Eventually, the COVID-19 outbreak will subside and things will get back to “normal” in the public sector. But that does not mean that telework will end, halted programs will automatically restart and modernization projects will resume as if nothing ever happened. In fact, state and local government leaders made it very clear on a recent Government Technology/e.Republicthat “normal” government operations are going to look very different than they did at the start of 2020. They may actually look a lot like they do now.
According to the state, city and county leaders who joined the discussion, it is quite possible that much of the workforce will shift to permanent telework. The COVID-19 crisis proved that employees could remain productive and services could successfully be delivered from afar – with the right IT architecture in place to support the increased online traffic.
Of course, nearly every public sector agency (and even many private sector companies) experienced some hiccups in the first few weeks after mass telework began. Some realized that they didn’t have enough computer equipment for all employees, or that the equipment they did have was too outdated to run many of the secure applications needed to conduct government business remotely. Then there were basic network capacity constraints, VPN connection issue and delays in citizen communications. But this is the first time that government has gone digital in its entirety, and it’s going to take some time to get the back-end IT systems updated and front-line hardware/software configured and secured.
That’s exactly why agencies have already started white-boarding both short-and long-term technology needs and implementing revised spending plans. They can’t wait a few more weeks to see what happens with COVID-19 to start modernizing government IT systems to “new normal” standards, and they certainly can’t wait until the new fiscal year budget kicks in on July 1. Beyond ensuring continuity of finance, procurement and other administrative functions, these IT systems are the key to delivering citizen services online and sustaining essential operations for the duration of this crisis – and, quite possibly, forever. Remember, the public sector also funds schools, welfare programs and even healthcare, and technology plays a central role in these operations.
Agencies are also evaluating and amending emergency response plans based on the learnings from the COVID-19 outbreak. Most are expanding technology utilization recommendations and requirements, and subsequently taking proactive procurement actions to ensure resources are available should this outbreak linger/resurge, or a different type of disaster demands an acute response.
What does all of this mean for suppliers?
According to the e.Republic team and our agency contacts: