Tech Talk

States Seek Upgrades for Decades-Old Medical Technology

The technology upon which most states run their Medicaid programs is old, clunky and slow. To make matters worse, the expansion of Medicaid in a number of states under the Affordable Care Act has only put more pressure on these aging systems. Now nearly a quarter of states are looking to modernize them, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But officials aren’t eager to risk a lot of money on another system that will be old, clunky and slow by the time it’s completed.

For decades, states have built their Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS) all at once -- and that makes sense. After all, a single, tightly integrated computer system seems like it would be the best way to run one of state government’s biggest and most complex programs. This big-bang approach, however, has a couple of serious flaws. READ MORE

Can Yelp Help Government Win Back the Public's Trust?

Look out, DMV, IRS and TSA. Yelp, the popular review website that's best known for its rants or cheers regarding restaurants and retailers, is about to make it easier to review and rank government services. 

Last month, Yelp and the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages the basic functions of the federal government, announced that government workers will soon be able to read and respond to their agencies' Yelp reviews -- and, hopefully, incorporate the feedback into service improvements. READ MORE

The City That Incorporated Social Media Into Everything

Back in 2008, Roanoke, Va., a city of about 100,000, had a modest social media program run by its Department of Communications. But when an unusually strong snowstorm hit the city in the winter of 2014, things changed practically overnight.

Timothy Martin, communications coordinator in charge of social media, planned to use the city’s Facebook page to get information about the storm out to residents and to provide an avenue for people to ask questions about snow removal, among other things. He thought it also would be fun if residents posted photos of the storm. The response was overwhelming. “Those photos were viewed by more than 400,000 people on Facebook,” Martin says. “That was the moment social media took off in Roanoke.” READ MORE

States Start Restricting Police License Plate Readers

Police have a new set of eyes called automated license plate readers, and they're growing in popularity -- and controversy.

Automated license plate readers are mounted either on a police car or a fixed position like a bridge. As their name suggests, they read the numbers and letters on license plates -- even when vehicles are moving at high speeds -- and tag the time and location. Then another program compares the data with a list of license plates associated with criminal activity. READ MORE

The (Hidden) Cost of Open Data

Los Angeles County announced this January the creation of an open data website that would allow anyone to find information on a host of county government programs, from budget information to welfare data to crime statistics. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Los Angeles Times the county was about to become the “largest municipal government in the nation” to make its data easily accessible to the public.

While the data will be free to the public, the county will spend $319,000 in startup costs, and annual expenses are expected to cost an additional $287,000. For comparison, consider this: California lawmakers in June introduced a bill to establish a statewide open data policy that would affect more than 200 state agencies. An analysis of the bill’s fiscal impact showed the policy would cost the state $4 million to $5 million annually. READ MORE