Tech Talk

Most Schools Don’t Teach Computer Science

Would it surprise you to know that most schools don’t teach computer science—not even the basics? It should, especially given that there will be about 1 million more U.S. jobs in the tech sector in the next decade than computer science graduates to fill them, according to Code.org, a nonprofit launched last year to promote computer science in schools. 

Failure to teach students basic theory behind how computer technology works has several implications—none of them positive. First, employers are clamoring for qualified people to fill tech-related jobs. Yet students aren’t introduced to this potentially high-paying field as they take the first steps toward a career. READ MORE

A Little Neighborly Competition Can Help Reduce Water Usage

As a longtime California resident, I consider myself fairly water conscious, thanks to a series of droughts stretching back nearly 40 years. As a high school freshman living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the historic 1976-77 drought, I remember folks in my neighborhood using buckets to catch what little rain fell during those years to water outside plants. We learned to take short showers, and we tried not to drink water from the tap because it tasted like saltwater, which was pushing inland toward the municipal water intake located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Another six-year dry spell from 1987 to 1992 triggered constant reminders to conserve. And now the lack of precipitation is hitting home again. 2013 is the driest year on record, according to state water officials. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January. Folsom Lake, a huge reservoir a few miles from my house, is less than 20 percent full and looks like a mud puddle. Outdoor watering is restricted to two days a week, and it may be eliminated altogether this summer if conditions don’t improve. READ MORE

Government Needs to Rethink How They Attract IT Talent

The tech sector’s recovery from the Great Recession is good news everywhere but within government IT departments. When the economy tanked, one of the few bright spots was a surge in the number of skilled technology workers applying for public-sector jobs. But with private companies hiring again, governments are struggling to compete for IT talent.

To make matters worse, a good chunk of the public-sector IT workforce is poised to leave. The sour economy delayed the long-predicted baby boomer retirement wave, but it’s still coming. Many state and local IT departments will see a quarter to a third of their employees become eligible for retirement in the next few years—the ratio is as much as half in some places. Financial uncertainty that kept these workers on the job over the past few years is easing, and changes to pensions may help push them out the door (see “The Chatter Effect,” page 58). READ MORE

Government Technology Trends to Watch in 2014

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr famously said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” I tend to agree with him, but as we enter the New Year there are three interrelated technology issues that we can’t ignore. They’ll demand more attention from state and local leaders in 2014.

Data Analytics

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Time Ticking for States to Opt In or Out of FirstNet

Within the next year or two, governors will need to decide if they want to join the federal government’s new nationwide public safety communications network. And although the decision may seem far away, now is the time to prepare.

The First Responder Network Authority—the independent federal entity better known as FirstNet—is in the process of drawing up specific network designs for each state. Right now, a federal grant program is paying states to tally potential users and inventory radio towers and other gear that could be used by the network. Once those network plans hit governors’ desks, the clock starts ticking. Under federal legislation signed last year, states have 90 days to opt into or out of the plan. READ MORE