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Cybersecurity and Local Governments in the United States: A Need for Public Administration

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By William Hatcher
May 9, 2017

A few years ago, I was part of a team that helped local governments in eastern Kentucky offer e-government services by having functional websites, online bill payment and other internet based technologies to serve citizens. From our team’s conversations with local officials, two issues were identified as barriers: (1) the cost of e-government services and (2) security concerns.

The cybersecurity events of this year have most likely increased the privacy concerns of the public servants in Eastern Kentucky and throughout the nation. Local governments should not allow the barriers of cost and security to keep them from improving the effectiveness of their administrative actions by making use of modern technologies. The problem is local governments, especially small cities and counties, lack the administrative capacity and expertise to properly address these barriers. Thus, public administration needs to be active in helping communities find financing for e-government services and ensuring those services are secure.

CybersecurityAt Augusta University, our MPA program serves a community labeled as an emerging cybersecurity and information technology hub. The community’s Fort Gordon is the U.S. Army’s location for its Cyber Command. With this destination, the Augusta Metro is experiencing a growth of cyber-related industries and jobs. The community’s role in cyber is gaining attention. Fortune included the metro on its list of “7 cities that could become the world’s cybersecurity capital.” And Forbes has included commentary on how the city is “becoming a model for tech innovation.”

To serve our community, the Augusta University’s MPA is focused on helping local nonprofits and public agencies prepare and take advantage of the potential for Augusta to be the cybersecurity capital of the world. We’re learning that MPA and other public affairs programs should play a role in helping local governments provide effective and secure e-government services. Programs can do so by focusing on:

  • Securing funding through grant writing assistance;
  • Conducting applied research for local partners on the efficacy of e-government services; and,
  • Providing training on how to provide effective and secure e-government services.


Public administration programs can offer grant writing assistance to local governments in order to help them obtain funding for e-government services. Programs can work with state governments and federal agencies to help identify funding. MPA faculty, students and staff can also help local governments evaluate the website and e-government services provided by private contractors.

Applied Research

Providing active applied research is perhaps the most important assistance public affairs programs can offer to strength the e-government capacity of local governments. The applied research can include a variety of topics and projects, such as showing the efficacy of online bill payment, the usefulness of social media sites and the value of promoting community assets on the web.

Augusta University’s MPA program is a partner in applied research projects that are helping build e-government capacity in our community. We’re partnering with the Augusta University Cyber Institute to identify the supply and demand cyber-related occupations in the Augusta Metro. The study includes analysis of labor statistics and a survey asking local employers (businesses, nonprofits and public agencies) to identify their cyber-related employment needs for the future and the type of education future employees will need to be competitive for the positions. Furthermore, we’re learning the cyber needs of local agencies, so we can serve them better in our community outreach.


Public affairs programs can help build administrative capacity for e-government by offering robust training programs. At Augusta University, our program, due to funding from our Cyber Institute, is offering free online e-government trainings for public agencies. The training includes three modules:

  • An overview and definition of e-government services
  • How local governments use e-governments services
  • How e-government services can be kept secure

We’re hoping this training helps public agencies provide effective and secure e-government services.

With Facebook having close to 2 billion active users and many people getting most of their news via social media, public administration needs to do a better job helping communities offer e-government services and providing e-governance. Since the advent of the internet, private firms have been more innovative in providing online services. However, local governments are making progress, especially large cities and manager-council forms of government. Our field needs to be more active in helping medium sized and rural communities provide services through internet based technologies. We can do this by helping communities secure funding, conducting applied research and providing training.

Author: William Hatcher, Ph.D. is an associate professor and director of the master of public administration program at Augusta University. He can be reached at [email protected].  (His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer.)

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