When we think about organizations that adopt new technology quickly, government agencies probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind.
At the local, state, and even national level, government is known to be behind the curve when it comes to innovative tech. And while many agencies are bolding forging ahead with digital transformation, as with all stereotypes, there is some truth to it.
In fact, a recent study found that as many as one third of major IT systems used by state governments are outdated. The criteria for qualifying as “outdated” in the study dictated that a system had to be implemented prior to October 25, 2001.
Given this information, it’s possible that government agencies can be prime targets for hackers. And every so often, the hackers get away with quite a haul. For example, in 2014, the U.S. federal government experienced two major breaches that exposed the sensitive information of at least 22.1 million people.
But this still leaves a critical question—why have government agencies had such a difficult time updating their technology? We can trace this lag to three majors factors: lack of budget and/or approval, the prevalence of legacy systems, and a lack of awareness of the security risks that stem from using outdated technology.
Why the Future Looks More Secure
The good news is that awareness of technology-related security vulnerabilities in government is growing as their dangers become more apparent.
In May 2021, the White House issued an executive order in that outlined the importance of enhanced cybersecurity for government entities. It also brought an important but perhaps under-discussed issue to light: That the scope of this enhanced technology security needs to include response and remediation for operational technology (OT) in addition to IT.
The order describes OT as “the vital machinery that ensures our safety.” This includes assets like HVAC systems, access control systems, fire detection systems, and other technology that makes up the physical infrastructure of government. While most hacks target the information contained within IT systems, nefarious actors could also shut down or otherwise manipulate these OT systems as well.
The White House’s call to action is likely to help spur further innovation in this area with agencies exploring the possibilities of integrated workplace management system (IWMS) which helps ensure fast response and remediation for OT-related security threats and vulnerabilities.
What’s more, the global pandemic has helped to accelerate technology adoption in local government. A 2020 survey showed that 48 percent of local governments are anticipating using new software or tech for working from home and managing flexible schedules, while three quarters of them have used software or tech for community engagement and communications during the pandemic.
With this rising interest in new solutions, companies will have an expanding market to serve, which will almost certainly lead to breakthroughs that decrease barriers to government technology adoption and make agencies better prepared to withstand cybersecurity threats of all kinds.
The author, Tom Stanford, is Founder & CEO, Nuvolo.