By Dan Wolf, Director of State Programs, Alliance for Digital Innovation
As technology continues to evolve at whirlwind speed, many government agencies find themselves lagging behind. Paper forms and clunky software plague constituent services, while the high costs of maintaining outdated systems drain state coffers and inhibit innovation. Perhaps most importantly, the failure to replace aging government systems presents a critical cybersecurity risk at a time that malicious actors are using increasingly sophisticated attacks.
That is why, at the Alliance for Digital Innovation, we have been promoting the benefits of technology modernization funds in several states this year. One of those is the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the Virginia Technology Infrastructure Fund has been codified for over 25 years but never used. Virginia’s failure to utilize this important tool to bolster its technology funding has led to increased costs and inefficient government programs… until now.
Recognizing the need for a significant investment in government services, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has proposed an important step forward: a $150 million investment in IT modernization through the Virginia Technology Infrastructure Fund. It is intended “to improve service delivery for customers and reduce significant technology debt… enhance cybersecurity defenses and coordination, and support the development of new systems to fill essential gaps in education data tracking, workforce, and administration.” In his remarks introducing the budget, Governor Youngkin said, “our government spends $250 million every year maintaining and patching outdated IT infrastructure with obsolete systems that have high cybersecurity risk.” While this proposal must gain support from the legislature to become law, it undoubtedly represents a positive step forward for the Commonwealth that deserves bipartisan support.
Let’s examine the potential benefits of this investment:
- Enhanced Efficiency and Service Delivery: Imagine waiting in line for hours to renew your driver’s license or navigating a labyrinthine website to apply for unemployment benefits. These frustrating experiences, rooted in antiquated technology, are all too common in government agencies around the country. Modernizing IT infrastructure can change that by streamlining government processes, increasing accessibility, and reducing wait times and frustration for citizens. This, in turn, improves satisfaction and strengthens the relationship between government and the public.
- Fostering Innovation and Data-Driven Solutions: Outdated systems can feel like shackles on creativity. With this investment into the Virginia Technology Infrastructure Fund, agencies gain access to innovative cloud-based solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence and data analytics. Imagine proactively addressing infrastructure needs based on real-time data, or delivering personalized services tailored to individual citizens. This opens doors to enhanced transparency, responsiveness, and decision-making.
- Bolstering Cybersecurity: Beyond convenience and efficiency, modernization strengthens Virginia’s digital defenses. Replacing outdated systems eliminates vulnerabilities, while empowering government to embrace a “zero trust” approach that assumes no element within the network is inherently safe. Multi-factor authentication, microsegmentation, and continuous monitoring become the norm, with AI and machine learning acting as sentinels against cyber threats. By prioritizing both modernization and cybersecurity measures, Virginia can build a resilient government infrastructure that protects its citizens and critical data from the ever-evolving cyber landscape.
- Building Trust Through Transparency: Opaque systems breed suspicion. Modernizing IT includes investing in tools that promote transparency and open data. Imagine easily accessible dashboards tracking government projects, or proactive updates on policy decisions. This fosters trust and strengthens the democratic fabric by empowering citizens to stay informed and hold their leaders accountable.
- Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Talented individuals are essential for any successful organization, and government is no exception. However, a tech-savvy generation won’t thrive in an environment stuck in the past. By prioritizing IT modernization, Virginia attracts and retains skilled professionals, ensuring a capable and engaged workforce for the future.
- Signaling a Commitment to Progress: Governor Youngkin’s proposal sends a clear message: Virginia is serious about embracing the digital age. This not only attracts potential businesses and residents but also encourages other states to take similar steps towards modernizing their government infrastructure.
Government technology is not simply a line-item in a budget; it’s how agencies serve their constituents. From streamlined services to improved cybersecurity, Governor Youngkin’s proposal is commendable. It represents a strategic investment in a more efficient, effective, secure and citizen-centric future. We applaud Governor Youngkin for taking this initiative and encourage careful consideration and collaboration to ensure its successful implementation.