majority have either fully or partially implemented both.

Flory said Ohio’s OH|ID program, part of the InnovateOhio initiative, is working with some 1 million citizens at the moment.
In a related area, the survey found that a majority of states are now at least exploring mobile driver’s licenses.

Doug Robinson, NASCIO’s executive director, said he expects such projects to proliferate.

“I think we’re going to see dramatically more attention prompted by the demands of the pandemic,” he said.
Lastly, the survey asked CIOs what types of legacy systems they expect to work on modernizing in the next two years. The most popular answers were human services and public welfare (75 percent), labor and employment (69 percent) and health services (60 percent).

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to recognize the three organizations involved in the survey.
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.
Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
e.Republic Executive Editor Noelle Knell is a contributing editor to Emergency Management magazine.