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Thanks to the attack on Colonial Pipeline and the growing risk of international threats related to the war in Ukraine, 97% of IT leaders cited cybersecurity as their biggest concern in an annual survey.
Cybersecurity threats have riveted the attention of city and county technology leaders, according to a new survey from CompTIA Public Technology Institute.
Cybersecurity has ranked at or near the top of this and various other public sector CIO priorities lists for roughly the last decade, according to the “2022 State of City and County IT National Survey,” released June 8. This year, however, 97% of respondents cited cybersecurity as a top priority, up from 88% last year, thanks to the attack on Colonial Pipeline and the growing risk of international threats related to the war in Ukraine.
Data backup, integrity and restoration has become the top cybersecurity priority, jumping from 54% of respondents citing it as a top category last year to 86% this year. Modernizing defenses, fostering a security mindset, training and developing or testing cybersecurity incident response plans round out the top five concerns.
The effects of Covid on IT planning appear to be waning, according to the survey, with 68% of respondents saying they are returning to pre-Covid technology planning, upgrading and spending plans. Over the course of the pandemic, city and county IT leaders saw improvements to IT infrastructure, digitization efforts, agility, collaboration and work-from-home options as well as expanded citizen services. “It is likely safe to assume that increased flexibility and resilience for IT systems and services will remain integral parts of current and future initiatives,” the report said.
The receding pandemic also slowed new cloud deployments. This year’s survey showed a 14% increase over 2021, but in 2020, 93% of respondents launched new cloud apps—possibly due to the pandemic’s rapid push to remote work. This year, 80% of city and county CIOs began using a new cloud application, and about 70% shifted from using a local version of an application to a cloud-based version.
When it comes to IT skills gap, state and local government IT leaders are still challenged to hire and train staff to boost cybersecurity, manage cloud deployments and evaluate investments.
When it comes to smart city initiatives, “it is clear that senior leadership still struggle to determine the ROI for smart city/county efforts, which can seem nebulous and open-ended,” the report stated, adding that projects related to water conservation, crime prevention, or traffic management seem most likely to emerge. The top new technologies cities and counties are experimenting with include drones, the internet of things, telehealth and automation.
Happily, most city and county CIOs expected their tech budgets to increase, with 51% anticipating an increase of 1% to 4% and another 33% anticipating an increase of 5% or more—in part due to the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act.
“Protecting local governments from cyberattacks is a top concern and a full-time job,” said Alan Shark, vice president, public sector, and executive director of Public Technology Institute. “Cybersecurity has never been more critical to local government tech leaders. The good news is that there are new federal funds available and more state collaboration efforts now, and these are helping local governments improve their cybersecurity resiliency.”