Legislative Information Technology 2021 Survey

9/1/2021

Woman with technology images around her face

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic forced unprecedented changes in the way most legislatures operated during 2020 and 2021, and technology was an integral part of those changes in many states.

Legislatures, like businesses and other organizations, had to adapt to a newly remote workplace and perpetual video calls and meetings. But legislatures had the added challenges of doing so while upholding legislative traditions, rules and procedures or constitutional requirements that required special approaches.

To explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on legislative IT offices, NCSL sent key legislative IT contacts (CIOs, IT directors or managers, referred to hereafter as key contacts) an online survey in August 2021. The survey focused on how legislative IT offices approached and adapted to the challenges and demands presented by the pandemic and to what extent the changes experienced in the past two years will continue.

Thirty-nine IT staff in 35 states responded. Thirty of the key contacts who responded were from states where there is a single, central IT office that supports the entire legislature. Other respondents provide IT services to a single chamber or legislative office.

Impact of the Pandemic on Use of Technology

The survey posed questions covering the following three areas related to the impact of the pandemic on legislatures: 1) awareness of technology in the legislature; 2) new applications used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and 3) predictions about the use of new or advanced technologies in the legislature over the next five years.

Awareness of IT. Eighty-seven percent of respondents agreed that the pandemic had increased legislators' awareness of the significance of technology in the legislative process. Some said the pandemic had highlighted the value of IT in the legislative environment and the capabilities of IT staff in responding and acting quickly to keep legislatures functioning. Others said that it had bolstered support from legislative staff managers or legislative leadership for more institutional continuity and disaster recovery planning.

New Applications. Ninety-five percent of respondents surveyed agreed that the pandemic accelerated changes in the use of technology in the legislature. In the new, often remote environment, 95% said they had used, purchased or developed videoconferencing capabilities. About two-thirds said they used or implemented new web-based applications to take the place of paper; some said they had gone almost entirely paperless. Close to half used or implemented electronic bill filing or co-sponsorship applications.

In addition, an NCSL review of legislative websites found that many legislatures developed new applications for remote participation—web apps that allow the public to request to register to testify or to submit committee testimony electronically.

The pandemic also created the need for remote voting applications in some states, a rarity prior to the pandemic. Key contacts reported that remote voting was used during 2020 or 2021 in 13 senate chambers and in 20 house/assembly chambers. (Note that additional legislatures may have used remote voting at various times in legislatures during those years.) Remote committee voting applications were in place in a few states prepandemic, but such applications were implemented in five state senate committees and six house or assembly committees in response to the pandemic, according to the survey.

New or Advanced Technologies. When asked about new technologies that might be used in the legislature in the next one to five years, 44% of the key contacts said they expect biometric technologies (such as facial recognition or fingerprint ID to unlock devices) to be used within that time. Twenty-nine percent expect to see artificial intelligence technologies used, for example, to improve security or to streamline legislative processes. Twenty-four percent expect that connected (IoT) devices will be used for purposes such as controlling or monitoring building temperature, air quality or security. A few respondents commented that they already have these technologies in place, for example, in commercial security software that uses AI (for automated fraud detection), in building monitoring software or in chat bots. 

Impact of the Pandemic on Legislative IT Offices

Legislative IT key contacts also responded to questions about effects on IT staffing and operations, IT priorities and remote work.

Staffing. Legislative IT offices faced challenges in staffing and operations in 2020 and 2021. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said their workload had increased, 64% said additional training for IT staff was required, and 51% had to hire additional staff to meet new tasks and responsibilities. The pandemic also required new software and hardware purchases for 87% and 85% of respondents, respectively. Of the key contacts who said they hired new full-time staff, such as help desk, IT support staff or A/V technicians, about half said they would be permanent hires.

Impact on Priorities. Some of the biggest challenges for IT key contacts during the pandemic related to the need for additional security measures, such as more training and implementing tools like multifactor authentication. Close to half of those responding said that COVID-19 had a very significant impact on their priorities, for example, by delaying projects and shifting to new ones necessitated by the pandemic, and half saw a significant need for additional security measures. 

Remote Work. Only two key contacts said that IT employees were allowed to work remotely prior to the pandemic (although others said that it was allowed for certain positions, such as programmers, or in limited or special circumstances only). During the pandemic, however, 76% of those responding said remote work was allowed for all IT employees. Only about 42%, however, felt that remote work will definitely or likely be allowed for IT staff in the future. Of those who said remote work might be allowed, most indicated it would be limited to one to three days a week; very few predicted that it would be allowed more than that, even during the interim.

Seventy-one percent of those responding felt that these remote work policies, however, will make a difference in their ability to hire and retain IT staff. As one respondent noted, "Our biggest challenge is the increased competition for staff now that remote work is so widely offered across the U.S. and world. Retention strategy and recruitment is a high priority for us with this new challenge."

Survey Results

Impact of COVID-19 on the Use of Technology in Legislatures

1. Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased legislators' awareness of the significance of technology in the legislative process. 

Table 1: Significance of Technology in Legislatures

The pandemic increased awareness of legislative technology

Response Total

Response Percent

Strongly Agree

16

41%

Agree

18

46%

Neutral

4

10%

Disagree

1

3%

Strongly Disagree

0

0%

Total responses for this question

39

100%

2. Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in the use of technology in my legislature.

Table 2: Changes in the Use of Technology

The pandemic accelerated changes in the use of technology

Response Total

Response Percent

Strongly Agree

25

64%

Agree

12

31%

Neutral

0

0%

Disagree

2

5%

Strongly Disagree

0

0%

Total responses for this question

39

100%

3. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, did your office use, purchase or develop any of the following applications to meet the needs of a remote environment? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 3: New Applications

Applications

Response Total

Response Percent

Videoconferencing

37

95%

Teleconferencing

26

67%

Remote voting

23

59%

Electronic bill filing

19

49%

Electronic bill co-sponsorship

19

49%

Web-based applications to replace paper

25

64%

Other

4

10%

Total responses for this question

39

100%

 

4. If you implemented a remote voting application, indicate the type of application and how it is [was] used [in 2020-21]. (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 4: Remote Voting

 

For use during House/ Assembly floor sessions

For use during Senate floor sessions

For use during House/ Assembly committee meetings or hearings

For use during Senate committee meetings or hearings

 

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

In-house developed application

6

4

4

3

Commercial remote voting application

14

9

2

2

Total responses for this question         23

Skipped this question         16


5. Do you expect any of the following to be used in your legislative environment in the next one to five years? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 5: New/Advanced Technologies

Expect to Use in the Next Two to Five Years

Response Total

Response Percent

Artificial intelligence technologies, e.g., algorithms, etc., for security or to streamline legislative processes

10

29%

Advanced IoT systems, e.g., to control building temperature, etc.

8

24%

Biometric technologies for identification/authentication

15

44%

Other

1

3%

Total responses for this question

34

100%

Skipped this question

5

 

 

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Legislative IT Offices

6. Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your IT office in any of the following ways? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 6: Impact of COVID-19 on Legislative IT Offices
 

Response Total

Response Percent

Yes, increased workload

34

87%

Yes, required additional training for IT staff

25

64%

Yes, required adding additional IT staff to support new tasks or responsibilities

20

51%

Yes, made recruitment or retention of IT staff more difficult

19

49%

Yes, required additional software purchases

34

87%

Yes, required additional hardware purchases

33

85%

No, minimal to no impact

0

0%

Total responses for this question

39

N/A

7. Did you hire any additional IT staff to support new tasks or responsibilities that arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, what type of staff? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 7: IT Staffing

Type of position

Full time

Part time

Session-only

Temporary or project-based

Response Total

 

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

 

Audio/visual technicians

5

3

8

0

16

Support/help desk staff

4

2

6

0

12

Security staff

0

0

0

1

1

Other IT staff

8

1

2

1

12

No, but other (non-IT) legislative offices hired additional staff

1

1

2

2

6

No, did not need additional staff

10

8

8

7

33

No, was not able to hire additional staff

8

6

7

6

27

Total responses for this question        35

Skipped this question           4

8. If you hired additional staff in response to the pandemic in 2020-21, are or will those staff be permanent hires?

Table 9: Additional IT Staff

Are newly hired staff permanent?

Response Total

Response Percent

Yes

11

32%

No

9

27%

Not applicable

14

41%

Total responses for this question

34

100%

Skipped this question

5

 

9. How great of an impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the following priorities of your office in the past year?

Table 8: Impact on Priorities
 

Very Significant

Significant

Neutral

Insignificant

Very Insignificant

Response Total

 

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

 

Budget/availability of funds

9

8

13

5

3

38

Adding or retaining skilled IT staff

9

15

8

2

4

38

Need for additional security measures, such as 2FA/MFA, training, staffing, etc.

10

19

8

1

0

38

Current project priorities (e.g., postponement or shifting of current or previously planned projects)

18

8

7

3

0

36

New projects or services

15

13

8

0

0

36

Total responses for this question         38

Skipped this question             1

 

Remote Work

10. Did your office allow remote work for IT employees in the past? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 10: Remote Work - Pre-COVID

 

Yes, allowed prior to the pandemic (2019 and prior)

Yes, allowed during the pandemic (2020-21)

No, remote work was not allowed

Response Total

 

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

 

For all IT employees

2

28

4

34

For certain positions (e.g., programmers)

5

12

2

19

In limited or special circumstances

19

7

2

28

Total responses for this question          37

Skipped this question             2

11. Will your office allow remote work for IT employees in the future? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 11: Remote Work

 

Yes, will definitely be allowed in the future

Yes, will likely be allowed in the future

No, will definitely not be allowed in the future

No, will likely not be allowed in the future

Not sure/don't know

Response Total

 

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

 

For all IT employees

5

11

1

7

7

31

For certain positions (e.g., programmers)

6

10

0

4

3

23

In limited or special circumstances

3

11

0

4

2

20

Total responses for this question          38

Skipped this question            1

12. If your office will or is likely to allow remote work for IT employees in the future, how many days a week do you anticipate that they will be able to work from home/from a remote location? (Please check as many as apply.)

Table 12: Frequency of Remote Work

 

During regular or special sessions

During the interim

For special/limited circumstances

Response Total

 

Response Total

Response Total

Response Total

 

One day a week

3

6

7

16

Two days a week

7

13

8

28

Three days a week

4

8

9

21

Four days a week

0

2

8

10

Five days a week

0

3

12

15

Total responses for this question           31

Skipped this question            8

13. Do you anticipate your office's remote work policies (i.e., allowing or not allowing remote work) will make a difference in your ability to hire or retain IT staff?

Table 13: Hiring and Retention

Remote policies will affect ability to hire or retain

Response Total

Response Percent

Yes

27

71%

No

7

18%

Not sure/don't know

4

11%

Total responses for this question

38

100%

Skipped this question

1

 

Additional Resources

Recent past surveys: