NASCIO's Latest Report on State IT: 2020 vs. 2021

SLATE Research & Consulting's Exclusive Analysis

The National Association of Chief Information Officers published a new report comparing data from state CIOs in early 2020 and 2021 - before and "after" the pandemic. Here are some of the report's key findings.


No time? Jump to TLDR.


State CIO Teams Got Stuff Done

CIOs showered praise on their IT teams for their performance during the pandemic. IT public servants are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve. It is important to remember that some state IT workers still feel undervalued and misunderstood. CIOs understand the monumental task the workforce achieved during the pandemic. Luckily, this appreciation is spreading throughout state government, with CIOs championing it.

"We have learned that our people are even bigger rock starts than we previously thought. People came together to do good."

There is also the stereotype of government as a slow, unresponsive, bogged down behemoth. COVID-19 showed that state government could transition to remote work quickly. IT teams worked rapidly to stand up new apps for citizen services. Purchasing teams leveraged resources to supply laptops and other devices so students had the necessary tools for distance learning. When there was need for the entire state government, the IT workforce stepped up.


Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

NASCIO identifies key takeaways from their conversations with state CIOs about the lessons learned over the past year.

  • Centralized IT provides useful benefits

  • Securing remote work is more important than ever

  • Broadband access must be expanded

  • Legacy systems still present challenges

Centralized IT governance at the state level provides flexibility that is difficult to achieve with other models. In a time of crisis, IT needs to act with a unified mission. This model allows the state to tap into economies of scale, work in standardized environments, and more easily leverage all the resources of state government.


Malicious actors have increased their activity during the pandemic. As the government's workforce moved remote, the number of cyber threats grew, too. Solutions for managing thousands and thousands of endpoints remotely, securely, and efficiently that are easy to implement and use will be key.


The pandemic exposed the glaring holes that still exist in the digital divide. The crisis has shone a light on the uneven and often inadequate broadband infrastructure throughout the country, but especially in rural areas. Public-private partnerships are an increasingly popular way to use the resources of the private sector to help deliver the utility of government services. Congress also provided $7B+ in funding to the Emergency Connectivity Fund (E-Rate support) in the American Rescue Plan to help expand broadband access.


During the pandemic, unemployment insurance (UI) saw a huge spike in claims to process. Unfortunately, these systems are often based off legacy technology that is not suited to respond to a crisis like COVID-19 quickly. States like California, New York, Florida, and Michigan all struggled. Wisconsin experienced immense UI challenges, and is now modernizing with 18F. Look for more states to use this moment to modernize legacy systems to improve security and invest in long-term savings.


Changing Priorities

The report also showed how CIO priorities changed pre- and post-pandemic. While there is some movement in the rankings, I would advise not reading into this too much. However, the key theme to takeaway from this information is that IT is transitioning from end goal to vehicle. This was well underway in 2020 and accelerated when the pandemic hit.


Too Long, Didn't Read (TLDR)

  • When there was need for the entire state government, the IT workforce stepped up.

  • Centralized IT provides useful benefits

  • This model allows the state to tap into economies of scale, work in standardized environments, and more easily leverage all the resources of state government.

  • Securing remote work is more important than ever

  • Solutions for managing thousands and thousands of endpoints remotely, securely, and efficiently that are easy to implement and use will be key.

  • Broadband access must be expanded

  • Public-private partnerships are an increasingly popular way to use the resources of the private sector to help deliver the utility of government services.

  • Legacy systems still present challenges

  • Look for more states to use this moment to modernize legacy systems to improve security and invest in long-term savings.

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