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Cyber, State and Local Government 3 MIN Read

Cyber and Digital Government Are Top Priorities for State CIOs: Here’s Why That’s Important

March 13th, 2024


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The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), representing CIOs from all 50 states, published its annual survey of key trends and developments that anyone working in technology should be aware of. But for me, the biggest takeaway is that – after topping the list alone for the last several years – this year, “Cybersecurity & Risk Management” and “Digital Government & Services” are tied for the top spot.

And that tie is telling. It signals that, increasingly, CIOs at the state level are feeling the pressure to deliver citizen services in a way that more closely resembles the private sector. People are used to interacting with businesses online in ways that are easy, convenient and secure – from banking to shopping to looking for directions. They expect the same from the institutions that they rely on to receive benefits, make a claim, find information, or request assistance.

States and agencies looking to interpret this year’s rankings should consider three important things related to the interplay between digital government services and cybersecurity.

1. Cybersecurity can be the accelerator that removes friction for digital government services.

The ability for state and local governments to deliver the kind of digital government services that citizens are looking for depends on robust security and proactive policies that safeguard user data and the systems that use that data. Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that security remained a top priority this year. Having a strong identity and access management strategy should enable easier, quicker, and more secure access to the right services, applications, and tools.

2. Design security into the digital services up front, not as an afterthought.

Doing this through processes like DevSecOps enable security to move at the speed of modern development and enable teams to deploy new digital capabilities without sacrificing security or delaying the implementation of new services and features. This, too, is critical to delivering the kind of services that users expect from any application or service provider they interact with – government or not. While it may require investment in training, culture building or tools, integrating this type of approach across the entire IT lifecycle will pay dividends.

3. Provide transparent policies and options around data sharing while using digital services.

A key but often overlooked element of providing digital government services to users involves earning and keeping their trust. It’s imperative that users can easily understand how their data is being used and protected. They also need to know when and how they can provide or revoke their approval for their data to be shared. This level of transparency and ownership of their data will incentivize more (and more consistent) use of digital government services and, ultimately, enable states to provide a better overall user experience as well.

Within digital government services – just like anywhere else – the customer experience is improved with smooth and seamless experiences from login to authentication to service delivery. Digital services teams must collaborate early and often with security teams to achieve their common goals, not the least of which is affirming for citizens that their data is protected and not being improperly disclosed. This kind of digital government transformation demands careful cybersecurity considerations that, together, protect user data while enhancing their experience and building trust.