The disease known as COVID-19 has changed people’s personal lives for better or worse. It has also changed the way government agencies have to function. Operating on overload and having to educate a panicking public at the same time has its challenges. Let’s unpack what issues they are facing now as well as what lingering IT issues from the past are holding them back from their fullest potential.
Old Challenges Made Harder
The pandemic has had its impact on everyone, namely the state and local government agencies that everyone is now looking to for answers. But those problems, that have been there for decades now, haven’t gone away. Most of them are now magnified by the effect of this pandemic in every country across the globe.
One thing that even the private sector can have issues with is how to engage with their customers, or in this case, constituents. Governments began the shift to social media a bit behind the herd, but they are making tons of ground. That being said, how do we get people to stay engaged with content that isn’t necessarily that exciting most of the time?
Marketing the state and local governments seems unnecessary, yet it can mean the difference between happy and unhappy voters. Especially now, communication with their followers must be clear, helpful, and easily distributed among many people. With Cima’s partners like Sprinklr, a CXM (customer experience management), it takes the work out of communicating with the audience. From excellent ways to communicate as a team to live streaming, your audience will never miss a beat. Social media has led the way in the fight against misinformation in a time when it can be life or death.
Infrastructure Is the Bane of Policy Maker's Agendas
Another hurdle taking a while to clear is the paper processes that have been in place for well, centuries. It’s extremely difficult to train the same staff on a new process overnight, let alone trust that it is all there in a cloud or on a server. Things like meeting minutes, flyers, and proposals took millions of sheets of paper every year. Not to mention just how many times something was ‘lost’ in the paper shuffle from one committee to another. The pandemic has forced this into perspective in a way that leaves no one looking too good, and they can no longer get by with a bare-bones IT strategy.
Money, Money, Money
So why not just make it all over and start fresh next quarter? The major infrastructure changes that many have been pushed off for years are held up either by the bureaucratic process or the ever-decreasing budget that these agencies have to work with. After the oil crisis in the ’80s, Texas especially began to set aside a rainy day fund in case of another emergency. Today that day has come, but almost none of that will get spent on IT improvements when people need unemployment benefits paid out. With the candle burning from both ends, that doesn’t leave a mountain of money left over to make sure the state and local government agents know about and use a secure cloud.
IT Companies Are Here to Help
The last issue from before the pandemic is the competition for IT personnel. When the private sector can compete and do for the best people at the best price, it makes it hard for the government agencies to stack up. Their needs are the same if not greater for privacy as larger corporations. With a smaller budget, it may mean working with fewer people than expected and stretching projects even longer.
Amidst a budget crisis, it's imperative that IT shops make sure their dollars go as far as they can. That's where asset management and optimizing IT infrastructure with hyper-converged solutions from Nutanix come into play. We can cut back the spend on legacy virtualization software from VMware, manage server sprawl, and help to reduce costly maintenance. A small investment can lead to massive improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency of staff as well as a better user experience.
Communication is Key
The immediate effects of COVID-19 are felt by everyone. Supply chain issues are at the top of that list. With everyone staying home and ordering everything online rather than in person, it was only a small factor. With restaurants shut down, food couldn’t even be pushed to the grocery stores instead. It was processed for mass consumption, and changing that would take time. Government agencies helped through this process, yet it remains an issue.
Communication throughout this process has been essential, and governments are making important steps to remedy the gaps. As social media has been flooded with opposing opinions on what’s going on, people have been starving for answers. This need has been answered in part by new portals within the government websites. You can see in the figure here, just how quickly adaptations are taking place to accommodate the needs as they come.
Emerging Tools for Enterprise
At a time when answers are crucial, these portals could mean survival or not. This is also the best opportunity to reach out to at-risk parts of the population that otherwise would not seek help from state and local government agencies. This could include those suffering from mental health issues and families teetering on the brink. With an enterprise-focused partner like Spriklr, you can get updates to you and your team's phones about popular key phrases and press release approvals. Having the ability to apply instant action is just what this crisis called for.
Partnerships between the private and public sectors are making the push through possible. Factories have converted and companies are putting their communities first while government agencies help to orchestrate it all. In the United States, in particular, there has been an initiative to partner with artificial intelligence experts to help mine necessary data about COVID-19. This is done through text and data mining that would otherwise take years to accomplish otherwise. They have also been partnering with social media influencers to help the general public understand how important it is to listen and follow the guidelines put forth by those in charge.
New & Growing Threats
Artificial intelligence and technological advancements have what seems no limits these days. There are hundreds of applications for all kinds of technology. One of the more controversial ones is contact tracing. If the traditional method is employed, that means thousands of people interviewing those who were infected to see who they’ve been in contact with. Artificial intelligence could potentially use their cell phone GPS data to show what people they were interacting with at the time of infection.
Hacking | It's Not New, But It Is Dangerous
The controversial part is what happens to all this information? Where is it stored? Is it secure? Cybersecurity is a major part of both the state and local government infrastructures and accounts for a significant part of that limited budget. Now, more than ever, people are leaving data vulnerable to attack. Emailing unsecure files back and forth, potentially opening new phishing campaigns with ‘COVID-19’ information inside, and accessing data, not through proper channels.
Cima also takes cybersecurity seriously. Our partners at KnowBe4 and cybersecurity packages help bridge the gaps that are left by all that’s happening. Hackers are relentless and it’s easier than you might think to be fooled. It’s important to take the time and make sure your team understands policy, procedure, and has proper training.
Governments will likely have to decide whether AI contact tracing is worth using political capital for or if the traditional method is fast enough. Either way, strong partnerships with technology firms are likely to continue for the remainder of the pandemic. But what happens on the regular, when these agencies aren’t out saving the world with new robots? The day to day still has to function which leaves us with the same old problems as before: outdated systems and a staff that may be behind.
That is where companies like us come in to help. We specialize in state and local government IT solutions to make our plans just right for them. We are here to help with the everyday struggles as well as the hard stuff without breaking the budget. Us understanding how the process works to get things done means one less thing to think about. At Cima, we provide it all from staff training, to system rebuilds, and back to cloud integration.
Let us be the partner that not only helps with the here and now but also plans the future together as well. Contact our staff to get a quote for what your agency needs today at (972) 499-8260.