Almost 5% of government organisations operate with a chief digital officer, slightly lower than the cross-industry global figure of 6.6%, according to Gartner.
The research company announced the figures in its 2014 CIO Agenda: A Government Perspective report after its global survey of 2,339 CIOs attracted 288 responses from government institutions, regions and domains.
Gartner, which released its own CDO report last month revealing CIOs were seen by their CEOs as being critical to digital success, said that this figure of one in 20 was neither surprising nor unexpected, "because in the public sector it is extremely difficult to make the business case and to obtain sustained funding for any new IT or business C-level position".
However, Gartner said that in municipalities where the digital acumen of elected officials is high and economic development is a top priority, they found there is a willingness to hire the digitally proficient talent needed to support initiatives.
Research director at Gartner Rick Howard said: "The exponential availability of government open data fuels a burgeoning marketplace of services and apps that exploit the unprecedented convergence of citizens, information, business and things.
"Government agencies should sustain this initial burst of innovation, while ensuring accountability for the management of government's information assets, by establishing clear boundaries among the roles of CIO, CDO and chief technology officer (CTO), even when these duties are the responsibility of one person."
In the 2014 edition of the CIO 100 announced last month, 12% of CIOs said that there was a separate digital leader at their organisation, with another 12% responding that there was a separate head of digital reporting to the CIO.
Interestingly, of the 13 CIOs representing the public sector in the CIO 100 only government CTO Liam Maxwell was not the de facto digital chief, and their 'digital by default' strategy and the Government Digital Service arm has been covered on numerous occasions by this magazine.
Last month, State of New York CDO and deputy secretary for technology, Rachel S Haot, was named the 2014 Chief Digital Officer of the Year by the CDO Club at their summit in New York.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.