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Year in Review: A Preview of Issues to Watch in 2019

As Government Technology took a look back at our editorial coverage in 2018, it became clear that many issues we covered closely this year are likely to still be on the public-sector’s mind in 2019.

The December issue of Government Technology is our traditional look back at the biggest news in the gov tech universe over the previous year. We do a data-driven review of the stories we wrote and the issues we covered, in part to make sure the topics we think are important are the ones readers find helpful too. A handful of key issues and news events rose to the surface, so in the course of our year in review feature, we gave those some extra attention. Taken altogether, they also make a pretty compelling list of things we’ll be keeping an eye on in 2019.

1. 5G

It was a year of progress and turmoil for 5G technology, with carriers putting pilots on the map in cities eager to put the pieces in place for intelligent, connected communities. The FCC intervened in the fall, placing limits on municipalities’ power over decisions on how the technology proliferates within their boundaries.

2. Blockchain

CIOs are deeply split on whether government can benefit from the distributed ledger technology, blockchain, still sullied by its early association with cryptocurrency like bitcoin. But early experiments, like blockchain-based voting for overseas military personnel from West Virginia, are starting to garner interest. Meanwhile, many legislatures want to make sure they greenlight the growth of blockchain-related industry in their states.  

3. FirstNet

2019 will be another pivotal year for FirstNet, which secured full participation at the state level at the end of 2017. This year saw a few local agencies start to join as well, though the majority were in wait-and-see mode, watching for lessons from early entrants and limited pilots. CIOs told GT this year that early FirstNet mapping efforts gave them cause for optimism when it comes to filling connectivity gaps, especially in rural areas.

4. Human-Centered Design

In the quest to create an Amazon-like experience for digital services throughout government, human- or user-centered design gained ground this year, as leaders sought to transform services in a way that doesn’t just make sense to government but makes intuitive sense to citizens. Taking hold in both internal and external projects, extensive, iterative user testing is yielding better experiences using technology.

5. Micromobility

Last-mile transit aims to get would-be transit users all the way to their destination as they access public transportation options, and this year the sharing economy exploded with electric scooters and bicycles in cities across the country. “Deploy first and apologize later” approaches backfired in some cities that struggled to manage sidewalks littered with scooters and bikes, threatening pedestrian safety. 2019 will likely see some best practices emerge to make sure micromobility options are a welcome addition to city streets.

6. Net Neutrality

Challenges to the 2017 FCC decision to roll back net neutrality protections were plentiful in 2018, as state leaders aimed to prevent content-throttling and protect a free and open Internet. Governors, attorneys general and state legislatures all carved out their positions, capping off with a bill signed in California that saw an immediate challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice. 2019 promises much of the same.

7. Privacy

As government data sharing matures alongside smart cities and analytics efforts, jurisdictions are struggling to define their approaches to safeguarding the information citizens entrust to them. These concerns were stoked this year by revelations on the data-sharing practices of social media giants like Facebook. Expect ongoing privacy discussions in 2019, and more privacy staff hired into government to ensure personally identifiable information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

8. Ransomware

The ransomware struggle came into full view in 2018, with notable examples in Atlanta, Colorado and Baltimore, to name but a few. Cities and states are already adjusting their practices in response to the growing sophistication of the threat, which can no longer be abated with strong backup practices. Next year will see a growing focus on ransomware protections, along with continued resource requests aimed at shoring up cyberdefenses across the board.

These are some of the issues we’ll be following closely in the next year. As always, read for the latest news on these and other issues impacting state and local government IT.  

e.Republic Executive Editor Noelle Knell is a contributing editor to Emergency Management magazine.