Imagine trying to do your job on a PalmPilot — remember those?
Assuming it even turned on, it would crash often, and its functionality would be seriously limited compared to modern computers.
It would also be vulnerable to viruses and cyberattacks, putting your data and your employer’s data at risk. And when it (inevitably) broke down, you’d be hard pressed to find somebody who could fix it.
Now imagine an essential government agency using similarly outdated technology. Unfortunately, that is the situation that many city and state agencies in the United States find themselves in. And unforeseen situations can push these legacy systems to their breaking point when citizens need them most.
Fortunately, modern software solutions make updating government systems simple, cost-effective, and quick. This allows local governments to deliver services more effectively, become more adaptable and responsive to residents’ needs, and create better experiences for citizens, all while saving serious taxpayer money on costly IT maintenance.
But if that’s not enough motivation, consider what happens when you fail to upgrade your systems.
The Dangers of Failing to Modernize Government IT
While many local governments have already made the switch to modernized software systems, about one-third of major state-level IT systems are seriously out of date, according to data from the Center for Digital Government. The study found that 33 percent of the 250 “business critical” systems evaluated were implemented prior to Oct. 25, 2001, and are currently unable to keep up with user demand. While the study didn’t include local systems, it stands to reason that city-level IT is likely in a similar state.
Poor citizen experience leads to decreased trust in government
You can imagine the impact that these old systems have on residents, who have to depend on unreliable programs and navigate confusing interfaces to get the government services they need. Far from being able to offer citizen experiences that are on-par with private companies, government agencies using these outdated systems are simply hoping that their software doesn’t crash when they need it most. And when those systems don’t work as intended, it can be damaging to citizen engagement and trust.
Systems can crash when they’re needed most, such as during a pandemic
On the backend, public sector workers don’t have access to the updated tools and applications that make it easy for them to do their jobs effectively. Data silos remain undisturbed, making agencies less efficient and unable to collaborate effectively. And when these outdated systems break down, fixing them isn’t simple, or cheap. In some cases, the hardware and software needed to run legacy government systems is no longer supported by the manufacturer. And in other cases, the manufacturer no longer exists.
For example, unemployment agencies across the country experienced unprecedented demand during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, creating a strain on these systems that resulted in widespread crashes, and significant delays for residents who were already under a high level of stress.
Some of these local systems were still operating on COBOL, a 60-year old programming language that is no longer used in new systems. State governments had to bring in long-retired IT experts to consult and fix these systems, at great expense to taxpayers.
Old systems are more vulnerable to viruses and attacks
In addition to the maintenance challenges, an unsupported software system is more vulnerable to viruses and cyberattacks, as it no longer has a team of engineers and cybersecurity experts working to shore up its defenses through continuous updates. And local government systems are seen as attractive “soft targets” for any hackers who want to create chaos or cause other problems.
Having a single legacy system in place can make improving processes in any area across government more difficult. Older systems are often incompatible with newer programs and applications, making integration with updating software impossible in many cases.
Clearly, modernizing local government IT is a smart way to deliver services more effectively, save on maintenance costs, make internal processes more efficient, and protect vital government services from outside security risks.
But what’s the best strategy for getting it done?
Making Government IT Modernization a Reality
A software solution that’s built-from-scratch may be the right choice for certain agencies at certain levels of government. But for the majority of local government use cases, choosing a highly customizable no-code or low-code platform is the smarter option. These SaaS platforms allow local governments to easily adopt streamlined, modernized systems, while also being significantly faster and cost-effective to implement.
Traditional software development can take months or even years. By the time developers build a system from scratch, certain parts of that system may already be obsolete and in need of updating. And the long-term nature of these projects can be a drain on local coffers, long before taxpayers see any benefit from the system.
The current generation of low-code or no-code platforms, like or 3Di Engage platform, are flexible, with applications that can be applied to a wide range of municipal needs. From inspections to case management to custom portals and more, a good platform can be implemented for many different types of use cases.
As the needs of residents evolve and government processes adapt, low or no-code platforms can be easily adjusted, including by workers without coding knowledge or experience. This ease-of-use not only makes low or no-code platforms more flexible, it also leaves more room in government IT budgets for other priorities.
Systems that store data in the cloud, rather than on local servers, add another layer of protection for the important information that’s processed by government systems. And as security regulations change, no-code and low-code platforms make it easy to adopt updates and remain compliant.
What to Look For in a Modernized Software Platform
When choosing a software solution to modernize government IT, it’s important to look for a platform that emphasizes a private-sector quality citizen experience, while also offering easy ways to streamline internal processes. A truly modern platform will make it easy to automate workflows, collect important data, and turn data insights into meaningful action that makes life better for the residents you serve.
By partnering with a vendor that offers ongoing support, you can ensure that new software systems remain adaptable enough to respond to any challenge. While no-code or low-code platforms allow you to do a lot on your own, the right vendor will be available as a knowledge base to troubleshoot any issues and help you get the most out of your investment over the long haul.
If you want to follow news and updates about software platforms that are paving the way to government IT modernization, subscribe to the 3Di newsletter.