State and local governments are on the front lines of delivering economic recovery from the pandemic. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley emphasized the role technology will play in helping cities and states come back from the pandemic recession faster, stronger, and more equitably during a live webinar on June 15.

Mayors and governors have opportunities to make investments in IT, operations, and other common platforms for modern governing in the information age. According to O’Malley, many of these governments have had their chief information officers (CIO) produce roadmaps with innovations they wish to accomplish some time into the future.

COVID-19 and the need for telework accelerated these plans because these innovations were no longer wish list items. Instead, it was now something state and local government needed immediately, such as online services, digitization of documents, the disbursement of emergency rental assistance, and other new programs that were coming.

“With the dollars from the Federal government to bolster state and local efforts to maintain their operations, continue to deliver critical services, and put down this pandemic, these dollars give state and local governments enormous opportunities they never had before,” O’Malley said.

With the money coming in from the Federal government, finance offices may think that the funds are best for ongoing expenses, but the best way, according to O’Malley, to use this one-time finance is for one-time investments. One of the best one-term investments is one which will continue to pay dividends for decades to come; that is the upgrade of platforms and systems.

“Some of the CIOs I’ve talked to are so conditioned to believing that things on their product, product roadmap are things that can only happen in the future. But now’s the time to be aggressive, make the case that one-time investments will provide dividends and better services for people,” O’Malley said.

Sometimes CIOs struggle with telling their story and how to get to the right people and work those relationships. But it’s essential to have that CIOs have that relationship with their budget director and agency heads across the government.

“We can’t lament a lack of trust in government and then not upgrade our government’s ability to get its work done. CIOs need to be aggressive at this moment and not take ‘no, we can’t afford that’ from their finance directors. We have pressing needs. And there is no more pressing need than making your government work for the people that need it,” O’Malley said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.