Aging workforce rivals cyber as biggest threat in Alabama

An unexpected ransomware attack comes all at once, but gradual retirement can impede service delivery just as much.

While cybersecurity threatens government externally, a more friendly threat emanates from within its called retirement.

An aging workforce is a challenge facing businesses across the nation, but the problem is magnified for government offices like the State of Alabama’s Office of Information Technology, as they attempt to present an attractive and competitive work environment for a new generation of workers.

Workforce is right up there with cybersecurity on the list of priorities, Alabama Secretary of Information Technology Joanne Hale told StateScoop in a video interview recorded September at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

A third of Alabamas IT workforce could retire tomorrow if they so choose, Hale reported. And without the support the states IT systems need, the impact could be as devastating as some cyber attacks, which still remains a top priority for the state, too.

Agencies are interested with citizens personal data that its our job to protect, Hale said. And the biggest challenge there, besides the talent that Ive already mentioned would be simply the multidimensionality of the problem, because there are so many changes and improvements that we need to make a we need to work on them simultaneously.

A relative newcomer to public IT, joining the state from a teaching career at the University of Alabama, Hale shared that her passion is to watch public service translated into impact.

Yes, we can point to e-government, but theres so many other ways that IT affects directly or indirectly the people in our state and the first one is if we save a dollar in IT, then we can spend it on a trooper or we can spend it on a teacher or we can spend it on healthcare, she said. So I have to keep that in mind and keep that drive in me.

And making that impact happen requires the state to overcome at least one challenge familiar to state government.

The biggest challenge we face is breaking down the barriers between the agencies, Hale said. We cant focus on our goals completely with the agencies not working together and so thats the biggest challenge, to break down those barriers and to get the agencies to collaborate towards what is everyone agrees common goals. Everyone wants to serve the state, everyone wants to serve the citizens better. But we just have to get them to recognize they can get there so much faster if we work together.

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