Municipal governments house enormous amounts of data on everything from finances and infrastructure assets to local businesses and citizens. Entrusted with authorized access to this data are public employees who also have the responsibility to safeguard it.

However, the way authorized public employees access data has changed. The new paradigm no longer involves employees accessing data directly from an office – personnel are in the field using mobile applications; contractors are using cloud-hosted solutions to work securely off-site; and external contacts and suppliers are requesting access to government datasets.

With so many potential access points, the need to effectively manage data access and permissions leads to new challenges that require new thinking. To add to the coming challenges, 33 percent of the government workforce is projected to retire in the next five years, creating a boon of inactive users who will have to be purged from the system. As a result, municipalities are seeking solutions to manage these challenges. Identity and access management (IAM) tools and systems could be the answer.

What is IAM?

Identity and access management (IAM) is the IT framework for managing digital identities, from onboarding all the way to offboarding. IAM provides IT leaders with the tools needed to control, authenticate and authorize users’ access to and data permissions for information platforms within their municipality. Some examples of popular IAM tools and systems include single sign-on, multi-factor identification and role-based access.

IAM simply ensures that the correct access is granted to the appropriate user within the right context. For example, in a large municipality, it is necessary that a payroll administrator has access into an individual’s salary information, while a benefits administrator would not need that same access.

Benefits of IAM

  • Enhanced business productivity: Government municipalities are more mobile than ever. According to the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, 21 percent of government employees are now eligible for regular telework, up from 2010 when 2.2 percent of government employees worked remotely part-time.  IAM systems help reduce the overall cost and complexity of maintaining user credentials and access across these different devices in different environments – Gartner projects that an organization can save $3.5 million over time by automating IAM. This allows personnel to remain productive while staying secure.  
  • Time savings: It’s not uncommon for people to forget a password. However, something as simple as password resets can swamp an IT help-desk at a large municipality. Manually changing access permissions and controls for hundreds or even thousands of users on a day-to-day basis is virtually impossible. IAM systems allow administrators to automate the aspects of providing secure user access to alleviate the burden of these types of time-consuming but necessary tasks.
  • Access and data visibility tailored to individual needs: Some personnel have more access privileges than is necessary. IAM systems push municipalities to have a clear, well-defined outline of its access policies. This includes which roles and departments have access to specific data as well as under which conditions they have access. IAM systems make sure that an individual or department’s access to data is consistent across a municipality, enhancing productivity and increasing security.  
  • Greater security: According to Security Intelligence, compromised user credentials are the cause of almost 75 percent of security breaches. IAM systems can safeguard a municipality’s data assets against the rising threats of cyberattacks, phishing and other malware attacks. Properly managed digital identities give municipalities greater control of user access to lessen the risk of internal breaches.

Who can benefit?

A municipal government must manage a tremendous amount of assets, including data. IAM systems help increase these security measures across a municipality by setting clear definitions of digital identities for personnel and correct rules for access within online platforms. It will prove critical for governments to proactively manage who has access to what and to appropriately terminate access when a user is no longer in need of it.

While municipalities of all sizes can benefit from utilizing IAM tools and systems, it is especially impactful for larger municipalities who have a larger user base and a more complex data system. Municipalities should make it a priority to adopt IAM in order to stay ahead of the challenges in the coming years.