Ninety-seven percent of local government IT executives listed cybersecurity as a key priority for the current fiscal year (FY), according to the tenth annual State of City and County IT National Survey administered by CompTIA’s Public Technology Institute (PTI).

IT executives also noted modernizing outdated IT systems and applications (62 percent), innovation and applying technology in new ways to help solve problems (52 percent), and IT workforce retention and attraction (50 percent) as top priorities.

According to the report, tech leaders within local governments have listed cybersecurity as their top priority since the survey was first administered in 2014. However, workforce retention and attraction was a brand new top priority listed on the 2023 survey.

“Due to the impact of the COVID pandemic and the shift of how work is, or can be, done (remote versus at a facility), competition with the private sector for IT talent, in combination with an increase in retirements and resignations, means many local governments are struggling to retain current staff and fill vacant positions,” the report says.

Those surveyed said that boosting cybersecurity skills is their top priority when it comes to addressing the IT workforce skills gap.

When the executives were asked about budgeting for IT, 53 percent said they expect an increase of five percent or more for their next FY budget. This is a significant increase from the 2022 (33 percent) and 2021 (17 percent) survey results.

When it comes to the emerging technologies that are on the radar for local governments or in some phase of adoption, AI topped the list. Automating technologies were identified by 78 percent of IT executives, and AI was identified by 65 percent of respondents.

The relationship between the local government IT executive and the state CIO has the need (and hopefully, priority) for continued improvement, with only 12 percent of local government executives stating that their jurisdiction’s relationship with the state CIO is excellent, while 27 percent shared that the relationship is good, but limited. However, 52 percent of local government IT executives said that their relationship is non-existent.

CompTIA PTI’s report provides a view of the state of city and county IT, and concludes that local governments should consider:

  • Implementing innovation and emerging tech to improve government services;
  • Tackling the challenge of retaining and attracting qualified IT professionals; and
  • Developing better relationships with elected leaders, management, partner organizations and agencies, and vendor partners.

“The role of IT executives has evolved over the years from a traditional managerial position to one of applied leadership where the focus has shifted to citizen satisfaction and user experience, while playing a more proactive role in government operations across all departmental functions,” CompTIA PTI Executive Director Alan Shark said in a statement.

“I often refer to the IT executive as a firefighter, constantly on call, responding to emergencies that have a direct impact on how we serve the public. In addition to putting out fires, IT executives are managing increasingly expanding and complex portfolios, a changing IT workforce and expectations of elected leaders, management and the community,” Shark added.

The survey sampled a total of 61 local government IT executives that represent all types and sizes of local government in February and March of this year.

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