Tech Talk

Decentralizing Government's IT

These days, you hear a lot about disruptive technologies -- how ride-hailing apps have revolutionized the taxi industry, how Facebook has altered the way we consume news or how mobile devices have changed how we watch TV. Now another technology is behind a decision to disrupt Florida’s IT authority. A bill introduced in the state’s House of Representatives encourages state agencies to individually buy storage and processing power from cloud vendors.And that’s only one element of the legislation, which would completely reorganize the state’s IT authority and strip away its central control over IT. 

The bill won’t become law this year: For now, legislators opted to fund the state’s central IT agency as is. But the legislation’s introduction reflects a growing problem with how expensive IT has become and the slow pace of change within state government when it comes to adopting new technologies. Florida state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who sponsored the bill, says the reorganization would give agencies opportunities to pursue new, commercially available cloud services while changing the existing business model for government IT, which has become unsustainable. READ MORE

Are State Ethics Rules Keeping Up With Social Media?

Melanie Stambaugh is in her third year as a Washington state legislator representing the 25th District, located near the city of Tacoma. At the age of 26, Stambaugh is the youngest woman elected to the legislature in 80 years. Like others of her generation, she uses social media to engage with her constituents. “I believe this is the people’s government,” Stambaugh says, “and the way to be most effective is to share with them the details of what I do so they can provide feedback on what I’m working on. Social media is really the way to get that kind of instant feedback and real-time data.”

But Stambaugh’s use of social media suffered a setback when the state Legislative Ethics Board last year said she violated the rules 44 times by posting state-funded photos and videos on her campaign Facebook page. The board ruling carried $220,000 in fines and an order to remove the videos. READ MORE

The Cyberthreat to Government That's Lurking in the Shadows

Michael Roling, Missouri’s chief information security officer (CISO), knew that some of the state’s 40,000 employees were using unapproved software they had downloaded from the cloud to their work computers and devices. But when his team ran a special software tool to figure out how extensive the practice was, they were surprised to learn that more than 2,500 unknown software programs or services were operating throughout the state’s IT network. “It was definitely an eye-opener,” Roling says. “We guessed we had some problems, but it turned out the number was far greater than what we could imagine.”

Roling isn’t the only IT official to miscalculate the size and scope of the problem. CISOs routinely underestimate the number of unsanctioned software programs that workers are using. A report from SkyHigh Networks, a software security firm, found that the typical public-sector organization uses nearly 750 cloud services -- 10 times the number IT departments expect to find. READ MORE

Letting the Little Guy In: How Ohio Expanded Its IT Expertise

The state of Ohio wanted analytics. Demand from agencies had steadily increased for better ways to sift through large chunks of data, which could help public officials predict everything from the next crime wave or food poisoning outbreak to places where fraud might occur in a benefits program. The state had identified 14 different areas of government operations, from auditing to workforce programs, that could benefit from analytics.

But Ohio had an IT procurement problem. A lot of the really good analytic tools and the people who know how to build them weren’t bidding on government IT projects. What was the barrier that kept them from reaching city hall or the state Capitol? A clunky, complex procurement system.  READ MORE

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

Innovation in Government

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