The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in government. In a recently published global study of 600 C-level technology executives and in-depth interviews from public- and private-sector organizations in three regions—Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America— “Digital acceleration in the time of coronavirus” examines the degree to which technology strategy contributed to operational resilience during the ongoing pandemic. As part of the global survey, 100 government IT executives were interviewed. Those insights are now available in a new report, MIT Executive Study Uncovers Top Government IT and Pandemic Resilience Trends.
As federal, national, state and local departments and agencies roll out new digital services, two priorities have risen in importance: adopting cloud and combatting cyber threats. According to the report, government leaders are also concerned about boosting constituent digital experiences as a result of the pandemic.
Digital Services—Increasingly Enabled by Cloud—Add to Risk Concerns
The number of cloud services available to power government enterprise infrastructure and applications—including FedRamp Authorized cloud services—has been growing for some time, with agencies road-mapping steady adoption. According to the MIT Technology Review Insights survey, 10% of government applications were hosted in the public cloud prior to COVID-19. Now, IT leaders expect that number to nearly double—increasing to 19% over the next 18 months.
But governments won’t make sudden moves without also shoring up security postures. More than half of government respondents (51%) indicate they are allocating a “significant” share (defined as more than 25%) of their IT budgets to security and threat management. And almost half (47%) indicate they will put more emphasis on defending against cyberattacks over the next 12 to 18 months—particularly endpoint risks.
Greater protection of endpoints is an active response to the uptick governments have seen in teleworking. On average, government workforces saw a 13% rise in the number of employees regularly working remotely during COVID-19. Despite some agencies already having robust teleworking policies in place, many organizations cited three initiatives aimed at improving the employee experience as top priorities: formalizing or expanding work-from-home policies (56%), securing new endpoint risks and expanding threat management (47%), and extending remote IT services and digital helpdesk support (42%).
Citizen Engagement Also Becoming Cloud-Powered
The survey reveals that government cloud adoption and application modernization are happening simultaneously. A third (34%) of government organizations surveyed are increasing digital experience priorities to better address constituent needs as a result of the pandemic. An obvious change has been greater online accessibility to public services and pandemic-related loan applications.
One of the first signs of changing priorities resulting from the crisis is that nearly four in ten government respondents (36%) accelerated adoption of a cloud-based platform that supports modern application development. Moreover, more than two-thirds (67%) of government IT leaders indicate that they have expanded their Agile practices and continuous delivery (CD) methods in response to demands resulting from COVID-19. Almost a third (31%) have instituted “secure-by-design” application development, which is consistent with greater focus on bolstering security everywhere.
Resilient IT Infrastructure Key to Success
With a goal to drive resilience, over half (56%) of government organizations surveyed prioritized infrastructure efficiency as key to success, adding a significant share of their IT budgets to this effort. And the infrastructure efficiency initiatives they plan to accelerate next include:
- Adopting a platform that supports modern application development (36%)
- Leveraging infrastructure to provide security for apps and data regardless of where they reside (36%)
- Expediting cloud services adoption to meet capacity and scale demand (31%)
Future Ready Government
COVID-19 challenged government continuity plans. Nearly half of respondents (46%) indicate they had business-continuity plans in place prior to the crisis. However, for many, these were oriented toward traditional notions of disaster recovery. Only about half (52%) felt their plans were effective when attempting to cope with the shutdowns.
For so many, the pandemic highlights the need for an adaptable and resilient technology infrastructure that supports all aspects of government operations from front-office transactions and communications to back-end production and supply chains. Agencies that were already in the process of diversifying their infrastructure to eliminate single points of failure—moving to multi-cloud while retaining on-premises environments—were better positioned to adapt.
The study also reveals the need for future-ready IT capabilities such as adaptable technology architectures and intrinsic security built into the infrastructure and operational processes, rather than bolted on. With these attributes, government agencies become highly flexible and capable of supporting operations and workforces anywhere—which is exactly what is needed to enable successful digital government operating models of the future.
To access all of the details, download a copy of the report, MIT Executive Study Uncovers Top Government IT and Pandemic Resilience Trends.