A recent survey by the Center for Digital Government showed that the top priority for city and county CIO’s is Cyber Security, even ranking higher than Broadband & Connectivity and Citizen Engagement.
While I am pleased to know that most local CIO’s are focused on the issue of cyber security, it does surprise me that it is at the top of the list, even higher than Broadband. The reason for my surprise is that we so often hear politicians at the state and local levels talk about the need for broadband but rarely talk about cyber security.
Why might that be? I expect it is because the politicians – or maybe they believe their constituents – don’t understand the importance of cyber security or the threat of cyber crime.
Each year, Government Technology Magazine rates the “State of the State” addresses of each state governor based on their mention of technology. The ratings go from 0 to 5 with 0 representing no mention of technology and 5 representing a speech describing a robust technology plan. Of the 32 state governors that have already given their 2022 addresses, none have scored a 4 or 5 and only four have scored a 3 (Hawaii, Michigan and our neighboring states of Indiana and Tennessee). Eight states have scored a 2 and the rest have scored a 1. Kentucky scored 1. Only five of the addresses mentioned cyber security. While shocking, it is in no way surprising. It is exactly what I would expect.
Much like the misperception that I see when talking with clients about cyber security, people often believe erroneously that Information Technology (IT) and Cyber Security are the same thing. In basic terms, IT encompasses all those things that make your operations run more efficiently – automating communications, data management, customer relations, internet access, WiFi, printing, etc. Cyber Security, on the other hand, protects those systems to ensure your operations continue to function.
Given the confusion and blurred lines between the two, a governor who touts expanding broadband (which is more widely accepted as a ‘basic human right’) might not understand or find it important to address the need to put resources into cyber security. Providing internet access to a rural area is a positive action. However, funding cyber security programs is maintaining that access and keeping it from going down. People often don’t appreciate the important of an air bag until they are in an accident and they don’t die.
While it is important to improve the lives of the citizens of a state, it is also important to protect those citizens from crime, even cyber crime.