Tech Talk

Open Data’s Hidden Value

San Francisco has DataSF. Chicago has the Data Portal. New York City has NYC Open Data. Even mid-sized Asheville, N.C., has a digital hub. For more than five years now, states and localities have been leading on open data, allowing the public free and unfettered access to the reams of data they collect on everything from neighborhood crime statistics to restaurant inspections to real-time bus arrivals. What’s driven the open data movement is the idea that government needs to be more transparent. But now, a growing number of experts and policymakers are saying it’s time to shift the conversation about open data away from transparency to economic value.

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5 Tech Issues Every Governor Needs to Know

Technology isn’t a top concern for a newly elected governor. It’s less pressing than economic development, education or public safety for sure. But with the elections over in dozens of states, the governors -- both newly elected and re-elected -- might want to take some time assessing their state’s information technology systems and the people who run them. 

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Drones Take Off, but Regulations Remain Grounded

Filmmaking is about to get a lot more, well, aerial. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently approved waivers that will let Hollywood use drones for filming. The idea is to create more dazzling films at less cost and with greater safety. 

Hollywood, of course, isn’t the only industry hoping to use the pilotless planes and helicopters. Farmers want to use them to check on crops; energy companies want to fly them to inspect oil and gas pipelines; real estate agents want to shoot aerial footage of homes for sale; and retail companies, such as Amazon, want to use drones to deliver packages. Even state and local governments want in on the action. Public officials are looking to expand drone use beyond just law enforcement to housing inspections, for example, and search and rescue operations. READ MORE

States Approach Federal Data Breach Law with Caution

When hackers made their way past hardware giant Home Depot’s security system last month, gaining access to credit card information for up to 60 million customers, it was considered the mother of all data breaches. But it’s only the latest in a growing series of hacking scandals. Between 2005 and 2014, there have been 4,695 breaches exposing 633 million records, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. The average cost of a breach to an organization is estimated at $3.5 million.

With no national data breach disclosure law on the books, retailers such as Home Depot, Target and Neiman Marcus (which were both victims of massive breaches last year) are forced to adhere to a patchwork of 47 state laws. Those laws vary in terms of who must comply, what defines personal information, what constitutes a breach and who must be notified. It’s led to a growing chorus of critics who say it’s time for a national standard. READ MORE

Coming Soon to a Government Near You: Cloud Computing

When cloud computing first emerged, government officials viewed it with some skepticism. Long accustomed to owning and controlling all of their IT hardware, software and networks, states and localities didn’t take very seriously the idea that they could, for a monthly fee, simply stream pretty much everything to a worker’s desktop. Delivering a Netflix movie was one thing, the argument went, but a robust data management system was quite another.

What a difference a fiscal meltdown can make. When the recession hit Oakland County, Mich., in 2009, it lost 60,000 jobs in one year and saw the taxable value of its real estate shrink by 25 percent over the next two, according to Phil Bertolini, the county’s chief information officer. “That put extreme pressure on our revenue stream,” he says. READ MORE