IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.
Sponsor Content
What does this mean?

The Shift to Smart Governments Starts at the Network Edge

Abstract futuristic night city with dots and line connection. Concept for IOT, smart city, speed connection and intelligent network.

There’s never been a better opportunity for governments to go digital. Powerful new technology available for digital infrastructure can boost network connectivity, speed and security without compromising budgets.

The first thing most people do in the morning, even before having a coffee, is check their phone. If nothing else, it probably woke them up with an alarm. Most people live with at least one foot in the digital world. Increasingly, businesses and governments too are living in a digital world. Tools from cloud computing to the Internet of Things (IoT) enable faster delivery of a broader array of services. But these increasingly sophisticated and powerful tools require an equally sophisticated and powerful digital infrastructure.

As state and local governments plan their digital transformation into smart government operations that leverage all the digital tools available, they are faced with significant opportunities, and significant challenges. New technologies offer the ability to serve more citizens in more efficient ways, faster and simultaneously. But that’s only achievable if the network edge is powerful, secure and cost-effective enough to support the transformation.


While businesses may have gotten a head start on state and local governments when it comes to transforming their digital infrastructure, it’s worth remembering that in the race between the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins. And just as consumers are demanding access to digital services from businesses, so too are citizens and constituents demanding it from their governments. As a result, the key consideration now is not whether governments can upgrade their digital infrastructure so much as when they will upgrade it.

All of this, of course, has been accelerated by the pandemic. In a recent survey of state and local government officials, Gov Tech found that 80 percent said digital transformation has become either more important or mission-critical since COVID-19. A full 60 percent said they had already launched new digital services since the start of the pandemic.

But it’s critical to consider the infrastructure that will underlay those services. To be effective, access to the network edge must be fast, reliable and secure, as well as cost-effective. Fortunately, network capabilities have been rapidly advancing in all those areas. So, for government organizations that have waited to make an investment, congratulations! The network you invest in today will be far more powerful and less expensive than the one you would have bought even 18 months ago.


There have been three major improvements in network technology that have contributed to the current environment:

  • Improvements in both local area network (LAN) and wireless area network (WAN) technologies enable greater connectivity, speed and security. These improvements provide the speed and capacity governments need to both improve their own productivity and offer more and faster services to citizens.
  • More automation enables IoT devices to work together seamlessly and can segregate devices into categories to improve security. This provides the opportunity to streamline services and make certain tasks faster and more reliable, while also freeing up people to work on other things.
  • More ways to add layers of security, from macro- and microsegregation to improved encryption, make it possible to create more secure government services. This ensures that a faster, more interconnected network stays secure at all times.

Three network technologies are key to delivering these advantages:

  • Wi-Fi 6
  • More powerful and capable LAN switches
  • A zero-trust approach to cybersecurity

Wi-Fi is the default mode of connection for citizens accessing government services over the Internet. In fact, many people use the terms Wi-Fi and Internet interchangeably. Wi-Fi 6 is the newest generation of Wi-Fi based on the latest industry standards. This access network connection standard boosts connectivity on both the 2.5 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands, enabling more connections and faster speeds. It includes a higher level of encryption for all connections, which improves network security.

Advances in LAN switches are making all those connections faster and more efficient. An easy-to-overlook element of network speed and connectivity, the latest improvements of LAN switches enable networks to sort and manage larger volumes of data with ease, enabling the more-powerful Wi-Fi 6 networks to operate at maximum efficiency.

The zero-trust approach to network security is a paradigm shift in the way organizations structure their cybersecurity efforts. Ransomware and cyber attacks are increasingly on the radar for state and local governments, with a few particularly high-profile attacks on major industries highlighting them as a growing concern. More digital and interconnected government networks make for a more enticing target to hackers and cyber criminals.

The zero-trust approach acts as though the system has already been compromised, all the time. No device connected to it is automatically trusted, and different sections of the network are segregated to limit access by an attacker. As Director of Business Development Heitor Faroni put it in a recent Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise webinar, “If your door lock is talking to your security cameras, something has gone wrong.” With a zero-trust approach to securing their networks, state and local governments can leverage the greater capabilities of a digitally interconnected network without concerns that their whole system could be compromised by one overly simple password.


Of course, all of this sounds as though it must be expensive. But that’s not the case. Advances in all three edge network technologies have evolved to the point that they are now more cost-effective to implement, which means state and local governments will get more from their investment today than they would have 18 months ago.

In many ways, the cost versus capabilities evolution is similar to the one that happens every 18 months with high-end consumer devices. Take the example of the Apple Watch. From first generation to seventh generation, the device has massively improved in every respect. Beyond simple heartbeat monitoring, today’s version can detect everything from blood oxygen levels to if you’ve fallen down. Network connectivity has been boosted, and you can even make phone calls on some models.

But while the available features have either increased or improved, cost barely budged, going from $349 to $399. Network technologies have followed the same trajectory, becoming far more powerful without becoming more expensive.

Therefore, the true return on investment on the new technologies that will enable a digital transformation should be based on total cost of ownership (TCO). Equipment and licensing costs, among other things, are hard costs, which are relatively easy to track. But much more difficult to track, though worthy of consideration, are the soft costs associated with a network over its lifespan.

How, for instance, do you calculate the cost of a security breach? Consider the different factors:

  • Man-hours spent fixing the problem and patching the breach
  • Hiring outside experts to investigate and repair the system
  • Productive time lost while the network was down
  • Lost time spent recovering data or making workarounds for permanently lost data
  • Potential lawsuits if personal information was taken

Therefore, in an era of constrained budgets, both hard and soft costs should be considered by state and local governments calculating TCO when planning a digital transformation. A network edge infrastructure that leverages Wi-Fi 6, improved LAN switches, and a zero-trust network security approach can be more cost-effective and deliver a higher return on investment over the long term compared to one that doesn’t. By looking at overall costs in this way, state and local governments can leverage the technologies they need, build the network required at the edge, and establish the foundation to deliver the services citizens expect in the way they expect them. And they can do all of this while working with constrained budgets.

And if it’s needed, there’s also support from the federal government for state and local governments to update their systems, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity. The American Rescue Plan allocated $350 billion to state and local governments to patch holes in their budgets, but it can also be used for upgrading IT infrastructure.


For state and local governments, there’s simply never been a better time to plan the digital transformation to a smart government operation. It’s increasingly becoming an expectation of citizens that they’ll have instant and secure access to the services they need. COVID-19 especially has accelerated this expectation by pushing so many more interactions between citizens and their governments into the digital, rather than the physical, world. Today, everything from renewing a driver’s license to getting a marriage certificate relies on digital infrastructure.

For governments planning their transformation journey, there are many considerations, as the diagram below shows.
Luckily, state and local governments that are still in the early stages of their digital transformation process now have access to much more powerful edge networking technologies at comparable prices to those available even 18 months ago. And with federal support as well, state and local governments have the opportunity to access the most powerful and secure network technologies available and fit them into a limited budget more easily than ever.