It is next to impossible to find any governmental entity with technology systems that do not desperately need to either be replaced or modernized significantly. Although they are costly, technology upgrades are necessary, and, in spite of budget constraints, it appears that 2021 will be a year when governmental entities finally begin long-overdue modernization efforts.
Many reasons exist for moving forward on these projects – fear of cyberattacks, citizen demands for online services, COVID requirements such as tracking and massive data gathering, and the ongoing search for cost cutting initiatives. Technology not only protects, analyzes data, and serves large citizen constituencies with less cost, but it also is essential for basic mandates related to public safety, water, transportation, health care, and other areas of public responsibility.
The fear of a cyberattack is a continual concern for those responsible for network security. Network breaches are dangerous and costly, and they almost always result in a complete shut-down of operations. Only individuals who have lived through a cyberbreach can attest to the cost and toll it takes as a result of the disruption that occurs for everything related to government services.
Security officials spend inordinate amounts of time seeking ways to mitigate cyberattacks, monitor user activity, and meet regulatory compliance requirements. COVID-19 and the necessity of remote access and teleconferencing have increased vulnerabilities and created more concerns. Technology advancements and the benefits they offer totally justify the costs.
The federal government just recently released a warning stating that cyber threats are more prevalent than ever. IT directors and security officers were urged to be ever mindful of new cyber threats and the ongoing danger. Here are just a few examples of the focus on technology modernization and cyber protection that are evident throughout the country.
The city of Baltimore plans to initiate a complete overhaul of its IT security in 2021. Approximately $700,000 is allocated for a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system, and another $2 million is earmarked for replacement of support systems to mitigate operational, security, and cost risks. The city will spend $1 million to increase and enhance cybersecurity technologies on workstations, laptops, tables, and software. Another $350,000 will be used to replace security hardware and improve security to remote user access applications.
Lane County also plans to implement a SIEM system to provide 24/7 security monitoring. It will track alerts, investigate, triage, and assist with the remediation of security events. The underlying principles of every SIEM system are to aggregate relevant data from multiple sources, identify deviations from the norm, and take appropriate action. Lane County plans to spend $185,000 for hardware, servers, storage, switches, support, and software.
Citizens not involved in government are often surprised to realize how comprehensive technology systems must be to protect residents. The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati will spend approximately $180,000 for a wastewater treatment cybersecurity system. It will protect plant control systems and business systems as well as data that must be gathered from the internet. Wastewater systems are becoming increasingly more connected to the internet, and that heightens their vulnerability to cyberattacks.
In 2022, the city of Newark has budgeted $75,000 to replace its disaster planning, recovery, and availability hardware within two data centers. These services are critical for ensuring resiliency in the event of a cyberattack or some sort of disaster.
The city also plans to implement other automation systems related to billing, utility data capture, and other applications. Although these modernization efforts are essential to the efficiency of citizen services, the initiatives also increase vulnerability to cyberattacks. Additional costs of approximately $130,000 will be required for these projects.
City leaders in Newburyport have authorized a new IT budget of $226,339. Funding will support the acquisition and installation of a managed SIEM platform and managed security services with analysis capabilities. The city also plans to upgrade its computer workstations, server platforms, and other technology devices and programs.
In 2021, Ventura County officials will spend approximately half a million dollars on technology improvements. At least $200,000 will be required to secure a SIEM platform to centralize reporting and allow for endpoint detection and response of security threats. The city also will spend $250,000 for other security technology for a secure location to track security events and provide integration to other Ventura County platforms.
Sheridan city officials have adopted an IT budget of $226,300 which includes security systems. It also calls for adding more software protections, and the budget includes funding for upgrades of servers, storage arrays, and other network equipment.
Technology spending is being allocated for small communities as well as large cities and counties. The IT Department of the village of Morton Grove has a 2021 budget of $713,782, and much of that funding is dedicated to increased technology security. Plans include upgrades to network infrastructure, additional software, enhancements of program systems, and other technology modernization initiatives.
State technology purchases in 2021 are projected to be significantly more expensive, and most of the funded projects are related to either cybersecurity or modernization efforts. Technology professionals in government will attest to the fact, however, that these increased efforts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to critical needs in governmental entities throughout America.
With public funding stretched as it currently is, much of the conversation is about the possibility of technology modernization becoming one of the next hot areas of focus for public-private partnership engagements and other collaborative initiatives. If that happens, it would most likely involve alternative, or private sector funding.