Tech Talk

Artificial Intelligence: The Next Big Thing in Government

The Las Vegas health department typically selects at random the restaurants it will inspect. But earlier this year, it tried something new. The agency used a software program to analyze tens of thousands of tweets in order to identify possible food poisonings. The program then connected those tweets to specific restaurants and dispatched inspectors to check for any health violations. 

The Las Vegas experiment resulted in citations in 15 percent of inspections compared to just 9 percent when inspections were random. The new approach, which saved the agency time and money, was essentially a form of artificial intelligence, or cognitive computing. Unlike big data and analytics, which work off structured data that takes time to collect and analyze, this program was able to quickly calculate possible health problems by reading unstructured data -- words and phrases. That’s an exciting advance in computing capability, and it’s something that experts and state and local CIOs alike see as the next big thing in government technology. READ MORE

3 Ways Governments Are Fighting Hackers

*Note: This was published in the magazine and online before news broke about the recent cyberattacks on election systems in Arizona and Illinois.

So far it’s been a quiet year for data breaches. No major state and local cyberattacks have yet been reported in 2016. Of course, that doesn’t mean attackers are taking a break. Evidence suggests they’re merely spending less time developing new approaches and instead refining some old but proven ways to hack, according to Verizon’s recent Data Breach Investigations Report. READ MORE

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 More than half of that money will go toward maintaining  outdated and ineffective computer systems.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

Innovation in Government

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