2021 Software Adoption Trends in Local Government
In CivicPulse’s second annual report in this series, we show that public safety departments continue to lead the way in software acquisition. Meanwhile, there has been an overall decline in the prioritization of software in local government since the beginning of the pandemic.
CivicPulse Insights — November 10, 2021
With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, local governments turned to a suite of new software services to meet the unique challenges of remote governance. Now two years later, our second annual report in this series shows a decline in the extent to which local governments prioritize software acquisition.
This latest report is based on a national random-sample survey of 823 government leaders, and the survey was conducted between September and October of 2021. The sample is drawn from thirteen key leadership positions and is representative of all county, municipality, and township governments serving populations of 1,000 or more.
Our annual report covers five key topics concerning the adoption of software in local government: adoption, impacts, priorities, challenges, and information sources. The key takeaways are:
Some departments are adopting new software far faster than others. Public safety departments are the local government leaders in software adoption. Over 50% of fire protection and law enforcement departments adopted a new specialized software product or service in the last three years. In contrast, only 25-30% of purchasing, finance, and zoning departments adopted new software in the past three years.
Most departments see a positive impact from software adoption. In eleven of twelve departments, local officials reported a net positive experience with new software adoption. Overall, 68% of department heads reported that the adoption of new specialized software has had positive effects.
Software has fallen as a priority for most local governments since 2020. The prioritization of specialized software declined in 2021 compared with 2020. In 2020, 32% of department heads said new software adoption was a high priority. By comparison, in this year’s survey, only 21% of department heads view adopting new software as a high priority.
Top challenges remain financial and implementation concerns. Across all positions, the top two challenges related to the acquisition of new specialized software were financing and implementation. These two barriers were ranked first and second regardless of the size or type of government.
Local governments continue to look to each other to learn. We find that the most common way local officials learn about new software is by looking to other local governments. The second most common method is to turn to associations, which can include state, regional, or national groups.