American City & County and the Public Technology Institute conducted its third annual survey to poll a broad base of subscribers to determine the state of IT among local and state governments across the nation. This year's survey yielded 50 percent more respondents than last year, with 65.9 percent coming from municipalities and 24.9 percent from counties. The remaining responses (11.2 percent) were mainly from special districts and state governments. Given the ever-changing IT environment, a series of questions were asked about spending and new trends, including cloud computing, app development, and mobile device ownership and use.

More than 79 percent of the respondents say their IT spending for the coming year would be either the same or up from 2012 – a welcome surprise considering the negative effects of lower revenues on local and state governments. That represents a slight increase over last year and continues to show both stabilization as well as growth. In addition to being encouraging news to other local and state governments, the response indicates that most spending may have already hit bottom. Of those who say that IT spending would be the same or higher, 4.2 percent (compared to last year's 3.5 percent) indicate that their spending would be significantly higher, and 29.5 percent as compared to last year's 27.2 percent say that spending would be up. Only 14 percent expected their IT budget to be lower compared to 18 percent last year. That again is showing an overall improving IT spending climate.

Increased spending across the board

It is often assumed that public safety gets the most budget support in downturn cycles, but once again our survey affirms a different story. When asked which areas most new IT spending would go toward, 61.3 percent (compared to 62.5 percent last year) say that it would be across the board, followed by public safety at 31.5 percent (compared to 26.2 percent last year) and then general infrastructure (31.5 percent this year versus 22.9 percent last year). Public works was once again at the bottom of the list at 8.9 percent (versus 5.2 percent last year). Frequently overlooked is the fact that public safety operations often receive special funding through state and federal grants and contracts, thus giving the impression it receives a disproportionate amount of funding. Again, spending is up overall with increases in general infrastructure, public safety, and public works, in addition to an across-the-board increase.

Cloud computing is one of the areas rapidly changing in IT management. Unfortunately, the definition of Cloud computing continues to change. We asked a general question about Cloud computing: "Has your organization discussed or evaluated Cloud services or migrated some of your IT services to the Cloud in the past 12 months?" This year, 35 percent say "No" to evaluating or discussing Cloud migration, declining from last year's 42.5 percent.

The number of those evaluating or discussing Cloud migration increased from 49 percent compared to last year's 38.5 percent showing a greater trend toward Cloud solutions. About 16 percent say they were not certain as compared with 20 percent last year.

Still, this survey shows a much greater interest in Cloud computing when compared to a similar question PTI asked about four years ago. Further analysis and real-world experience showed that actual Cloud computing experiences had addressed many earlier concerns, and that extreme downward budget pressures accelerated the change. Likely, because government revenues will not increase significantly, the Cloud adoption numbers will continue to rise regardless of the nation's general economic climate.