How the past informs the future: 12 predictions for 2022
It may not be Groundhog Day again, but something feels eerily familiar. The broadcasters have announced that they have moved the goalposts to another season as the pandemic hangs on—or extended to another quarter (again). We no longer try to define normal or the “new normal” anymore, we are in unchartered territory. Nevertheless, having read and scanned hundreds of tech predictions and from listening to tech leaders throughout the year, here are my predictions for 2022.
- Cybersecurity remains front and center of attention as the remote workforce stays largely intact and posses an even higher threat level. This is largely due to the growing fatigue of city and county employees who continue to be expected to be online and available 24/7. Cyber criminals will continue to seek and exploit weaknesses in digital infrastructure as well as human nature. Cyber resilience becomes more essential than ever.
- Cyber insurance coverage becomes a challenge in of itself now that insurance companies can look back to a history of expensive payouts. This has caused some carriers to abandon the cyber insurance market while others have made it more difficult to qualify for coverage; premiums are way up; and coverage per dollar is dramatically lowered. While local governments, as reported in PTI’s 2021 Cybersecurity Survey, show 90 percent reported having cyber insurance coverage—the headwinds of 2021 may negatively impact 2022 with more opting out. This possess a real dilemma for local governments who may no longer qualify or be able to afford cyber insurance at a time when they may need it the most.
- Zero-trust becomes essential to trust to our nation’s digital infrastructure systems. Many forget that the internet was first conceived as a near complete trusted environment among known participants. Two-factor authentication (2FA) coupled with I.D. management, and enhanced access rights governance will make systems far more secure.
- Cloud solutions become denser and will continue to accelerate as local governments continue to pivot to a more resilient environment freeing up valuable tech staff to be focus on customer solutions and support.
- Managed services continue to grow as local governments struggle to keep up with cybersecurity, application, and storage needs. More local governments will find that they can better achieve their operational objectives by turning to managed service providers who can leverage their infrastructure amongst many accounts thus offering the potential for better and more secure services, and expectantly in a cost-effective manner.
- Broadband expansion in affordability, access and accessibility issues were exasperated by the pandemic. Increased pressure to provide better digital broadband solutions continues to gain attention and action. The digital divide and issues of digital equity was further exposed as the pandemic revealed. The new year will bring much needed federal resources through the recently passed Broadband Equity, Access and Development Program as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In all $65 billion dollars has been allocated to state and local governments.
- Tech staffing insecurity has grown in the public sector out of several forces that include, accelerated retirements, work-life balance issues, and inability to keep up with what the private sector pays. Tech leaders are struggling to keep talent let alone find talent. This trend require imagination, flexible scheduling, remote work opportunities, title recognition, investment in certifications and training, and a strong appeal to the virtues of public service.
- Federal support to the rescue in two key areas—cyber security and broadband with billions allocated to state and local governments. Tech leaders are voicing concern that finding available solution providers and staff specialists is becoming problematic. The issue moving forward could turn out to be a manpower issue as opposed to a financial windfall.
- Redefining and practicing emergency planning and recovery plans as so-called natural disasters and cyber-attacks have become more severe with lasting damage. Existing CooP and Disaster Recovery Plans will need to be reviewed and updated to reflect real-world circumstances. Some 90 percent of tech leaders have shared that they do not practice or conduct drills to gauge preparedness.
- Emerging tech expands in state and local government; AI, blockchain, autonomous vehicles. Innovation in the use of new technologies is not the sole domain of the Federal government and private enterprise. By necessity local governments are already augmenting staff with citizen-facing applications with chatbots powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Blockchain applications are already being adopted.
- Citizen first focus grows in emphasis and importance. Citizens have become more insistent that they be treated as stakeholders as opposed to mass consumers of services. Public managers have observed that greater citizen focus leads to improved communications, citizen satisfaction and builds a greater sense of community pride along with meaningful community involvement.
- Tech leadership rising continues to shine as the overall role of the tech leader has become rightfully elevated and continues to have a major impact in the way services are offered to its internal and external customers. Moreover, the most successful tech leaders will be technologists who demonstrate strong leadership skills—and as importantly can interpret the latest trends that disparate audiences can comprehend and appreciate.
So, we are in for another year where we will be beginning where we began a years ago. We may indeed have to learn to live with an on-going pandemic and all the uncertainty and disruption it brings. As an optimist I believe this is a great opportunity to continue to move towards the digital transformation of government and provide the time for strategic planning and action. This is the time to work on making government more resilient and future friendly.
Dr. Alan R. Shark is the executive director of the CompTIA Public Technology Institute (PTI) in Washington D.C. He is a fellow of the National Academy for Public Administration and chair of the Standing Panel on Technology Leadership. He is as associate professor for the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, and is course developer/instructor at Rutgers University Center for Government Services. Shark’s thought leadership activities include keynote speaking, blogging, a bi-weekly podcast called “Sharkbytes,” and as the author or co-author of more than 12 books, including the nationally recognized textbook “Technology and Public Management” as well as “CIO Leadership for Cities and Counties.”