Tech Talk

Words of IT Wisdom From Silicon Valley to Governments

Local governments will spend in excess of $50 billion this year on information technology. More than half of that money will go toward maintaining  outdated and ineffective computer systems. As cities approach the inevitable task of replacing and updating them, James Keene has one piece of advice: Decentralize.  

Several months ago, Keene, the city manager of Palo Alto, Calif., co-wrote an article published by the Brookings Institution that criticized local government’s traditional mindset about IT. He and Palo Alto CIO Jonathan Reichental listed five deep-seated problems with government technology and their suggestions for fixing those glaring weaknesses. READ MORE

High-Speed Police Chases Go High-Tech

High-speed police chases are extremely dangerous. At least 11,500 people were killed in police pursuits between 1979 and 2013. More than 5,000 of those deaths were bystanders or passengers; 139 were police officers. Injuries were in the tens of thousands. The costs from court settlements are estimated to be in the billions, according to the nonprofit Americans for Effective Law Enforcement.

The high price and level of carnage has forced many police departments to rethink car chases, with some agencies rewriting their pursuit policies to restrict chases to suspected felons or people who present an imminent threat to others. But the issue has also compelled agencies to consider technological solutions. READ MORE

Dot-Govs Get a Much-Needed Facelift

Is it time to give the government website a makeover? For years, city and state sites have been designed as portals through which the public could find as much information as possible. The motto was clearly, “the more, the better.” But the result has been an overwhelming hodgepodge of columns and boxes filled with tiny text, drop-down menus that run on and on, and buttons everywhere. 

With so much information crammed on to a home page, visitors are lucky if they manage to find what they’re looking for, says John McKown, president of Evo Studios Inc., a Web design firm that works with municipalities. “The problem with so many government websites has been information overload.”  READ MORE

4 Reasons Data Analytics Often Fail

The Chicago Police Department thought it had a fail-proof strategy for keeping a lid on violent crime: a heat map of the 400 individuals most likely to break the law. The index of violent individuals was the result of a predictive analytics program that used a mathematical algorithm to sift through crime data. It worked much like the analytics programs Netflix or Amazon use to predict a person’s next movie rental or book purchase. 

But the algorithm ran into a firestorm of controversy in late 2013 when a Chicago Tribune article told the story of a man on the list who had no criminal arrests. While the police defended the tool, critics said it was nothing more than racial profiling. They compared to it to a bad version of Minority Report, the popular sci-fi film about police who predict crimes before they happen.  READ MORE

CIOs Fear Mass Exodus of Government IT Workers

When New York state Chief Information Officer Maggie Miller testified in February before the state legislature, she warned lawmakers of a looming IT staff crisis. Within the next few years, she said, her agency expects to lose 25 percent of its staff to retirement. As those retirements unfold, they will reduce the average level of experience for senior state IT workers from 40 years to 11 years.

New York is not alone. Maine is also facing a mass exodus of its IT workforce. It estimates that 24 percent of IT workers are eligible to retire in the next two years. A National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) report last year found that 40 percent of states expect that between 11 and 20 percent of their workers will be eligible to retire in the next year, while 86 percent found it challenging to recruit new workers to fill vacant IT positions. CIOs also cited a lack of funding for training as one of the top three impediments to developing, supporting and maintaining IT services, according to the survey.  READ MORE

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