Perennially cash-strapped statehouses and town halls aren’t typically associated with rapid technology adoption, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their outlook.
Indeed, state and local governments are rolling out digital services for citizens, bolstering security to protect newly digitalized resources and using technology such as low-code/no-code to accelerate project timelines. Government agencies also tackle long-deferred infrastructure upgrades and pursue cloud-based offerings. SaaS, in particular, is on the rise. COVID-19’s restrictions on in-person services provide the impetus for state and local government technology spending. And the federal government’s economic stimulus measures provide a significant part of the funding.
“The 2021 State CIO Survey” illustrates how the pandemic has altered the demand for technology. Ninety-four percent of the respondents cited COVID-19 as dramatically or somewhat accelerating citizen demand for digital government services. The National Association of State CIOs, Grant Thornton and CompTIA collaborated on the survey and resulting report.
Chatbots, voicebots lead emerging technologies
As for specific technologies, the pandemic sped up the adoption of chatbots for online citizen services and voicebots for call center interactions, according to the report.
“A lot of it was a reaction to huge volume increase,” said Graeme Finley, managing director with Grant Thornton’s Public Sector practice, which provides digital transformation and business application strategy services.
State contact centers, for example, became overwhelmed with unemployment insurance claims spiking, Finley said. The use of chatbots and voicebots for automating response to routine inquires freed human staff to handle more complex issues.
It’s two sides of the coin. You expose services in a digital manner and, at the same time, figure out how to reduce the risk associated with that.
Graeme FinleyManaging director, Grant Thornton, Public Sector practice
The use of such technologies seems likely to persist beyond the initial emergency. Government agencies, having found bots work and provide some scalability, now look for more opportunities to deploy them, Finley said. In addition, the arrival of digital services creates an expectation among citizens and drives additional demand, he noted.
State CIOs ranked chatbots and voicebots as No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, among the emerging technologies that see accelerated adoption. Automated fraud detection ranked second on that list. Finley said he sees the growth in digital services closely related to the need for improved fraud detection.