Word is out – technology provides answers. Answers for some of the tough challenges state government faces in delivering services to constituents in today’s world. Throughout FY 2021 and right up to the present, challenges seemed unrelenting. Fortunately, the state of Georgia was able to keep pace and even expand its capabilities, often helped by information technology services and solutions that enabled new ways of serving Georgians.
Across the full range of Georgia agencies and entities, cybersecurity had to be prioritized. Defending state systems and data became even more daunting as remote work grew widespread during the pandemic. That opened new opportunities for attackers who aggressively sought to capitalize. The state responded with enhanced security services and tools, expanded partnerships between the state’s Office of Information Security (OIS) and state entities, and cultivation of information sharing across varied cyber defenders. The Cybersecurity section of this report outlines these efforts.
The State Government Systems Cybersecurity Board continued to coordinate with OIS (a component of GTA) to promote security best practices including multi-factor authentication adoption and security awareness training for state employees. These initiatives, as well as the unique resource the state boasts in its Georgia Cyber Center, are also discussed in the Cybersecurity section.
GTA coordinated with the Georgia National Guard and Cyber Center to conduct another live-action cybersecurity exercise. This third annual Cyber Dawg exercise drew security professionals from Georgia agencies to the Cyber Center in Augusta to sharpen their skills in a simulated ransomware attack. The exercise is referenced in the Cybersecurity section.
GTA continues to advance IT governance and strategic planning for the state. GTA updated processes to help ensure investments in IT generate business value while mitigating risks associated with IT implementations. Details are given in the Information Technology Vision and Strategy section. Strategic planning efforts included GTA’s annual Technology/Strategy Summit held virtually in 2021 due to COVID-19.
The pressing need to expand broadband service to unserved locations in Georgia grew even more pronounced with developments in 2021 (the pandemic key among them). GTA continued to work closely with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and other agencies and service providers toward this expansion. All parties are encouraged by the commitment of significant new federal funds toward broadband projects in the near future. That money can seed additional investment in the type of public-private partnerships expected to eventually erase “unserved” from sections of the Georgia Broadband Map. Debuted in 2020 and updated in 2021, the map continues to help guide broadband expansion efforts with its address-level broadband service availability information. The Broadband section of this report describes the state’s efforts to ensure more Georgians have access to broadband – now a key element not just in our daily lives, but in Georgia’s economic future.
Tracking IT expenditures is one of GTA’s statutory responsibilities. In FY 2021, agencies reported spending $715 million on IT infrastructure services, network services, application development and support, and related activities. The IT Investment Management section explores these expenditures and how the state manages its technology investments. Spending details also appear in the Appendix.
GTA offers high-quality technology services from leading IT providers to state agencies through a public-private partnership. Capitalizing on this approach for more than a decade now, GTA provides a full range of managed network services and IT infrastructure services to 14 executive branch agencies as well as a la carte services to many other agencies. The partnership continues to meet its original goals of consolidating IT infrastructure; securing state data and systems; and ensuring a modern, reliable, and recoverable operating environment. The Technology Services section describes recent developments within the state’s shared IT services program. It also references the GTA Direct program, which offers Georgia agencies, local governments, colleges and universities, and boards of education quick access to a range of IT services from leading service providers pre-qualified by GTA.
As it has since its debut in 2009, the state’s shared IT services program (called Georgia Enterprise Technology Services or GETS) continued to evolve in 2021 to bring services that best meet agencies' changing IT needs. Here as elsewhere, increased reliance on remote work and pandemic-related developments threw up challenges. Security considerations precipitated an accelerated implementation of multi-factor authentication as a requirement for accessing Office 365 applications including email. The refresh process for computers used by agency staff was enhanced to include a self-service option allowing remote workers to refresh (i.e., replace with new once every three years) their computer without needing to come to an agency office.
Evolution of computing best practices has more and more agencies considering cloud server services to replace on-premises computing at the state’s data center. GTA looks to help guide agencies in that work and will develop a cloud computing migration strategy to promote successful transformations. GTA also anticipates further shrinking of the state’s mainframe computing volumes as agencies modernize applications and potentially move them to other computing platforms.
The GTA Direct program added new customers and new services in FY 2021. Key among those service additions were expanded network services from a larger circle of leading network service providers like AT&T, Lumen (CenturyLink), Comcast Business, Kinetic by Windstream Enterprise, and Verizon. Updated hosted contact center services are also in the works. See details in the Technology Services section.
The Office of Digital Services Georgia (DSGa) runs GovHub, the state’s digital platform which is home to dozens of state agency websites. As the state’s official web-publishing platform, GovHub allows a consistent online experience for citizens seeking state government services and information. And it aligns with the state’s digital compliance policy for ensuring accessibility and serving as a single source of consistent and accurate information across all of the state’s various communication channels. Using GovHub capabilities, DSGa has continued to help state agencies make essential information (COVID-19 details, importantly, in FY 2021) available and accessible to Georgians. More broadly, DSGa manages digital strategy for agencies and elected officials to cultivate an effective digital presence for the state of Georgia. Read more about DSGa and the state’s digital presence in the Digital Services Georgia section.
The state’s bold modernization of its IT enterprise over the past decade and more have cemented a national reputation for Georgia as a leader in using technology to transform government operations. Several recent honors are highlighted in the section titled Georgia’s Information Technology Excellence. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) honored two Georgia projects in its highly respected NASCIO State IT Recognition Awards for 2021. The Georgia Department of Labor’s identity verification project was a first-place winner, and the Georgia Broadband Map earned finalist status. Separately, GTA’s ROVER online application for requesting Georgia birth and death certificates received a Service to the Citizen award. And, in late 2020 Georgia earned its second consecutive letter grade of A, the highest ranking possible, in the Digital States Survey, which evaluates states’ use of technology to improve service delivery, increase capacity, streamline operations, and reach policy goals.
Innovative technology projects across agencies are strengthening Georgia government’s service to constituents. Several of these projects are highlighted starting in the Georgia’s Information Technology Excellence section. Here are a few examples:
- The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) developed the groundbreaking Agricultural Inputs (Ag Inputs) Division Electronic Inspection Platform. The platform streamlines the inspection process for the division’s nearly 30 regulatory inspections and more than 10 sample collection forms for the state’s feed, fertilizer, lime, seed, pesticide, soil amendment, and horticultural growing media programs.
- To discourage unauthorized access to unemployment insurance benefits, the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) instituted an identity authentication project. The first phase of this project, ID.me, encompasses federally certified identity verification and limits the risk of fraudulent claims being paid.
- In June 2019, the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) implemented an ERP platform to provide a flexible cloud enterprise technology solution for the economic development offices of its 22 member colleges. As a result, TCSG is enjoying an ERP capable of consolidating daily operational workflows, systems, and processes by way of a cost-effective solution with low administrative overhead.
As this report demonstrates, GTA remains committed and engaged as it partners with state agencies to take full advantage of technology to help make government more accessible, responsive, accountable, and secure.