Subcommittee Hearing on State and Local IT Infrastructure Highlights Urgency of Modernization Initiatives After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Washington, D.C. (June 30, 2021)— Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, held a hearing to explore the role of Congress and the federal government in accelerating IT modernization initiatives for states and localities as they work together to fortify and improve our nation’s public IT infrastructure.
“This pandemic catalyzed a rapid response and shift in culture for how state and local governments deliver services to the public. As we emerge from the pandemic and begin recovery, we have an opportunity to examine lessons learned and identify best practices to grow our digital capabilities and strengthen how government serves the people,” Chairman Connolly said in his opening statement.
The hearing examined how state and local governments are on the frontlines of unprecedented events—like the coronavirus pandemic—and often serve as an intermediary for the federal government to provide lifesaving information and services, including health care information and emergency services, to those in need of help.
The Committee heard testimony from Doug Robinson, Executive Director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Amanda Renteria, Chief Executive Officer of Code for America, Teri Takai, Vice President of the Center for Digital Government, and Alan Shark, Executive Director of CompTIA’s Public Technology Institute.
Members and witnesses discussed that while many state and local governments were able to adapt during the pandemic, gaps in access to efficient digital services and federal assistance remain.
- Mr. Robinson testified: “There is no doubt COVID-19 served as the forcing mechanism for states to rapidly invest in short-term technology improvements and automation to ensure the continuity of government in a largely remote environment. Yet, as the worst of the deadly pandemic appears behind us, we are currently at a crossroads as to whether the technology and business practice lessons learned over the past fifteen months are here to stay or were just short-term stopgaps.”
- Dr. Shark testified: “Despite all the dramatic and positive gains not every entity fared the same – the pandemic exposed weaknesses and serious short and longer term vulnerabilities. It also demonstrated the need for greater IT modernization and resiliency.”
Members and witnesses stressed how state and local governments are top targets for ransomware and other cyberattacks, which have increased dramatically over the last several years and highlight the urgent need for IT modernization.
- Dr. Shark testified: “The pandemic underscores the need to address on-going and newly found local government deficiencies regarding digital infrastructure and the growing costly attacks from cyber criminals who are targeting cities and counties. These criminal activities have greatly increased as more local government services are now online.”
- Ms. Takai testified: “One key point is the relationship between IT modernization, digital citizen services, and cybersecurity…. All three are driven by demands from citizens for improved transparency and services. It is impossible to drive digital transformation without focusing on an overall, enterprise approach.”
Witnesses emphasized the need for federal and congressional action to ensure that state and local governments can deliver critical benefits and services to the public across the country.
- Ms. Takai testified: “Moving forward, both the agencies and departments who are dependent on the technology and the executive and legislative branches of government must continue to see technology as the infrastructure that runs government as much as roads support transportation. More than pure infrastructure, technology can be the catalyst to reach citizens where they are and to build trust that all levels of government are truly there to service their needs.”
- Ms. Renteria testified: “For the first time in more than a generation, financial incentives and government directives seem to be aligned for states to rebuild stronger, more effective, efficient, simple systems without complexity to help all Americans recover from the pandemic.”