Identity management improved during pandemic, Iowa officials said

Iowa is in the process of deploying a new identity and access management system that officials said is improving security and efficiency.
Iowa state capitol building
State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa (Getty Images)

Iowa technology officials speaking at a virtual conference on Thursday attributed some of the state’s improved cybersecurity, IT efficiency and simplicity to modernizing their identity and access management system over the last year.

The state implemented software from Okta, a San Francisco-based cloud software provider, in response to the shift to remote work at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year in an effort to make accessing government services easier and more secure, especially for state employees working outside the office on government equipment for the first time, said Darwin Ten Haken, an enterprise architect in the state’s CIO office. Speaking at the event, which was hosted by Okta, Haken said the state was looking for a more modern, cloud-based way of handling identity than its 20-year old, “home-grown” system that only some agencies still used.

“So we knew things could be better, and wanted more security for multi-factor authentication, we wanted adoption of a consistent login experience and we wanted a seamless single sign-on for all the applications we use for our jobs,” said Steve Kinney, the state’s chief operating officer.

Kinney said the state has been working with the company to train government employees to use the new software to do virtually everything related to identity management, including testing different multifactor capabilities — like adding more security if a government employee tries to sign in from a new location or device — and automatically helping people reset their passwords, rather than forcing them to call a help desk. At least 45 agencies are using the software right now, Kinney said, and it’s a relatively “easy lift” to get the next 15 on board, even if people are still working remotely.


“They’re no longer in the office, so the self-service aspect brought to the table by Okta brought some ways that they could reset their passwords, do self-service with unlocking their accounts, like they would do with a banking app,” Ten Haken said.

Ten Haken said it’s about “just having less usernames and passwords to type in and keep track of going forward.”

Ryan Johnston

Written by Ryan Johnston

Ryan Johnston is a staff reporter for StateScoop, covering the intersection of local government and emerging technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence and 5G.

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