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Why IT Funding Requests from State Agencies Have Exploded

Heath Beach, co-founder and chief executive officer of Avail Strategies, discusses the past and future of IT for the state.

Aerial view of the Florida state Capitol complex.
Florida state Capitol complex.
IT work in Florida's state government has gone through major changes in recent years. Heath Beach, co-founder and chief executive officer of Avail Strategies, spoke recently with Industry Insider — Florida about how technology-related projects have changed since 2020.

COVID-19 affected how state and local governments view the importance of cybersecurity and IT components. Before the pandemic, some of the items listed as legislative budget requests would have been viewed as expenses, and COVID shined a light on how IT components are an investment. Beach noted that before the pandemic, IT mechanisms were not a priority for state and local government.

“There used to be 50, maybe 60 legislative budget requests,” he said. “After COVID, there were 167.”

This increase is due to the awareness of how cybersecurity, app modernization projects and even AI capabilities are requirements needed to run state agencies accurately and securely.

“There's close to 300 legislative budget requests that that have an IT component. … That is just about almost a billion dollars," Beach said. "It is a combination of ongoing, huge IT modernization projects, as well as as new initiatives.”

These new initiatives include updating some infrastructure, and, although they might not be as exciting as other projects, they show how much technology is needed and something that cannot be neglected.

Beach said he looks forward to the legislature tackling issues related to artificial intelligence.

“We have to be careful that no individual state or states try to start putting these guardrails around AI, because then you get this uneven playing field," he said. "I'm obviously an advocate … that governments should be partners with vendors and vice versa. So, to try and artificially restrain and vendors' AI capabilities … it puts an unnecessary burden on the private sector.”

The 2024 state legislative session begins Jan. 9.
Cristina Carter is a Tallahassee-based staff writer. She has a bachelor's degree in English literature and a master's degree in international affairs, both from Florida State University.