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Government IT: Regulations Limit Use of Digital Tools Necessary for Protecting Citizen Data - Survey

February 8, 2019

U.S. state and local government IT decision makers are constrained from delivering certain online services due to regulations that hinder their use of digital tools necessary for protecting citizen data and delivering services more effectively, according to a new survey.

The survey of 200 U.S. state and local government IT decision makers, co-sponsored by Unisys and Dell EMC, found that two-thirds of respondents said they view digital transformation projects as critical for offering citizens a single platform for finding information about public services and applying for government benefits and permits. However, nearly three out of four (74 percent) respondents said that current statutes, regulations and standards represent a "very impactful" or "extremely impactful" barrier to doing so in a way that protects citizen data.

"IT managers and leaders face many more challenges migrating their services online than commercial enterprises because they need to negotiate through a unique and confusing maze of rules and regulations about the use of citizen data," said Mark Forman, global leader for Public Sector, Unisys. "To address these issues, they can use technology solutions such as Active Directory federated services, encryption and secure hybrid cloud services.

"But the barriers point to a need for IT executives to look far beyond just technology in becoming change agents so that government can take advantage of today's digital tools to reduce costs, limit cybersecurity risk and better support agency and citizen needs," Forman said. "Adopting this new persona will result in government more quickly migrating from decades-old, form-based approaches to today's solutions that use data and algorithms to better address today's citizen needs."

Despite their recognition of the obstacles involved, the overwhelming majority of respondents said their agencies are pushing forward with digital transformation initiatives. For example, 84 percent said they already have or are planning to create a mobile app to provide citizens access to their specific agency or department, and 80 percent said they already have or are planning to create a mobile app to provide citizens access to multiple government agencies.

"It's a new era of serving citizens, and as a result, state and local government institutions are recognizing the impact technology has on transforming the way we live and work," said Leslie Harlien, vice president, Dell EMC, State & Local Government Strategy. "We recognize the struggles that local governments face as they try to digitally transform costs, legacy infrastructure, regulation and work together to determine the best solution to make an institution future-ready."

Survey respondents also said their agencies routinely share demographic and other data required to provide citizen services, such as employment status, criminal records and social security numbers. However, Unisys conducted a similar survey in May and June 2018 of more than 2,000 citizens living in eight states, and respondents said they are only comfortable with government agencies sharing data for limited purposes specifically, when it strengthens security and facilitates efficiency. Sixty-eight percent of respondents registered some level of support for agencies sharing their personal data to enable law enforcement agencies to identify crime and terrorism.

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