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Gov. Cooper Calls for Broadband Expansion, Better Cybersecurity at Digital Government Summit

RALEIGH

RALEIGH - Gov. Roy Cooper called for expanded high-speed broadband service throughout North Carolina in his opening address at the North Carolina Digital Government Summit on Wednesday morning.

The North Carolina Digital Government Summit brings together information technology leaders from the public and private sectors to address current issues in government IT. In his opening address to an audience of more than 400 people, Gov. Cooper stressed the importance of expanding broadband access across the state. According to the NC Department of Information Technology, there are more than 400,000 households without access to high-speed internet services, 89 percent of those in rural areas.

“Right now our state faces a digital divide, and future success requires that North Carolinians in both our rural and urban areas have access to broadband internet,” said Governor Cooper. “Broadband can increase educational opportunities, develop skills for our workforce, and improve technology for small businesses, and we must make consistent internet access available across our state.”

Gov. Cooper advocated in his budget proposal for $20 million to improve internet access for underserved communities, including grants to help local governments partnering with private companies complete last mile broadband projects. The program was not included in the budget approved by the General Assembly.

Gov. Cooper also spoke to the group about increased need for vigilance around cybersecurity. He recently joined a bipartisan compact with other governors across the country to improve state cybersecurity, and the compact continues Gov. Cooper’s focus on safeguarding North Carolinians from threats and cyberattacks. In addition, Gov. Cooper’s budget included funding to establish an Information Technology Disaster Recovery Site to help keep state agencies more secure from cyber threats.

“As leaders in government and information technology, it’s critical that we do more to safeguard North Carolinians from cybersecurity threats,” said Governor Cooper. “Once exposed, data and personal information damage reputations, commerce, and ruin finances. By enacting cybersecurity governance and expanding our cybersecurity workforce nationwide, North Carolinians will be better protected from these threats.”

In his remarks introducing Gov. Cooper, Eric Boyette, Secretary of the NC Department of Information Technology and State Chief Information Officer, voiced support for the governor’s initiatives. He also said that the state must rely on partnerships between the public and private sectors, as well as partnerships throughout government, to strengthen its IT programs.

“Partnership is important for all of us,” Secretary Boyette said. “No one of us will knock down the challenges in front of us alone. We need partners to help us to get through.”

This year’s Digital Government Summit features discussions of cybersecurity, big data and workforce optimization, as well as other topics. The conference concludes Thursday.