The Future of Technology in Local Government

IT expert Roger Murphy shares his thoughts on how the fast pace of technology will mesh (or clash) with the traditions of the local government sector.

Dec 11, 2018 | BLOG POST

Avenu Insights & Analytics, a proud ICMA Strategic Partner, recently named public sector expert Roger Murphy as director of the Information Technology (IT) Managed Services division. Here he talks about the state of IT, and how it’s both influencing government service delivery and being driven by residents’ expectations.

What Does the Future Hold for IT Managed Services?

It’s difficult for governments to remain up-to-date and relevant. Residents are demanding the same type of experience with their local governments that they get in the private sector through mobile and other devices. IT managed service will enable this, as preferences shift to consume everything as a service. Governments are beginning to embrace that model through infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service because their agencies more easily remain up to date. They see the benefit of pushing all the technical challenges to the service provider, who also can be held accountable for audit and regulatory requirements. Government can then focus on core services, technical skills, partnerships, and a host of other things. Resources will increasingly be applied as this trend accelerates.

Roger MurphyWhat Will Cloud Use Look Like for Local Governments?

Local government is moving towards a hybrid cloud model where they don’t have to build expensive capacity. In a hybrid cloud environment, they can access the public cloud through a secure network connection and get the capacity they need, and only for the duration they need it. This allows the organization to reduce capital expenditure, increase technology efficiency, and remove risk associated with legacy infrastructure.

What about the Use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

We are already using it every day, and it will only increase to the level of conversational bots and virtual assistants in the near future. Instead of launching an application on your phone and entering your credentials to proceed, we instead want to hold up our phone and say, “Hey Siri, what’s my bank balance?” and get the answer. We want to simplify these efforts to digital transactions. When the 5G networks start arriving, we’ll usher in more of this type of interaction because the speed of the network will enable the technology to be more proactive. The pace of change is incredible.

Will Blockchain Have a Role?

Local governments are certainly interested, and there are a few jurisdictions testing it, including our customer Cook County, Illinois. It can solve problems, be used in filing taxes and voting, and create that immutable record that cannot be changed. Until we have some legislative changes, however, I don’t see that in the near term having a big impact.

A good parallel is the Check 21 Act. Enacted in 2004, it allows digital images of a check to be recognized as an original. This revolutionized the way we bank. We get electronic checks for almost everything, and we can log into our accounts and see that money went into our account. This radically changed banking, and it was driven by legislation. Blockchain is traveling down this same path.

What Are the Skill Sets That IT Staff Will Need That Are Different from Those of Today?

Capabilities in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things are going to be highly sought after, but more important is problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, and really good communication skills. Regardless of the technology, these are particularly valuable because more and more people work from home and in virtual teams where members are scattered and they use different forums to communicate, including text, chat, voice, and email. This can be a limiting factor in resident engagement, and we have to be better at how we blend tech and non-tech skills.

What’s the Biggest Thing That Surprised You in the Past Few Years in IT?

It’s how quickly we’ve accepted constant connectivity, and that continues as a reasonable expectation. A recent stat showed that there are 1 billion more phones than humans. Years ago, we looked at the phone and the laptop as tools to do work, and now they are just a part of our day-to-day existence.

Talk about Transformation from Within Governments and the Willingness to Make That Happen

Residents are demanding and driving it. We want to pay our taxes or renew our license online, for example, and we’re electing more technologically savvy representatives. This is changing what projects get approved. CIOs are looking at project upgrades for service desk improvements, 311 programs, network infrastructure, case management systems, and court records systems. Many governments are increasingly strapped for revenue, but they are making the effort to do more with less and innovate. So change is happening from within, but it’s being influenced by the experiences that government staff are having elsewhere.

How Do Providers Ensure They Don’t Get Too Far Ahead of Governments and Push Them to Do Things They’re Not Ready For?

We start with the question of “What problem are we trying to solve?” Then technology becomes an enabler to offer solutions. If a customer wants to reduce cost, we can move some capability to the cloud. Or keep it in-house and use the power of the organization to get a better price with managed services. Some jurisdictions are progressive and open to trying new technologies, others don’t want to take that risk. It is important for service providers to know the difference and adjust accordingly.

For more on the future of technology in local government, contact Roger Murphy at roger.murphy@avenuinsights.com.


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