Tech Talk

One Way to Save Money, Reduce Fraud and Employ People Faster

During the height of the Great Recession, when 10 percent of workers were out of a job, unemployment insurance pumped $155 billion into the pockets of laid-off workers. Today, with unemployment at less than 5 percent, the state-administered systems that distribute such benefits receive less attention. Even so, they still pay out hefty sums in benefits -- $32.9 billion in 2016. They also pay out hefty sums improperly.

Unemployment insurance has one of the highest error rates among state benefits programs, worse than Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Rental Housing Assistance. In fiscal 2015, the program made $3.5 billion in improper payments, an error rate of 10.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. READ MORE

Can School Buses Close the Digital Gap?

Take an evening drive through some of the towns that make up the Coachella Valley Unified School District, a largely rural area near the Salton Sea in Riverside County, Calif., and you might be surprised to see yellow school buses parked in odd, uncharacteristic locations. But rest assured, they have a purpose. Equipped with Wi-Fi routers and solar panels, these buses provide Internet to the district’s most underserved communities.

Coachella is one of the poorest school districts in the country: Nearly 80 percent of its students live in poverty, which means many households can’t afford Internet access. That’s why Coachella’s school leaders have turned 100 buses along with several cars into mobile hot spots -- so students can do their homework. READ MORE

Are New York's Unprecedented Cyber-Regulations Necessary?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in September a first-in-the-nation regulation designed to protect the state from the growing threat of cyberattacks. The proposed rule targets the state’s financial services institutions, requiring banks and insurance companies to establish a cybersecurity program and designate a chief information security officer. 

The regulation comes on the heels of what has been a banner year for data breaches, with large-scale attacks occurring at government agencies, retail companies, tech firms and health-care service organizations. Barely a week after Cuomo introduced the regulation, Yahoo announced that data from at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen by a “state-sponsored actor.” Symantec, the Internet security firm, has similarly reported that 430 million new kinds of malware were detected in 2015, a 36 percent increase from the year before.  READ MORE

Cities Closely Watching Chicago’s Version of a Fitbit

At first glance, the smart city movement seems quite robust. The media is full of stories about cities with smart utilities, smart parking systems, smart streetlights and apps for all sorts of smart services, such as next bus arrival times or trash bins that “ask” to be emptied when sensors detect they’re full.  

But dig a little deeper and it becomes apparent that many of these services are simply pilot projects testing a technology or apps that may make things a little more convenient for the public but don’t get at the root of a city’s problems. READ MORE

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

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