Government Technology News
13 Nov 2016
  • Autonomous Delivery Robots to Hit Redwood City, Calif., Streets in December
    Fri, 11 Nov 2016 02:30:00 PST

    Various reports have surfaced in the past year about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages and take-out to your door — but some options are closer to the ground, literally. And one Silicon Valley city is jumping to test out this new technology, considered the newest frontier in automated delivery.

    Redwood City, Calif., recently passed a city resolution (PDF) for a nine-month pilot program in which Starship Technologies works with parcel delivery, grocery and food delivery firms who will use its autonomous robots to carry out the deliveries. As a demonstration for the city, the robot delivered a box of cookies from a local bakery. 

    The company has run pilot programs in London; Düsseldorf, Germany; Bern, Switzerland; and Washington, D.C. When looking to expand to the West Coast of the United States, what ultimately sealed the deal for Starship Technologies was the enthusiasm in Redwood City, which will serve as the “primary pilot program for Starship Technologies in the United States,” according to a city report.

    The current program is designed to support two delivery hubs that monitor 10 robots each. The first deliveries will be made in early December, and the robots will deliver one package per hour, scheduled by the receiving party for whenever they like. Although not there yet, the company is working to make the robots 99 percent autonomous, capable of sending information to a central hub if it comes across something it does not understand.

    The company estimates that deliveries could take five to 30 minutes from a local hub or retail outlet — 10 to 15 times less than the cost of current last-mile delivery alternatives.

    The six-wheeled robots will travel on city sidewalks, obeying crosswalk signals, moving out of the way for pedestrians and deliver goods door-to-door. Weighing about 40 pounds, the delivery devices are installed with nine cameras that will help them navigate the neighborhood and recognize people, animals and other mobility aides such as wheelchairs and scooters. They are designed to travel mostly on sidewalks, although they can negotiate small curbs.

    "We’re very excited," said Redwood City Economic Development Manager Catherine Ralston. “We saw this as an opportunity to show the tech world … that we are open to new technologies.”

    Often lumped in with Palo Alto, Mountain View or Silicon Valley as a whole, Redwood City hopes this program will help itself stand out among the crowd. Being able to attract partnerships such as this is key to drawing investment and enticing small businesses to work closely with the city.

    The small town feel combined with an urban downtown made Redwood City the ideal location for the pilot. But it was more than just city features that brought the company to town — being open to new technology and embracing automated vehicle progress was what really drew Starship Technologies to the jurisdiction.

    “Redwood City, from day one, was incredibly-intuitive, forward thinking, proactive and enthusiastic,” said company spokesperson Henry Harris-Burland, adding that autonomous robot delivery could significantly reduce a city’s traffic congestion. “One single robot takes as many as 10 cars off the road,” he said.

    The possibilities are endless. Showing that automated delivery is possible could disrupt the entire parcel delivery industry and save families about an hour per day on running out to grab groceries.

    As for the program's future, Ralston claimed the city would love for it to extend beyond the nine-month pilot period, and city officials already are thinking about additional possibilities. “Our library is looking into using Starship," she said, "and would love to use it for delivering books people put on hold.”

    Ralston's mindset is exactly what Starship is looking for.

    “We want people to want our robots,” said Harris-Burland. “We are very excited to see the results from this program.”

  • What's New in Civic Tech: Uncertainty in the Age of Trump, Open Source Projects Abound
    Thu, 10 Nov 2016 06:00:00 PST

    Facing a Trump administration, civic tech leaders confront uncertainty

    Headed into Tuesday night, almost every major poll showed Hillary Clinton winning the presidency. Then, Donald Trump won instead.

    The shocking development has left many wondering what will change for the U.S. government starting in January — including the innovation and technology efforts that sprung from the administration of Barack Obama, a Democrat. Clinton had expressed explicit support for the federal digital consultancy 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, for example, while Trump said very little on tech policy.

    Following election night, leaders in the civic tech community spoke out online in favor of soldiering on through the uncertainty that now surrounds the federal government. Some, such as 18F Director of Delivery Architecture and Infrastructure Services Noah Kunin, were a simple assurance that they would continue working.

    “This movement is not bound to the current administration,” Kunin wrote in a Medium post. “It is not an ideological movement meant to serve a particular President’s agenda, or even a particular Congress’ agenda.”

    David Eaves, a public policy lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote on his blog that he is reaching out to Republican officials to try to get a sense of what might change.

    “What I’ve heard back is that the most plausible scenario is nothing happens,” Eaves wrote. “Tech policy sits pretty low on the priority list. There will be status quo for likely a year while the administration figures out what is next.”

    Meanwhile, Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, embraced a message of stability and shared values.

    “If you don’t like the outcome of the election (or if you do), this is a good time to remind yourself that politics isn’t government, and governing isn’t someone else’s problem,” Pahlka wrote. “It’s ours.”

    U.S. CIO launches code.gov

    After enacting a pilot policy calling for all federal departments to make at least 20 percent of the code for custom-built projects open source, the federal government has launched a repository for all that script: code.gov.

    The website acts as a portal for departments to access one another’s code, as well as for citizens to improve upon it. It began with around 50 open source projects from 10 agencies, but U.S. CIO Tony Scott promised future growth in a blog post as more departments comply with the 20 percent policy. The early code available includes 3-D modeling from NASA, the commerce.gov API and an app from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that lets work supervisors calculate the heat index in which their employees are working.

    “It’s a step we took to help federal agencies avoid duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and cross-agency collaboration,” Scott wrote in the post. “And it’s a step we took to enable the brightest minds inside and outside of government to work together to ensure that federal code is reliable and effective.”

    Scott’s office collaborated with 18F and the U.S. Digital Service on the project.

    Boston.gov goes open source

    The federal government isn’t the only public entity going open source. Boston has launched its own Web portal as an open source project — its content management system is built on Drupal, which is itself open source — and the city’s Digital Team promised that anything it builds going forward will be “open by default.”

    By making the portal open source, the team wrote in a blog post, it hopes to not only find help from the public but also to provide any code that might be useful to companies and organizations with similar projects.

    “There’s a large, civic-minded ecosystem of software developers out there, especially in the Drupal community, and we’re hoping they will lend a hand to improve Boston.gov,” the post reads. “As an open source project, we can also more easily work with organizations (like our friends at Code for Boston) or academic institutions interested in helping city governments adapt to 21st-century needs.”

    The city is asking for help on five specific projects related to its website:

    Creating a Docker container for Boston.gov so that more people can contribute quickly and easily to the website. Building a mapping component. Researching information architecture to help the website fit what citizens are looking for instead of being organized around the structure of the city. Helping to find an open source catalog tool for historical artifacts and artwork from Boston. Setting up a “sample database” that auto-generates content when developers are working on open source projects for the site.

    Already, several people have offered help to the city on GitHub.

  • 2016 Digital Cities: Winners Focus on Transparency, Security, Infrastructure
    Wed, 9 Nov 2016 08:00:00 PST

    The 2016 Digital Cities Survey results are in. Dozens of cities were selected by a judging panel at the Center for Digital Government as the most strategic, efficient and innovative guardians of public-sector tech in the nation. The top-ranked cities will receive an award on Nov. 17 at the National League of Cities’ annual conference in Pittsburgh.

    The first-place winners in five population categories are: Los Angeles; Virginia Beach, Va.; Durham, N.C.; Roanoke, Va.; and Tamarac, Fla. Judges evaluated the survey submissions of each city by considering 10 key characteristics of a digital city: open, mobile, engaged, collaborative, secure, staffed/supported, connected, efficient, resilient and innovative. And the six criteria by which the responses were evaluated are: city priorities supported by ICT; demonstrated return on investment; progress over the previous year; creative/innovative approaches; effective collaboration; and successful measures of transparency, privacy and security.

    As in prior years, some common themes emerged. Open government, open data and citizen engagement initiatives (in various forms) were a common theme, as was baking in network security measures often on par with those of the federal government.

    Strengthening digital infrastructure was another common topic. Cities realize data demands will only continue to grow in the future, and delivering data via aged infrastructure becomes increasingly difficult and expensive. A number of cities have therefore made strategic investments in their own fiber networks to enable them to offer faster services while eliminating or reducing costly fiber lease costs.

    Los Angeles: First place / 500,000 or more population

    Image via Shutterstock.com

    For L.A., it’s not enough to simply deliver city services. The city also wants to engage citizens and the community. And, with 4 million residents and 48,000 employees across 42 different departments, L.A. needs technology to accomplish that task.

    “For most residents, city government is not foremost on their mind,” said Ted Ross, general manager and CIO of the city’s Information Technology Agency. “However, city services are often very important to them. For us, digital is the means to engage and serve our community — and we try to do this in a variety of different ways. We believe in promoting openness through open data; we believe in mobile and providing access to citizen services anytime, anywhere; and we want to be focused and energetic in applying technology to make life better for the average Angelino.”

    The city recently built an extensive open data portal including a variety of APIs available to developers or businesses, as well as a plethora of GIS data. Both Code for America and the Sunlight Foundation have identified L.A. as the No. 1 open data city in the country.

    “I think open data is a very important facet for how we engage our community,” said Ross. “We are proud of our openness and transparency — our ability to show and disclose who we are, what we are doing and how we’re doing it.”

    L.A. leaders also believe in collaboration with businesses, education and nonprofits. Toward that end, L.A. uses its open data portal to create new relationships, partnerships and projects. One current partnership includes 11 universities that are analyzing data to determine ways to make L.A. a “smarter” city.

    Ross said he plans to rely heavily on technology as he prepares for massive changes in the city’s workforce. About 50 percent of Ross’ IT staff of 450 are eligible to retire in the next two years.

    “That poses quite a challenge when it comes to delivery of services,” he said. “We are therefore doing a lot of work around using technology to find efficiencies. We are also looking at the shift as an opportunity to promote gender diversity and equity in our workforce. We’re working hard to promote parity and to employ an IT workforce that represents the diversity of our community.”

    Ross said he often hears people comment that because L.A. is a big city, it can accomplish its technology goals more easily than smaller cities. But Ross says that’s simply not true.

    “My department has 40 percent less people than it did in 2008,” he said. “It’s not about having a lot of people; it’s about identifying technology opportunities and then making investments in the right areas. Sometimes small investments can yield amazing results.”

    Virginia Beach, Va.: First place / 250,000-499,999 population


    Photo by Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

    At the beginning of 2016, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms declared 2016 the “Year of Connectivity.” Since then, the city launched several projects to support that goal. Part of that effort involves installing its Next Generation Network, a fiber optic network that now connects nearly 60 government facilities.

    “As the data consumption rate grows exponentially year after year, it increases our costs year after year,” said Virginia Beach CIO Matthew Arvay. “We therefore put together an approach to invest in our own fiber-optic network to connect facilities at a data rate needed to conduct government business, as well as to avoid what we estimated would be about a half-million dollars a year in increased operational spend.”

    Word about Virginia Beach’s fiber efforts spread, resulting in the city being selected as the Mid-Atlantic subsea cable landing destination for the MAREA project — an effort by Microsoft to install the fastest fiber-optic cable ever connecting Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach.

    Virginia Beach also has an integrated public safety project underway that will replace its CAD911 and records management systems, and introduce a workforce management component.

    “This will give us a fully integrated system for police, fire, emergency medical and emergency communications,” said Arvay. “It will give our public safety community the modern tools they need to excel at the jobs they do every day.”

    Long term, the city hopes to install a new Citizen Relationship Management System to centralize multiple disparate relationship management systems and is also looking to upgrade or replace its financial systems.

    Durham, N.C.: First place / 125,000-249,999 population


    Photo by Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

    Durham moved from eighth place last year to take first place in 2016. The city’s strategic planning leadership team aligns IT and other initiatives to the City Strategic Plan goal of an “Innovative and High Performing Organization.” For example, the city implemented an innovative enterprisewide IT Governance model to provide effective IT portfolio management; and the city’s new website received a Best of the Web award for excellence.

    During the last three fiscal years, the city built new network infrastructure comprised of a centrally located data center connected to remote locations using Metro Ethernet and direct fiber connections.

    Meanwhile, Durham’s open government and open data programs have grown significantly over the last 12 months. During that time the city also implemented new cloud-based platforms that offer mobile access to services and information and a citizen engagement initiative entitled “City Hall on the Go” — a Wi-Fi-enabled truck that takes city services to neighborhoods and city events.

    The city is also working on enhancements to its performance management system and recently completed a security assessment and is implementing the resulting recommendations.

    Roanoke, Va.: First place / 75,000 - 124,999 Population


    Image via Shutterstock.com

    For Roanoke, success is all about its people. The city has ranked in the survey’s top 10 every year and has placed first seven times.

    “We’ve done well because we hire people who are interested in public service as well as technology, and we’ve cultivated both along the way while creating an environment of learning, succession and dedication,” said Roy Mentkow, Roanoke’s director of technology, who has been with the city for nearly 20 years and in his current role for more than 11 years.

    Roanoke recently upgraded its fiber backbone so it can move data faster with less lag. The city is a member of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, and as such was recently granted six additional strands of fiber for free.

    “We saw that as an opportunity to expand high-speed services beyond the city campus to our libraries — particularly those in underserved, socio-economically challenged neighborhoods,” said Mentkow. “I think that is something that is very exciting to be a part of, to help break down that digital divide within our city.”

    Meanwhile, Mentkow said the city’s social media efforts have helped it improve the way it interacts with citizens.

    “The transparency it brings and the quick delivery of relevant news to citizens and businesses and community it enables is something that has become a real asset," he said, "and something other cities and other people notice when they are here."

    Tamarac, Fla.: First place / Up to 75,000 Population


    Photo via Flickr/Mike Norton

    Tamarac's recently-implemented collaborative strategic plan has been universally adopted by its executive team and city employees — and it reflects the strategic priorities of the entire city. And unlike many other cities, Tamarac follows that plan religiously.

    “Our plan is funded properly, implemented properly and measured properly,” said Levent Sucuoglu, Tamarac’s director of Information Technology. “That way we can see that we are doing the right things and meeting the needs of our user community.”

    Sucuoglu said he is particularly proud of the fiber infrastructure the city has built because it allows them to offer a wide variety of digital services with ease. The city originally implemented private fiber to connect facilities throughout the city in 1997. Since then, the city has consistently upgraded the network to ensure it meets citizen needs.

    Looking to the future, Tamarac’s focus is to provide higher levels of mobility to both its workforce and its citizens.

    “We want to make all our services available through the city’s website and provide a level of mobility to our workforce so they can accommodate services no matter where they are,” said Sucuoglu. “Everything we do now is geared to moving toward that more mobile environment.”

    ANALYSIS OF 2016 DIGITAL CITIES WINNERS

    500,000 or more population category:
    1st Los Angeles
    2nd Philadelphia
    3rd Phoenix, Ariz.
    4th Charlotte, N.C.
    4th Seattle
    5th Austin, Texas
    6th Albuquerque, N.M.
    7th Denver, Colo.
    8th San Francisco
    9th Louisville, Ky.
    10th El Paso, Texas

    250,000 – 499,999 population category:
    1st Virginia Beach, Va.
    2nd Kansas City, Mo.
    3rd Pittsburgh, Pa.
    4th Greensboro, N.C.
    5th Riverside, Calif.
    6th Long Beach, Calif.
    7th Sacramento, Calif.
    8th Cincinnati, Ohio
    9th Henderson, Nev.
    10th Omaha, Neb.

    125,000 – 249,999 population category:
    1st Durham, N.C.
    2nd Fort Collins, Colo.
    3rd Cape Coral, Fla.
    4th Alexandria, Va.
    4th Hampton, Va.
    5th Baton Rouge, La.
    6th Scottsdale, Ariz.
    6th Winston-Salem, N.C.
    7th Denton, Texas
    7th Modesto, Calif.
    8th Pasadena, Calif.
    8th Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
    9th Chandler, Ariz.
    9th Norfolk, Va.
    10th Augusta, Ga.

    75,000 – 124,999 population category:
    1st Roanoke, Va.
    2nd Lynchburg, Va.
    3rd Boulder, Colo.
    3rd Independence, Mo.
    4th Richardson, Texas
    4th Westminster, Colo.
    5th Lakeland, Fla.
    6th Columbia, Mo.
    6th Newport Beach, Calif.
    7th Brooklyn Park, Minn.
    7th Sugarland, Texas
    8th San Leandro, Calif.
    9th Arvada, Colo.
    10th Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Up to 75,000 population category:
    1st Tamarac, Fla.
    2nd Shawnee, Kan.
    3rd Williamsburg, Va.
    4th Carson City, Nev.
    4th Schaumburg, Ill.
    5th Palo Alto, Calif.
    6th De Soto, Texas
    6th North Port, Fla.
    7th Marana, Ariz.
    8th Ithaca, N.Y.
    9th Hudson, Ohio
    10th Punta Gorda, Fla.

    500,000 or more population category

    1st // Los Angeles, Calif.
    Los Angeles jumped one spot from 2015 to earn the first place designation in this year’s survey, with a number of tech-related initiatives driven by the priorities of Mayor Eric Garcetti. Aiming to knock traffic-related fatalities and injuries down to zero, the Vision Zero program evaluates data on bicyclist and pedestrian deaths on city streets. Analysis revealed the most troublesome intersections, which helps prioritize needed improvements. The city has also established partnerships with 10 local colleges and universities in order to apply their data analytics expertise to pressing issues like homelessness, resiliency and climate change. Over the last year, the city committed to performance-based budgeting, requiring all budget requests to align with policy priorities. To encourage broad understanding of city budgeting and performance, L.A. now publishes dashboard-style "data cards" that visualize key data related to specific budget areas. L.A.’s Web strategy includes a migration toward mobile-responsive sites across the board, using a shared Drupal platform. The mobility of its citizenry is met by a suite of mobile apps, including the recently upgraded MyLA 311, which offers personalized accounts, service request history, bill-paying options and more. The app generates about 300,000 service requests annually, but when paired with Web-based requests and phone calls, the total jumps to 1.5 million each year. The upgraded system enables the city to publish request fulfillment information publicly on a nightly basis.

    Back to Winner List

    2nd // Philadelphia, Pa.
    A significant overhaul of elected and appointed leadership in Philadelphia hasn’t slowed its digital journey, judging by its second-place finish in this year’s survey. Elected in 2015, Mayor Jim Kenney’s brand of innovation is evidenced by the newly established Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation, charged with fostering transparency and user-centered services. One signature project is an update to the website, described as “the city’s main digital service channel.” A prototype is now in development, engaging citizens for feedback throughout the process. Philadelphia’s impressive open data efforts include data visualization tools, as well as an internally built metadata catalog that adds context and therefore increases the usefulness of the city’s many publicly available data sets. Many city priorities center around creating opportunity for low-income residents, including investments in STEM training and connectivity initiatives. The KEYSPOT program offers a website pointing residents to digital literacy tools and public computing centers. Like many leading digital cities, Philadelphia also continues to build upon GIS-based mobile solutions. The Parks and Recreation Department completed a citywide street tree inventory that now includes 111,000 tree locations spanning 2,500 miles of streets, using geo-referenced street tree imagery. The effort equips the workforce to much more efficiently manage and maintain street trees throughout the city.

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    3rd // Phoenix, Ariz.
    Phoenix is staying strong in third place for a second year running, likely because it has honed in on smart growth through innovative infrastructure and fostering an innovation economy, priorities articulated by Mayor Greg Stanton and carried out by the city’s IT staff. Phoenix is dedicated to ensuring government transparency — it offers a searchable City Checkbook, its Budget Books, the Comprehensive Annual Financial report, a searchable Campaign Finance Database and posts on Phoenix.gov the real-time wait times for its development services counters to demonstrate that open government is also efficient government. As one would expect, an open data portal is also part of the city’s transparency efforts, and serves as a centralized site where residents can easily access such data sets as GIS mapping, spending, water usage, energy usage and property data. The site also links to information provided by partner agencies, such as real-time transit data from Valley Metro. To promote these open data resources, the city launched a community-driven campaign, called 28 Maps Later: You’ll See Phoenix Differently, which shared on social media interactive examples of open data for residents to learn about city services. After 29 days, the city had 41,000 Twitter impressions and more than 42,000 organic impressions on Facebook. The city also is committed to protecting its systems and infrastructure from cyberthreats, as evidenced by the creation of a dedicated Information Security and Privacy Office and appointment of a chief information security and privacy officer who heads up that office and oversees staff responsible for cybersecurity strategy, policies and standards. Phoenix also has awareness training, access management, end-point security, threat analysis and detection, Web analytics, and cyberinsurance in place.

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    4th // Charlotte, N.C.
    Charlotte, N.C., has upped its digital ante over the last year, jumping five spots from ninth place in 2015 to fourth in the latest survey. And being a solid digital city means strong alignment of IT and citywide goals or focus areas — something Charlotte clearly demonstrates. It also is solidifying its commitment to open data with a portal that guides citizens to the city’s operations and statistical data with the goal of promoting community engagement, stimulating innovation and increasing productivity, and offers the data on an interactive map. The city is working with Code for Charlotte on a few initiatives to engage its citizens, including Open Budget, which seeks to create a budget game to help residents interactively learn how a budget is created, allocated and managed, and the public art initiative, which will test how the city can consume crowdsourced data. Images collected by volunteers of public art will be displayed around the city, with the goal of creating an app for a “public art walking tour” experience that includes the image, its background and the artist’s information. Also of particular note is Charlotte’s adoption of solar-powered compactors for trash receptacles, which are equipped with sensors that alert the appropriate city staff when they're full and ready for pickup. Cybersecurity is a priority in the jurisdiction, which has made enhancements and improvements over the last year, resulting in a solid backbone infrastructure and a next-gen Security Operations Center 2.0 that spends time and resources in visualizing the city's technology environment, protecting not just the network, but also the people and the devices they use.

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    4th // Seattle
    Seattle held steady at fourth place, the ranking it also received last year. Seattle’s IT operations were revamped earlier this year when the consolidated Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) was formed in April. The new department is made up of 650 staff members that once worked across 15 city agencies and aims to create efficiencies and capacity for tech projects. Recent accomplishments include the launch of a mobile-responsive website, a customer relationship management system to improve communications with residents and a data analytics platform for the police department. Efforts to work with the city’s tech community include the hiring of a civic technology advocate to engage with those individuals, a Hack the Commute program that developed prototype apps to help solve transportation issues, and a partnership with Code for America on the development of a crisis intervention app to connect people in need with social services. In addition, an in-house innovation team is working on data-driven solutions to challenges in Seattle. While an open data program has been in place since 2010, the city’s “open by preference” policy was signed in February and calls on department heads to name “open data champions” to spearhead the release of information. And for monitoring IT performance, Seattle developed TechStat, which is modeled off programs like the New York City Police Department’s CompStat, to facilitate internal transparency and monitor metrics for operations and projects.

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    5th // Austin, Texas
    Austin made a significant gain in this year’s survey, moving up five spots from its 10th place ranking in 2015. The growing city has developed both a comprehensive plan, called ImagineAustin, to guide development and an IT strategy that calls for it to “lower costs and leverage scale through collaboration, using the savings to innovate.” Transparency initiatives include an “open by default” effort and open data portal. Lean project methods were used to develop and coordinate the release of data sets from all city departments. In addition, the Performance ATX puts measurable data online, like crime rates, in easily digestible formats. Civic engagement is sought via numerous platforms including a participatory budget tool and the SpeakUpAustin portal for commenting on projects and sharing ideas. Austin was a finalist in the U.S. Transportation Department’s Smart City Challenge, and despite not winning will move forward with the plans outlined in the application. A move to Microsoft Office 365 was 80 percent complete at the time of the Digital Cities submission. In addition, a recently added chief information security officer is determining standards for security architecture and controls using the NIST Framework.

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    6th // Albuquerque, N.M.
    Holding strong in the Digital Cities Survey, Albuquerque maintained its sixth-place ranking from 2015. The city has embraced the idea of “two-speed” IT, in which one area focuses on keeping the business running and the other on innovation and disruptive technologies. This allows IT to work quickly while not interfering with day-to-day activities. Open government continues to be a key focus. While it has had a transparency site since 2010, an open data portal since 2012 and a performance dashboard since 2013, the city added an online records request portal this year and is a participant in the White House’s Police Data Initiative. In addition, more than half of its 311 cases will be available as open data after the CRM system is upgraded in the fall. The next move will be to release data sets through APIs. The city portal was updated with responsive design last year, and the city has numerous apps including for 311 services and bus information. Another change was the evolution of the city’s Web managing editor position to be the digital engagement manager — this person is charged with staying current on new tech and helping departments understand their audience. Using the NIST cybersecurity framework as a guide, Albuquerque conducts real-time tests and assessments of its networks. In addition, one of Albuquerque’s goals is to become a smart city through data-driven decision-making, increasing broadband capabilities, increasing the availability of online transactions and laying the foundation for the Internet of Things.

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    7th // Denver, Colo.
    From the new tools helping police impound and track vehicles more accurately to an award-winning all-access government mobile app, Denver is playing the part of a truly digital city. The impressive efforts on the part of city technologists is not just good public policy, it is also a necessity in the face of the city’s booming job and housing markets. More robust and scalable solutions are allowing the popular metropolis to better address the needs of its constituents. Emergency services also fall into this category of better service. Next-generation 911 collaborations have begun and will ultimately allow for more accurate and timely emergency response. The Internet Edge Project provides the city and county with Internet speed and reliability capabilities that meet modern needs. Police cars have been outfitted with Wi-Fi capability, and 15 new Wi-Fi locations have been added for residents through connectivity initiatives. The city also placed first in this year's Best of the Web competition.

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    8th // San Francisco
    San Francisco has a big reputation to live up to when it comes to technology, innovation and being a digital city. Among other major initiatives in the sights of Mayor Edwin Lee, homelessness, police reform and quality of life are receiving the most attention. Wi-Fi connectivity plays heavily into addressing the needs of the city’s dense population and improving the overall quality of daily life for San Franciscans. The #SFWiFi Navigator project aims to provide free public Internet. Sixteen Wi-Fi access points have been added along Market Street and Justin Herman Plaza to the 33 existing points in parks and other public spaces. Funding for a public safety radio replacement project has been secured. In terms of key staff, San Francisco brought a chief information security officer and threat intelligence engineer on board to improve its cybersecurity standing.

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    9th // Louisville, Ky.
    Louisville has been doing a lot in the data arena lately. Kentucky’s largest city has had an “open by default” data policy since 2013 and is migrating data sets to a new open source DKAN portal. Each new data set will have its own API. On top of that, the city has an open checkbook site and is upgrading its performance dashboard, LouieStat, which helps the city constantly evaluate and improve on performance. In October, the city hired its first chief data officer as part of its work to improve those efforts. Louisville has also made big strides in turning around its previously understaffed cybersecurity efforts. In the past year it’s spent $1.2 million to hire a chief information security officer and a cybersecurity team to build up protections ranging from an intrusion prevention system to a cybersecurity awareness program for all municipal employees. Louisville’s municipal government has 128 social media accounts, and in 2016 it hired a social media director to oversee the vision for those accounts. The team got tested when Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali died in June, prompting a series of events including a cross-city funeral procession. With a coordinated effort, the event had a Facebook reach of 3.2 million. The metro government has been expanding its broadband as well, laying down six miles of dark fiber in the past year and adding Wi-Fi to six community centers and a park. Smart trash cans also provide an Internet connection at bus stops. The city also placed fifth in this year's Best of the Web competition.

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    10th // El Paso, Texas
    After a five-year absence, El Paso again makes the top 10 in the Digital Cities Survey. The city has done quite a bit of work on the mobility front, issuing cellphones, tablets and Wi-Fi hot spot equipment to many departments and crafting systems that allow employees to do more remote work from the field. A mobile-first strategy and new content management system ensure that websites are accessible. Then there is a whole host of citizen-facing mobile apps: One for accessing 311 services and reporting problems, one for noting park and facility maintenance needs, one for tourism, one for paying and adding time to parking meters, and one for the libraries. Another unique mobile app helps plan commutes across the Mexico border. The information and communications technology staff of El Paso has strongly aligned its work with the goals of elected leaders, offering multiple examples of work done toward meeting eight citywide goals adopted in 2014. El Paso has also been doing training and outreach, setting up an IT skills training portal and offering tuition reimbursement to employees taking classes in those areas. The IT department has worked with the University of Texas at El Paso’s Computer Science Department to advertise job openings to students and participated in a tech-focused event for middle-schoolers in 2015.

    Back to Winner List 250,000-499,999 population category

    1st // Virginia Beach, Va.
    Taking first place in its population category, Virginia Beach jumped up from its fifth-place ranking last year. In his State of the City address, Mayor William Sessoms Jr. declared 2016 the “year of connectivity” — the primary theme being the availability of broadband to support the city and its businesses. Through the addition of high-speed transatlantic fiber, Virginia Beach will add to its more than 200 miles of fiber from the city and schools to create the Next Generation Network. The focus on connectivity also will allow for the use of big data and exchanging large files, as well as supporting the city’s mobility efforts like its numerous apps. A number of interactive open government tools — open budget app, GIS open data, performance — aim to increase accountability and transparency, while the city also enlists an open data board and an open data working group to set long-term vision and work with departments on these efforts. A Master Technology Plan has plotted initiatives to leverage existing systems and build interfaces between systems. And to help move the plan forward, the city’s CIO has proclaimed 2016 the “year of the employee” as the IT department aims to enhance recruitment efforts and focus on attracting and retaining highly skilled employees. Virginia Beach’s mobile-first strategy and use of responsive design provides optimal viewing of the recently relaunched site from any device. Also in line with mobile is the city’s implementation of text-to-911 for when it’s not possible or dangerous for someone to call the emergency line. VB911 receives 400 texts per year.

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    2nd // Kansas City, Mo.
    Enlisting a Digital Roadmap to guide its tech-driven future, Kansas City, Mo., moved up one spot from its third-place ranking in 2015. The five pillars of the road map — smart city, engagement, open government, digital inclusion and industry — set the path for key programs and goals. For example, an open data ordinance incorporates the Sunlight Foundation’s best practices, and smart city initiatives include interactive kiosks, smart streetlights and 50 blocks of free public Wi-Fi. Kansas City also partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies for its What Works Cities program to improve KC Stat and develop similar data-driven reviews in its departments. That program also helped advance the city’s work around open data and led to the hiring of an open data officer who started a Data Governance Committee to create an inventory of the city’s information. As a finalist in the U.S. Transportation Department’s Smart City Challenge, Kansas City secured $40 million in private money to address major challenges like the digital divide and develop a bus rapid transit line. Now in its second year, the city’s Innovation Partnership program builds relationships with civic technologists to improve its systems and processes. During a 12-week test period entrepreneurs provide their solution to the city, and if it’s a good fit the city may decide to purchase it. RFP365 was the first company to sign a contract with the city after going through the program in 2015. Its mobile app enables citizens to search for city bids, RFQs and RFPs. To boost security, a CISO was hired to develop cyberattack mitigation plans and oversee networks and access to systems. Also on the cyberagenda: Security awareness training will be rolled out to city employees.

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    3rd // Pittsburgh, Pa.
    Survey judges gave credit to third-place Pittsburgh for how well the Department of Innovation and Performance — where IT resides — aligns its activities with the priorities of local elected officials. One such priority is transparency, supported by a significant staff investment in the city’s open data site, operated jointly with Allegheny County. Fiscal Focus offers detailed budget information that can be sliced and diced according to users’ specific needs. In addition, a new set of internally developed business intelligence tools is radiating throughout the organization, helping achieve new efficiencies using department-level data. One example is an interactive tool that maps relevant data for the Permits, Licenses and Inspections Department, as well as the Police and Fire departments. Pittsburgh is also looking for productivity gains by piloting Lean/Six Sigma techniques in various areas. The first group of projects targeted three city processes: hardware purchasing, the IT help desk ticketing process and trash collection routing. A second set of projects using the same methodology is expected before the end of 2016. The city also continues to expand its suite of mobile apps for citizens: A trash and recycling app texts residents with pickup reminders, a location-aware 311 app makes it easier to report concerns and a snowplow tracker allows real-time tracking during the winter months.

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    4th // Greensboro, N.C.
    Greensboro, N.C.,’s fourth-place finish reflects significant momentum in several areas, boosted by the city’s selection as one of Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities. The city has a beta open data portal, where it is piloting ways of automating data releases to keep the site robust and make sure its data sets are as useful as possible to all potential consumers. An open data policy as well as a set of governance standards formalize the practice, and make sure internal and external audiences’ needs are met. Other transparency efforts include an online public records request system and a participatory budget program. Greensboro has adapted several major systems with mobility in mind, enabling remote productivity for field workers doing repair and maintenance work, as well as managers completing timekeeping tasks. Mobile options for citizens are growing too, including real-time transit tracking and a pay-by-smartphone parking option. Planning for its broadband future, Greensboro is part of a multijurisdictional partnership that recently issued an RFP under the name “TRI-GIG,” which aims to build on existing dark fiber to create a gigabit network to foster economic development, job growth and connect underserved areas.

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    5th // Riverside, Calif.
    The Southern California city of Riverside made some digital strides since the 2015 survey, moving up from sixth place to fifth this year. Its Web-based 311 customer relationship system was revamped to include automated user management, and anonymous and partial contact ticket creation, and users can now add content such as photos and documents to their tickets, and find status and resolution notes to tickets they’ve created. The city is also making smart use of data and GIS: To reduce pet animal deaths in the city, Riverside’s GIS team works with Riverside County Animal Control to plot animal collection data on a map; utility field workers use an advanced mobile GIS solution for street light inspections; and police and fire use enterprise GIS with layers and master address data to help them respond to emergencies. Helping to improve quality of live in the community is the city’s Graffiti Abatement Tool (GAT), which was recently revamped to increase performance and streamline processing. The enterprise GIS Web application receives graffiti data from the GAT mobile app, and the Riverside Police Department uses it to build a case against graffiti perpetrators for multiple occurrences. Police enter the perpetrator’s moniker against each graffiti picture, and then the app calculates the cost against the graffiti cleaning effort. Staff can generate a report by moniker for presentation in court cases. Of particular note is the city’s new public records advocate, who manages the recently implemented online public records portal that lets citizens request public documents and track the request’s progress. This format replaces the decentralized process in which public records requests were handled by different departments around City Hall.

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    6th // Long Beach, Calif.
    Being a digital city means IT aligns with the vision and direction outlined by the mayor and city council — something clearly in effect in Long Beach, a 2016 Best of the Web finalist, as evidenced by a council that’s committed to using technology to provide 24/7 mobile access to government services and data, and to serve as a catalyst for collaboration, engagement and connection for people whose lives touch Long Beach. And to ensure technology remains at the forefront of citywide solutions, procurement practices are getting an overhaul: Rather than asking for the cost of services and resources already predetermined by the city, Long Beach is working with CityMart to launch invitations for both ideas and their solutions. The belief in this constant crowdsourcing approach is “the cornerstone of the city of Long Beach’s Technology and Innovation strategy, whose results are building a robust and fully integrated smart digital city,” officials wrote in their 2016 Digital Cities entry, which was posted online in the spirit of “being a true digital city.” Long Beach also created a virtual data officer position, whose role is to crowdsource data sets that are considered most useful to the community. "This effort is designed to engage the community," the entry reads, "and get them excited about collaborating with the city to develop unique solutions to city challenges."

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    7th // Sacramento, Calif.
    In Sacramento, technology and innovation are woven into the fabric of the city’s future. From a focus on innovation zones to better serving low-income populations through business opportunities, the city’s Sacramento 3.0 initiative has become the priority for outbound Mayor Kevin Johnson. Making the local government both more responsive and agile dovetails with efforts like going paperless and building on a solid digital strategy. Through a reorganization of the municipal IT department within the larger enterprise, staff members once spread across the city's departments are now housed under one roof. In addition, leaders in the jurisdiction haven’t stopped at simply opening data to the public, and applications like Finding Rover, a facial recognition app geared toward families looking for lost pets, offer constituents real-world tools. Innovation has also been at the heart of the new Golden 1 Center sports complex. Visitors to the downtown attraction can use helpful parking tools to ease congestion and improve the visitor experience.

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    8th // Cincinnati, Ohio
    Cincinnati's leaders have put a large emphasis on putting the city’s wealth of data to work for its citizens. In addition to building an open data portal with a range of oft-sought data sets, the city’s Office of Performance and Data Analytics turns available data into clear and actionable business decisions. This effort is bolstered by the reliance on performance management agreements, which help to outline the city’s key priorities and measure against them. The CincyStat program, an innovation lab, helps to focus the energies of the municipal government and streamline the overall processes. Through a partnership with Hamilton County and private utilities, Cincinnati has access to the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System, which allows it to access real-time information and resources for better management through the combination of GIS technology and business systems. In another GIS initiative, RAVEN911 has organized the multiagency assets — including fire, EMS, law enforcement, public health and volunteer agencies — to better prepare for, respond to and recover from natural or man-made emergencies.

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    9th // Henderson, Nev.
    Henderson, Nev., returned to the winner’s circle for the 2016 Digital Cities Survey after placing in 2012 and 2013, but missing out the following two years. This return is no doubt due to its committed leadership and use of a five-year strategic plan and a specific strategic IT plan being implemented. Opting to set lofty goals including strengthening existing cybersecurity protocols and procuring and installing RFID tags to track IT inventory has positioned Henderson to take advantage of the available technology for government use. Included in the city’s 2016 accomplishments was adding data sets to its open data portal and public outreach to residents. The city recently unveiled its Henderson Strong: Comprehensive Plan Update, which includes a robust digital engagement component and a digital alert system. The site is optimized for the diverse population base, offering information in English, Spanish, Filipino, Chinese and Vietnamese.

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    10th // Omaha, Neb.
    Making its first appearance as one of the 2016 Digital Cities, Omaha, Neb., hopes to set itself up for future appearances in the winner’s circle. The overriding theme for Omaha has been centralization of IT. Through websites, funding and apps, the city is working to make interactions with residents as easy and pleasant as possible. Working closely with Douglas County, the city and county formed the Douglas Omaha Technology Commission as a way to pool funding and reduce redundancies. Through the partnership, the cooperative has helped upgrade management, procurement, print, fleet maintenance and 911 services with the county. The city also partnered with Amazon Web Services to host more than 50 websites serving 250,000 unique page visits a month. With centralized hosting, government services can now be completed online, the city reports. On trend with the rest of the services it provides, Omaha has committed to serving its population and how the public accesses municipal services. By releasing more than 30 productivity and citizen-facing apps including inspections and metric tracking across multiple divisions, the city is optimizing interactions for mobile users.

    Back to Winner List 125,000-249,999 population category

    1st // Durham, N.C.
    Over the last year Durham, N.C., has made tremendous strides in its effort to strengthen and solidify its status as a digital city, jumping from eighth place in 2015 to the top spot in this year’s survey. This is no doubt due in large part to the fact that the major IT policies the City Council established are embedded within the City of Durham Strategic Plan. The city’s core strategic planning leadership team regularly aligns IT and other initiatives to one of the strategic plan goals. Also a contributing factor is that the city’s cloud-based Web portal was recognized as a finalist in this year’s Best of the Web competition, due in large part to its open government and open data programs, and the mobile access citizens have to services and information. And engaging citizens also is a high priority for Durham, whose City Hall on the Go initiative brings city services to neighborhood and city events on a Wi-Fi-enabled truck. The city also has spent the last three fiscal years building a centrally located data center that's connected to remote locations using Metro Ethernet and direct fiber connections, and is dedicated to strong cybersecurity, as evidenced by its multivendor, multilayer security model that ensures business resilience should one of its ISPs be compromised by a security breach. Of particular note is Durham’s IT Governance Model that is creating an IT Steering Committee tasked with making high-level IT decisions and establishing the city’s technology priorities. The city’s goal with this model, which began in a pilot phase in July 2016, is to improve IT portfolio and IT project governance in the city.

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    2nd // Fort Collins, Colo.
    In the northern part of Colorado, Fort Collins is on point when it comes to digital stewardship, including its commitment to transparency that began many years ago with the OpenBook application and Community Dashboard that exposed the city's checkbook to the community. Given the increased need for transparency over the last few years, however, both tools have recently been enhanced and the city implemented the first phase of an open data portal, which is set to launch in full this fall. The city also has embarked upon extensive mobility and Web redesign efforts, which were recognized in the 2016 Best of the Web competition, and uses eight social media sites that are integrated and consolidated into the entire site. Collaboration also is a priority for Fort Collins, which partners with the county, university and many communities on a shared computer aided dispatch (CAD) and records management system. Called the Combined Regional Information System Project (CRISP), it provides a shared CAD for the majority of the county, allowing 911 call centers to coordinate services across boundaries. CRISP also allows agencies to share related data, which reduces duplication and enhances coordination. And all agencies achieve a high level of data consistency because the city GIS is the single source of data for the entire county as far as GIS centerlines and related data sets for use in the CRISP CAD system. Fort Collins also takes cybersecurity seriously, having deployed a robust, layered, redundant network design that is fully segmented, which means that should an area be exposed to a virus, staff can isolate and contain such issues without risking exposure to other parts of the network.

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    3rd // Cape Coral, Fla.
    After placing second in the 2012 Digital Cities Survey, Cape Coral, Fla., dropped off the radar, resurfacing four years later to place third in the 2016 survey. The ability to jump right back into the top three after sitting out for a spell is directly tied to Cape Coral's IT goals being in alignment with and in support of the city’s clearly defined strategic plan that takes a multifaceted approach. Cape Coral has deployed cloud-based, interactive mapping and other digital services tools to enhance financial sustainability and increase economic development and redevelopment; it has designed a fiber-optics infrastructure plan to support future growth and implemented predictive analytics to improve upon utilities management; and to increase quality of life for its residents, the city added a dedicated Internet connection for public safety and expanded the existing police body camera program and video monitoring at public parks and recreational facilities. Another facet of the city’s public safety initiatives includes the installation of a network-based lightning detection system in every park and recreational facility in the city — a move made in July given that in 2015, it had the second highest number of lightning strikes in the country last year. This advanced warning system detects nearby lightning, helping park managers to enhance visitor safety by better managing weather threats. And threats in cyberspace also are a high priority in the city. IT’s third-party managed intrusion prevention/detection system provides 24/7/365 monitoring not only to identify intrusions and intruders as attacks are attempted, but also to keep intruders out of the network and proactively combat threats as they occur.

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    4th // Alexandria, Va.
    Aligning its initiatives through a strategic plan, Alexandria uses IT to improve the effectiveness of city programs and activities. Although it fell from its 2015 first-place ranking, Alexandria continues to work diligently to serve the needs of its growing community. The city’s website was overhauled this year to improve navigation, and a transparency hub aims to promote access to information like GIS open data and financial reports. Another online tool, AlexEngage, aims to promote civic engagement by building on the “What's Next, Alexandria?” framework adopted by the City Council. Organized by topics, the platform creates a dialog between citizens and city staff members about projects. Microsoft Office 365 is now available to all staff members, with tools being used across different departments to increase collaboration. In addition, new collaboration initiatives include a budget proposal system, a shared service for local schools to work together on providing services to the public, and a knowledge base for departments to answer questions from residents. Alexandria is looking to implement advanced threat protection to provide “defense-in-depth” to its endpoints and has a cyberinsurance policy. In fiscal 2016, the city did a comprehensive review of IT job classifications to ensure they meet current needs and follow industry standards.

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    4th // Hampton, Va.
    The city of roughly 137,000 people moved up three spots from its seventh-place ranking in the 2015 survey. Challenges identified by the City Council and city manager require officials in Hampton to think and act digitally — in order to communicate with citizens, address state-mandated projects and attract new businesses. The IT Strategic Plan from 2011 went under review in 2015 and for the first time included all city departments. An online survey sought feedback from department managers, which allowed for priorities to be identified and similar projects to be merged. The city has started working on open data, with a few data sets available to the public so far. In addition, police officers were trained on how to use the open data tools as part of the city’s participation in the White House Police Data Initiative. Hampton continues to work on mobile efforts, which included the relaunch of its website this year with a focus on the mobile experience and the addition of apps like one that integrates with a new 311 portal. Collaboration efforts include a radio system that’s used by public safety and other city entities like schools and public works, and a regional radio system is also in the works. Over the last year Hampton completed a study of IT staff salaries in which every employee’s job description was analyzed. Salary adjustments were made to all IT staff members with the exception of the director. Eleven percent of employees received additional compensation.

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    5th // Baton Rouge, La.
    Fifth-place Baton Rouge is working toward a centralized IT environment, moving tech functions out of individual departments in order to operate more efficiently. In 2016, the city added high-value data on crime, purchasing, bids, parcels and more to its open data site, and maintained financial transparency with its Open Budget BR portal. The city supplemented staff work on these projects with help from student interns from the Futures Fund, helping to develop the local computer science talent pipeline in the process. In addition, Baton Rouge is one of 62 international communities to partner with the traffic app Waze, adding data from the app to Baton Rouge’s traffic management system. The city is actively considering mobility in all new technology endeavors, outfitting field inspection teams with connected tablets to maximize real-time productivity and rebuilding its Red Stick 311 system to improve mobile performance. Baton Rouge is also redesigning its website using mobile-first design principles. A new citizen engagement system is enabling real-time citizen feedback, complementing the leading work of agencies like the Baton Rouge Police Department on popular social media platforms. In one high-profile example, the city leveraged Periscope and Facebook Live to maximize the reach of press conferences held in the aftermath of the death of Alton Sterling. That event also tested Baton Rouge’s cybersecurity preparedness, as the city’s network was targeted by hacktivists bent on doing harm to digital assets. Working with internal, external and private-sector partners, the hacking attempts were successfully thwarted.

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    6th // Winston-Salem, N.C.
    A multi-departmental IT steering committee has to sign off on technology investments for the North Carolina city of Winston-Salem, which placed sixth in its population category this year. The CIO serves on the committee alongside the City Manager’s Office, chief financial officer, budget director, and police and fire chiefs, collectively charged with ensuring that IT projects support the city’s stated priorities. One such priority is transparency, which the city strives to meet by providing visibility into many aspects of its operations, including expenditures, public meetings, city services and overall performance. City staff also continue to empower an increasingly mobile workforce. One especially impactful effort on that front is the public works work order application. City staff supplemented an externally developed system with a fully electronic mobile version called CWMap that streamlines the work of field crews, makes performance easier to measure, and eliminates the need for paper tickets and maps. Winston-Salem also continues to refine and build upon its cybersecurity strategies. It completed an update of its Cyber Security Incident Response Plan, and further demonstrated leadership through its purchase of cybersecurity insurance. The city's policy with CyberEdge AIG gives it coverage for liability, event management and extortion, along with tools to help manage cyber-related vulnerabilities. Among the IT Department’s plans for the coming year is to move its CRM system to the cloud.

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    6th // Scottsdale, Ariz.
    The affluent Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Ariz., earned a sixth-place finish in its population category this year. Selected as a What Works City by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Scottsdale is leveraging the expertise of John Hopkins University and the Sunlight Foundation to support efforts like its open data portal. Open data pursuits are guided by a three-pronged policy that emphasizes openness, transparency and accountability; advances an “open by default” stance; and prioritizes data security, privacy and confidentiality. Scottsdale also tracks city performance across the organization, providing visibility into various metrics to citizens. An internal process improvement program, Keep It Simple Scottsdale, aims to shore up internal processes with a similar data-based approach. After early pilots with iPads, the city has now standardized on a Windows-based tablet that offers the features of a desktop computer, yet maximizes productivity when staff is away from the office. The devices can be docked at a desk, used with a mobile keyboard or operated via touchscreen as a tablet. As far as infrastructure, Scottsdale has combined what used to be separate IT facilities for the police department into a central data center managed by city IT staff.

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    7th // Denton, Texas
    Denton partnered with the University of North Texas, community members and Serve Denton in creating an open data dashboard for such community problems as homelessness, which has been on the rise in the city for years. The city's role in this project includes coordinating the data from other agencies, providing more than 15 data sets. Denton has seen a 30 percent increase in companies using its open data portal to assist in developing applications. The initial open data goal was to initiate conversations to glean information from stakeholders about their needs and their ability to participate in strategies and applications. Denton recently installed a security information and event management system that works on the principle that relevant data about an enterprise’s security is produced in multiple locations. That allows the ability to spot trends and see patterns by viewing the data from a single point of view.

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    7th // Modesto, Calif.
    Within the past year Modesto has deployed several projects that attempt to engage citizens and boost the city’s commitment toward effective, responsive and transparent government. Those include the website renovation project www.modesto.gov. The site, completed in June 2016, entailed a complete overhaul with more than 1,200 pages of content. It required nearly 30 employees working across departments to update all content and migrate it, review it and be on the new content management system. The result of the effort is an easy-to-navigate and visually appealing site. The GoModesto! official city app connects residents to government and allows a more responsive, agile government response to citizen needs. The city is prioritizing social media like never before. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have grown by more than 25 percent in the last year, and the city has registered accounts with Periscope, Instagram and YouTube.

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    8th // Pasadena, Calif.
    Pasadena is making a name for itself as an innovation hub for technology and design. Leaders across the city government, business and education communities have been working together over the last three years to draw technology and design businesses to the area through the Innovate Pasadena partnership, which promotes tech entrepreneurship and collaboration through meetups and educational events. It also connects residents who want tech jobs with business leaders who need to hire employees. These efforts are helping the city become a welcoming home for tech companies while at the same time ensuring that it has a steady source of revenue. IT priorities are aligned with the City Council's goals, and an IT Governance Committee reviews project requests each year. Business intelligence and dashboards have been a recent area of focus, with the visual presentation of data leading to an increase in evidence-based decision-making for city operations. For example, an internal fire service dashboard shows five years of activity and response times and is being used to align equipment and staffing resources. And to keep updated on the dozens of projects in the works each year and more than $10 million in projects in the city's IT portfolio, a resource tracking tool helps keep the numerous initiatives on time, on budget and on scope. A mobile-first strategy helped guide the launch of a of a new city portal this year that ensures content can be viewed on any device, and numerous mobile apps have been rolled out for both internal and public-facing programs.

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    8th // Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
    Last year Rancho Cucamonga's City Council authorized the formation of the Department of Innovation and Technology, led by the city's first chief innovation officer, in order to improve transparency, encourage civic engagement, and develop and enhance tech platforms. The new department combined the city's GIS and information services divisions, and aims to leverage the experience of both to enhance interactions with residents. The city's public-facing tech initiatives include a public safety performance dashboard, an online development and permitting portal, and Esri Story Maps that display information about conservation efforts and public arts. An open data program, which began in 2015, continues to expand with metrics for community services, library and finance departments being added by the end of this year. The Police Department was one of the first 60 agencies to participate in the White House Police Data Initiative. With the San Bernardino National Forest on its northern border, some Rancho Cucamonga residents could have to evacuate their homes quickly during wildfire season. But they find out about these evacuations faster thanks to the Fire Protection District's social media warnings. A communications manager in the city helps coordinate digital engagement efforts across departments, including fire, police and animal services. This coordination has helped the city get on the same page and share important information quickly with residents on a variety of city and department social media accounts. Since last year, the city's following has grown by 61 percent to 8,700 on Facebook — the most popular platform for residents.

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    9th // Chandler, Ariz.
    Last year, Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and the City Council committed to several new strategic goals. Key among them was becoming a highly connected city and a leader in transparency. Chandler had already been recognized by the Sunshine Review as one of the nation’s most transparent local governments on the Web for four consecutive years, but the city wanted to further encourage engagement with citizens, businesses and employees in the community. As part of that goal, the city is building an online form for requesting public records from the City Clerk’s Office, expanding citizen services through a new online bill payments system and collecting citizen input on new initiatives through its Lucity CRM system. In the interest of boosting transparency, Tibshraeny annually hosts Budget Connect, a live online forum where Chandler residents can ask questions and learn about the city’s budget and fiscal policies. The mayor moderates the event and answers questions submitted online alongside city staff and councilmembers. The initiative helps increase transparency and community interaction by allowing residents to raise concerns and receive timely answers.

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    9th // Norfolk, Va.
    Norfolk wants to reach residents where they are. The city therefore employs multiple platforms to connect with residents (website, social media, newsletters, surveys, email, a call center, newsprint and television, and in-person community meetings). About 25,000 Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor followers now receive real-time city news and announcements. Norfolk also offers robust content on YouTube, including full City Council and Planning Commission meetings, city-produced programming, and newscasts. The city also promotes a “conscious culture of cybersecurity.” Its four-person cybersecurity team is responsible for establishing policies and procedures, selecting and supporting security software and appliances, monitoring user compliance, and detecting and analyzing threats. The city also places a heavy emphasis on creating a culture of cybersecurity where all users understand their role in protecting city information, including formal and situational awareness training based on cyberbreaches in other communities.

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    10th // Augusta, Ga.
    In early 2016, Augusta’s Information Technology Department worked with a number of city departments, including the Administrator’s Office, Finance, Engineering, Utilities and Recreation and Parks, to bring information from those agencies into the public eye with CityWatch, a portal designed to increase transparency across city government. The key components of the CityWatch effort are ProjectWatch and BudgetWatch. ProjectWatch enables citizens to search for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Stormwater, Utilities and Transportation Investment Act projects. Each project includes information describing the project purpose, the project budget and its status. BudgetWatch enables citizens to search for information related to how the city uses its funds. Augusta also has a variety of innovative initiatives planned for the next 12 to 18 months, including enhancing public safety communication systems and augmenting transparency, accessibility and openness through online solutions to assist public participation.

    Back to Winner List 75,000 -124,999 Population Category

    1st // Roanoke, Va.
    In just a year, Roanoke, Va., has climbed to a first-place ranking for cities with a population between 75,000 and 124,999. The city's continued high marks center on its attention to digitally accessible government (both internally and externally), an ongoing commitment to cybersecurity, and a progressive and realistic look at the talent landscape. While the city continues to improve upon things like employee mobility and connectivity, it has also pushed to secure city assets from outside threats. Among other initiatives, Roanoke has kept its focus on tracking and stopping threats to the city network through a robust application-based firewall that allows for the classification of traffic. Through partnerships with outside agencies, redundancies have been established to maintain operations during a significant emergency event. In addition, efforts to expand citywide broadband are underway, especially as it relates to underserved populations.

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    2nd // Lynchburg, Va.
    Lynchburg, Va., skyrocketed from a sixth-place ranking in 2015 to second place this year. The city's successes center on an expanded concentration on technology throughout the whole of the local government. From a fully responsive host of websites to mobile-enabled departments, Lynchburg has upped its digital game to be more responsive, both internally and externally. A citywide policy enables employees to bring their own devices under certain policies and restrictions. This is important because of the city’s roughly 1,250 employees, only 330 city-owned smartphones have been deployed. Rather than adopt a mobile-first strategy, officials have tailored the city's mobile undertakings to better capitalize on potential implementations. This approach also reduces the costs associated with mobile application development. One important upcoming initiative features a collaborative, shared approach to connectivity between the city, Lynchburg City Schools and Lumos Networks to create a fiber-optic municipal network. Additionally collaboration with the state allowed for Lynchburg’s public safety answering point to interface with GIS data and laid the groundwork for a next-generation 911 system.

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    3rd // Boulder, Colo.
    Boulder’s information, communications and technology staff has thoroughly followed City Council priorities; where it hasn’t, it has detailed plans to do so. One example is in open data — because it’s a city priority, ICT staff keeps an open data catalog with 45 data sets that integrates directly into the state’s open data portal. It added eight data sets to the catalog in the past year. An open data team meets monthly and is working toward a citywide inventory as well as a formal open data policy. A performance metrics dashboard brings progress on the council’s goals into focus. Mobile devices have been deployed among several departments to enhance fieldwork and gather data, which has in turn supported GIS products. That includes the rollout of a body camera fleet for police officers. All told, mobile devices now make up about 64 percent of the municipality’s computing devices — though the city doesn’t have a full bring-your-own-device program. Collaborations with universities, federal laboratories, school districts and local governments has enabled fiber-optic network sharing, and a July broadband feasibility study could expand Boulder’s efforts further via a public-private partnership. The city hired a full-time chief information security officer and has taken several steps to guard against damage, including a cloud solution that tracks file changes and allows for reversion. Boulder has its own chief resilience officer, who helped published a resilience strategy in April to prepare for future stresses of all kinds.

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    3rd // Independence, Mo.
    Technology staff in Independence are in the middle of a major project to replace 10 legacy systems, including decades-old utility billing and financial management systems and enterprise resource planning. The upgrades will streamline workflows and allow more work from the field — all in the name of the City Council’s goal of making work more efficient through technology. Parks and recreation and code enforcement staff have mobile devices and software, and utility workers will join them soon. Independence maintains an open data portal, albeit one without the finance and expense data common in similar projects, and a formal open data policy. Staff plan on completing a data inventory to explore what can be added to the portal. The city has made several efforts to engage the public, with a clear and succinct performance dashboard, a mobile health app and a job listing board tied to social media accounts that is among the most visited parts of the city’s website. In the past year, staff have started using sweepstakes and giveaways as an engagement tool as well. The installation of gigabit-speed Internet for city employees has allowed the police department to access security cameras at transit stops and schools. This year the city created a GIS/Cityworks administrator position, though it lacks a chief information security officer.

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    4th // Richardson, Texas
    IT works to support Richardson's departments to move forward on goals set by the City Council, including improving processes, customer service and accessibility to the city. Transparency is a top priority, and budget graphs and dashboards will be added online in the upcoming year. A mobile-first approach is used when new Web apps are developed, and an app that was developed in-house simplifies the process of reporting issues to the city while also providing up-to-date information about city news and events. Earlier this year Richardson was selected to participate in US Ignite's Smart Gigabit Cities Program to work on the development of next-gen broadband applications. And in another area of innovation, Richardson was the first city in Texas to partner with Yelp and Socrata to post restaurants' food safety scores on the review platform. To make this work on the back end, city employees spent time with Socrata to put the data in a format that app developers and businesses could easily use. Every time a food safety score goes into the city's computer system, that score shows up on the Yelp page for that restaurant.

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    4th // Westminster, Colo.
    Westminster's 2016 IT Strategic Plan supports objectives set by the City Council while focusing on emerging technology to develop new and enhanced services. As part of its goal of providing more online services, the city's website has 23 forms and payment options for residents and businesses. In addition, a new electronic permitting system is being implemented. Through an online engagement platform, residents can tell the city what they think about its parks and other types of services. WestyCOnnect gives residents a voice in government so that even if they don't attend city meetings, they can still share their opinion. In addition, the City Council chamber is being remodeled to incorporate video streaming technology — currently the audio is streamed and archived. Over the last year, phase one of the city's Mobile Strategic Plan was completed and includes revamping the app development process to support a mobile-first strategy. In the area of cybersecurity, Westminster is updating its policies to comply with the NIST Framework. In addition, more than 96 percent of city employees have completed the SANS Securing the Human security awareness training.

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    5th // Lakeland, Fla.
    Lakeland, Fla., has upgraded its digital services for residents in a substantial and meaningful way. The city has relied on opening up city services as well as data to constituents to offer a sense of trust and responsibility for managing city finances. Earlier this year, the city launched its open data portal with help from OpenGov. This tool displays 10 years of government spending and revenue detail in a user-friendly portal. City departments have also found this tool helpful for understanding how other government entities are allocating their budget. Matching its commitment to transparency, Lakeland has also partnered with GovQA to build a tool that allows citizens to make public record requests and track the progress online. TRAKiT Land Management Software has been integrated into the city site to automate land use permits and deliver information for tracking projects. ProjectDox has been integrated into TRAKiT, which enables users to attach electronic files for review. Lakeland is banking on these services to help facilitate a simple and pleasant experience with the city government.

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    6th // Columbia, Mo.
    In Columbia, Mo.'s Strategic Plan (PDF), released in October 2015, the city identified five priority areas needing improvement: economy, social equity, public safety, infrastructure and operational excellence. One of the most helpful tools they developed to advance their vision for the city is the Community Dashboard. This Esri-powered tool enables users and government officials to layer different kinds of data on a map to help determine which communities most need help. One overarching strategy is to make all online resources accessible and optimized for mobile devices, and there is a good reason for this approach. Because lower-income families are less likely to own computers, some residents rely only on smartphones for Internet access. Redesigning Web pages with mobile use in mind better serves these constituents' needs.

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    6th // Newport Beach, Calif.
    Newport Beach created a modern, succinct website with robust functionality. The city’s What's Happening in my Neighborhood map allows residents to quickly see a wide range of city activities taking place around them. The map interfaces between the city’s GIS system, the police CAD system, the Fire MetroNet system and the city permitting system to allow residents to see seven days of police incidents, 30 days of fire incidents, capital improvement projects, active building permits, and more in an easy to read and understand manner. What’s Happening in my Neighborhood is continually filtered (to protect public safety and privacy) and automatically refreshed without requiring any city staff time. Last year, What’s Happening in my Neighborhood was recognized with an award for innovation by the Management Information System Association of California. Over the last four years, Newport Beach also refreshed its data center, which is now 95 percent virtualized, replaced document imaging, CAD/RMS and ERP software and set up modern online interfaces for document search, GIS/mapping, mobile app service requests, and online class registration and bill pay.

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    7th // Brooklyn Park, Minn.
    Winters are snowy in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and firefighters need to be able to access fire hydrants to protect citizens and property. Brooklyn Park’s Adopt a Hydrant app is a crowdsourcing campaign designed to get people to shovel out the hydrants located near them when it snows. Last winter, the city more than doubled the number of hydrant adoptions through a combined advertising effort between the GIS, communications and community engagement departments. The success of the Adopt a Hydrant app prompted creation of an Adopt a Park app designed to help keep the city’s greenspaces clean. Adopt a Park will also help the city track and report more accurate volunteer service information to the City Council. Finally, Brooklyn Park employed technology to help with a community planning initiative called Brooklyn Park 2025. Using the combination of an online forum, on-site meetings and whiteboards placed strategically around the city, staff members, residents and businesses are helping craft a vision of what the city will look like in 10 years.

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    7th // Sugar Land, Texas
    Sugar Land, Texas, may be small (population 87,000), but its cybersecurity strategy rivals many larger cities. The city employs a defense in-depth approach, including both on-premise and cloud-based systems, to protect people, data and computing platforms from internal and external cyberthreats. Because no system offers complete security these days, the city also developed a sophisticated strategy around cyberthreat incident response and incident handling, including a systematic approach to defining cyberthreat levels within the organization. Sugar Land’s business continuity strategy is also forward-thinking. The city uses a combination of magnetic medium (tape backup), cloud-based backups and offsite data storage to provide multiple avenues to continue operations in the event of a major disaster or other emergency. Sugar Land’s leaders also believe in maintaining a financially responsible government. Toward that end, the city maintains an online interactive city budget presentation that clearly communicates revenue sources and allocations using easily identifiable graphical elements, making a complicated budget process easier for residents to understand.

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    8th // San Leandro, Calif.
    San Leandro, a suburb of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, wants to help keep its residents active. Toward this end, the city created a robust parks and recreation program over the years. Recently, the city upgraded from an on-premise recreation management platform to a cloud-based system, enabling savings of nearly $35,000, which it can now reinvest in new recreational programs and other priority areas. The city also recently renegotiated its Internet contract, allowing it to provide higher bandwidth while saving up to 40 percent monthly through the elimination of redundant Internet lines and utilization of city-owned fiber to transport data. San Leandro is also undergoing a massive upgrade of its Police Department information system, which manages computer-aided dispatch, records, jail, and mobile and field reporting. The new version includes enhanced GIS functionality to increase public safety response times. Meanwhile, real-time Web-based dashboards provide police leadership teams with up-to-the-minute reporting of analytical and statistical information.

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    9th // Arvada, Colo.
    Arvada has moved to promote mobility to better serve citizens and employees and those efforts have resulted in greater efficiency, quality of service and productivity than in years past. iPads and other tablets were used by almost every department and the City Council. Ticketing and records management have gone completely mobile, and tablets have enabled the city to have greater control in managing its assets. iPads in the field allowed for the building of a real-time utility assets inventory and aided completing the inventory of 13,500 city-owned trees that needed to be prepared for the potential of a harmful insect infestation. The city’s social media efforts have been carefully executed to supplement, not supplant, other communications efforts. This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Nextdoor. The city and police department promote general awareness and public safety knowledge via these channels. The number of Facebook followers has increased by 300 percent in the last five years.

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    10th // Ann Arbor, Mich
    Mobility has been an area of improvement for Ann Arbor. The IT department worked with the fire department in refreshing the mobile technology in the fire apparatus and command vehicles to improve effectiveness of response and increase the safety of fire personnel. The city’s planning and development inspectors have been equipped with more mobile capabilities. They have been outfitted with iPads to record inspection data in the field, access permit and land records in the field, provide a means to manage inspection scheduling, and assist with routing inspectors efficiently. The city’s financial information took on a more open look, providing the public with transparency. Annual budgets and expenses are available and the data is pulled directly from the city’s LOGOS financial system. The Citizen Guide to Finance and Budget is a Web resource created to increase transparency with financial information and budgeting to aid citizens in understanding efforts to maintain a balanced budget while meeting service needs.

    Back to Winner List Up to 75,000 Population Category

    1st // Tamarac, Fla.
    Following the lead of a 10-year ICT plan, staff in Tamarac have built a highly digital, cloud-focused, mobile-ready environment for municipal work. Adopting a “virtual city hall” concept, the city has made a variety of data and performance metrics available online, and offers all walk-in services on its portal as well. On another part of its website, employees can ask questions and citizens can answer them directly. The city is also in the process of migrating to a new enterprise resource planning platform, which will include a new customer relationship management system. Tamarac is moving its email and file systems to the cloud and replacing old devices with desk-docked mobile devices capable of accessing city information remotely. All that is backed up with a PCI-compliant cybersecurity program, including regular vulnerability scans and penetration testing. The city budget lasts for three years, cutting costs associated with budgeting and allowing for better resource planning.

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    2nd // Shawnee, Kan.
    Data is driving decision-making in this city — after discovering certain areas with unacceptably high response times, Shawnee is building a new fire station. Citizen feedback identifying congestion as a major issue has led to more spending on improving traffic signal communications and releasing more information about snow and ice removal activities. Shawnee has set aside $150,000 to redesign the city portal to be more mobile friendly and focus on transparency. In 2016 the city expanded its CRM, Shawnee Connect, to give citizens digital access to more services. The city is also considering participatory budgeting, where citizens would tell the government where they think funding priorities should lie. Monthly reports keep residents updated on what the city is working on, how many service requests it has closed and even Web metrics. Shawnee has several partnerships in place with its hosting county and nearby cities that have allowed for regionally consolidated traffic management, GIS hosting, fire dispatch and more. The city has installed more than 25 miles of fiber since 2006, enabling many of those collaborations, and has money set aside for further broadband projects. The cybersecurity approach focuses on three prongs: security policy, change management and incident response planning. Through that structure, staff members have put in place many best practices, including setting up PCI and CJIS environments, blocking off unused network ports, and two-factor authentication for municipal mobile devices.

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    3rd // Williamsburg, Va.
    This city of Williamsburg does a lot in the digital realm for only having a three-person IT department. An established structure ensures that its work follows City Council goals, while a performance dashboard allows for data-driven decision-making and budgeting. In 2016 the city moved from an in-house open data and performance dashboard to a Socrata-based system in an effort to add context to its established transparency work. Recovery from the last recession is enabling the staff to modernize the city's computers, and it is in the midst of an overdue replacement of its enterprise resource planning software. Williamsburg is also completely redesigning its website with a new content management system and the ability to pay for services from computers and mobile devices. The city has upgraded its security firewalls and backed them up with a security information and event management system that analyzes information passing through the firewalls and gives staff a path to act on events from one location. This year Williamsburg also replaced the equipment supporting its free Wi-Fi network for its tourism-supporting downtown.

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    4th // Carson City, Nev.
    Carson City solidified its fourth-place ranking for populations up to 75,000 through an attention to transparent government and building a stable technology base in the face of funding limitations. Through a suite of online tools, residents are able to connect to city services, examine expenditures and search for important topics in City Council documents. The integration of mobile capability has also been a major priority for the city. Roughly 25 percent of city staff members have the ability to work remotely. Carson City police and fire have access to updated department-specific applications and computer aided dispatch. In terms of cybersecurity, Carson City is about halfway through the process to fortify its networks and infrastructure. In terms of connectivity, the city has taken steps to replace its building-to-building wireless with fiber infrastructure. Similarly, emergency vehicle broadband modems have been upgraded for improved connectivity. Further, restructuring the city’s IT department, CCIT, has put the organization in a better position to not only assist internal clients, but respond to the changes in IT demands.

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    4th // Schaumburg, Ill.
    The goal for Schaumburg, Ill., was to focus on next-gen solutions to governance. With a major emphasis on communication between the city and residents, and exploring the solutions derived from big data, Schaumburg has earned its place in the 2016 Digital Cities Survey. Starting with its foray into big data, the village released its Police Productivity Dashboard, which was able to pull data from emergency dispatch systems, reports to police, police inventory application, GIS and the human resources information system to give a better picture of what was happening in real time for city staff, officers and administrators. Another area where Schaumburg shined was its ubiquitous 311 system. With 24-hour phone coverage, residents are able to not only call in reports, but also text or fill out an online service request to the village. Going along with the multimodal options for contacting the city, the village also offers on-demand transit. Although it is currently only through the phone, Schaumburg is working on an app to order municipal transit to whisk residents off to any place within the city.

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    5th // Palo Alto, Calif.
    Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto has garnered a strong reputation as a smart city. And it did not disappoint in 2016. Taking on the massive congestion problem, the city is looking to integrate city employee commute information with the carpooling app Scoop. The app automatically matches commuters based on their route, and guarantees a ride to and from work. Additionally to solve the commuter crisis, Palo Alto co-hosted a connected vehicle workshop with the Ford Research & Innovation Center that brought together representatives from BMW, General Motors, Google and other automotive manufacturers to discuss the future of transportation. Part of the solution is implementing a connected vehicle module as one of the final elements of the new traffic signal system project that will allow the city to broadcast real-time traffic signal data to support the connected and autonomous vehicle marketplace. Palo Alto solicited input from automobile and system manufacturers on data sets that can be made available through the module.

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    6th // DeSoto, Texas
    DeSoto, Texas, has made strides in its transparency and Web presence that any large city would be envious of. Beginning with fiscal transparency, city officials have released a spending portal, making it simple for residents to identify exactly where their taxes go. DeSoto has been awarded for its commitment to transparency by the state comptroller, who designated the city a Platinum Member in 2014. However, openness is not all of what makes DeSoto a Digital Cities winner: The city has taken the time and exerted the effort to provide many digital services online. One of the most innovative ways this has been realized is through its municipal e-court system. Starting in July, all citations issued to residents were accompanied by a QR code, which led the users to a virtual courtroom for arraignments through a municipal app. Throughout the year, the city’s tech administration has focused on mobile adoption and optimization. DeSoto offers three other apps: one for city services, another run by the police, and a third that allows for easy completion of request forms for damaged infrastructure.

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    6th // North Port, Fla.
    To achieve more transparency, North Port deployed a financial transparency website. This allows the public to examine employee salaries, revenues and expenses, and can be viewed at the top level. Viewers can “drill down” into more detailed data. The information is exported in different formats and can be consumed in a variety of ways. North Port has a site for audio, video and agenda materials for all commission meetings. The materials and audio and video are created with Granicus and all are posted online. The city has rapidly increased its adoption of mobile devices to support several initiatives. The City Manager’s Office developed a social media policy to lead expansion of social media. The policy defines management and use of social media, and a four-person team of PIOs manages and disseminates content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and YouTube.

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    7th // Marana, Ariz.
    Marana decided that instead of using tools available from the state, it would write its own applications for open data initiatives. The first was its financial dashboard, completed in November 2015. The Marana financial database provides information from the Marana financial system and enables a clear look at government operations. It provides an interactive, searchable way to browse expenditure data, vendor payments and revenue data. The town is in the final stage of completing its performance dashboard. This will provide information on progress the town is making on strategic initiatives. Mobile applications are top strategic initiatives for Marana. In 2012 the town deployed its mobile app My Marana. It had been a 311 application for reporting issues within the community until recently when it was enhanced to a more user-friendly version. It includes social link feeds, GIS maps, employment opportunities, news and event information and the ability to pay utility bills.

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    8th // Ithaca, N.Y.
    Ithaca's officials emphasize public service as a common thread that ties major policy to everyday operations. The Ithaca Plan addresses drug use and addiction in the city — some of the city’s newest policies surround this plan. A major focus of the city’s drug addiction prevention plan is to use technology for youth programming. New software makes it easier for citizens to register for camps and youth programs by capturing forms and information online. Residents no longer need to go into city offices to register for programs. The data collected by the software is also valuable to the city, providing information on the demographics of who is using the programs and which ones are the most popular. That allows the city to make informed decisions about budgets and program strategy going forward. Also supporting the Ithaca Plan are police-worn body cameras and surveillance videos. Complaints against police have dropped dramatically after the deployment of the body cams, and other cities have sought advice about their implementation.

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    9th // Hudson, Ohio
    Home to 22,000 people, Hudson has spent the last year focusing on government transparency — residents can now watch live and archived public meetings, view city budget information and provide feedback, and access multiple tools to see where tax dollars are being spent as well as how city funds are administered. Mobile initiatives focus on internal and public-facing features. For example, the Engage Hudson app allows residents to report and track issues, while the Mobile Stormwater Inventory App replaced a paper-based process and enables the city's engineering staff to collect and report information from the field. Hudson is also looking at utilizing the Waze traffic app to provide drivers with information about road crews, which would be particularly beneficial during fall and winter. Efforts around collaboration have taken on an official capacity through efforts like the Summit County Alliance for Innovation and the Global Institute for the Study of the Intelligent Community. In addition, Hudson is working to be a gigabit city: Fiber installation began this year on its broadband project. The city expects to have more than 100 commercial Internet and voice customers by the end of the year, and has started to analyze a residential offering of the service.

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    10th // Punta Gorda, Fla.
    Punta Gorda is using IT to follow through on the five key areas identified in its strategic plan for the city's 17,800 residents. The high-level overview includes projects like launching a new website, implementing VoIP, server upgrades and GIS enhancements. A transparency website with budget dashboards is in the works, and the city is in the process of cleansing its data and establishing rules for it to help with the future transition to a big data approach. Mobility is a new focus for Punta Gorda, but is being considered for all initiatives going forward. For example, the fire inspector now uses a tablet to enter and review information and seawall maintenance crews can now input data from the work site. The CRM platform will be expanded and interface directly with work order management software, which will provide better analytics to better enable data-driven decision-making. Punta Gorda also is taking steps to ensure all employees learn about security by simulating phishing attacks to see what users will do. Along with user education, the city started using a next-generation firewall that helps detect and prevent attacks. In combination, these security efforts have helped more staff members identify phishing attacks and report them to IT.

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  • Gubernatorial Races Promise Changes to the C-Suite
    Wed, 9 Nov 2016 05:30:00 PST

    The surprising victory that was the election of Donald J. Trump as president on Nov. 8 undercut the media’s focus on the gubernatorial elections happening in a dozen states. While the races were arguably not as nail-biting as the presidential showdown, the changes to state leadership will no doubt reverberate through the public-sector technology community, and at some level, upset the apple carts of at least a few CIOs.

    Though the executives planted in states that did not change from one party to another may have slightly less to worry about in the coming months, those staring down the barrel of new administrations and new ideologies will likely be faced with circulating their resumes before January. But this is not to say that new governors in states that held won’t want to rebrand the administration with their own people.

    Just like many experts overlooked the possibility of a Trump victory over the arguably more experienced and battle-hardened former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, election night also brought about some surprising results in states like Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont.

    Delaware Stayed Blue 
    In Delaware, voters opted to carry over their Democratic leanings with the election of John Carney as the governor-elect. Carney will replace Democrat Jack Markell, who held the state’s highest office since his election in 2008. State CIO James Collins, who was appointed by Markell in 2014, most notably worked to open the state’s data sets under Executive Order 57 and has been a champion for data analytics in government. Despite the holding of ideological territory, it is uncertain what kind of cabinet Governor-Elect Carney will bring to the state.

    Indiana Stayed Red
    The home state of Gov. and Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence held its status as a Republican-governed territory with the election of Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb to the governorship on election night. The fact that Holcomb is simply moving up a rung on the leadership ladder could signal that state CIO Dewand Neely is on safer ground than many others with incoming unknowns. Neely was initially appointed by Pence in 2015, and is perhaps best known for his role in targeting opioid addiction through the use of data analytics.

    Missouri Turned Red
    Missouri was one Democratic territory that did not fare well in the Republican takeover of 2016. Voters replaced two-term outgoing Democrat Jay Nixon with Republican Eric Greitens, who won out over Democratic challenger Chris Koster in a 51 percent to 45 percent showdown. State CIO Rich Kliethermes was appointed by Nixon in 2015, and will likely face replacement under a new administration. The executive replaced former state CIO Tim Robyn last year and has spent his time working on initiatives to improve the state’s use of metrics and better its data management standing. 

    Montana Held by Incumbent
    Montana CIO Ron Baldwin won’t likely have anything to worry about as the post-election dust settles. Baldwin, who was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock in 2013, will likely remain as part of his cabinet, barring some unforeseen reorganization on the part of the administration. Bullock beat out Republican challenger Greg Gianforte in a tight race 50 percent to 47 percent.  

    New Hampshire Turned Red
    Despite Democrats losing their gubernatorial hold on the state, New Hampshire’s CIO Denis Goulet doesn’t have a thing to worry about, at least with regard to his tenure at the state. According to a 2015 conversation with Goulet, he holds a termed position of four years that will carry over halfway into the next administration. With Gov. Maggie Hassan running for the Senate, the race came down to Republican Chris Sununu taking the title of governor-elect in a tight 49 percent to 47 percent race against Democratic challenger Colin Van Ostern.

    North Carolina Too Close to Call
    Republican incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory is locked neck-in-neck with Democratic challenger and Attorney General Roy Cooper, who leads McCrory by 4,772 votes per the most recent Associated Press count. While a McCrory victory would likely signal no change in the administration or for state CIO Keith Werner, a defeat by Cooper would almost certainly mean a sweeping regime change. Werner was appointed to the executive office in 2015. The next governor of North Carolina won't be determined officially until sometime between Nov. 18 and Nov. 29.

    North Dakota Stayed VERY Red
    Unsurprisingly, North Dakota voters signaled their Republican Party alliance with the sweeping defeat of Democrat candidate and state Congressman Marvin Nelson. Governor-Elect Doug Burgum garnered a whopping 77 percent of the vote, while Nelson struggled through the race with only 19 percent. This turn of events could be some signal of the safety of CIO Mike Ressler, who has held the post since 2013, but it also could signal an administrative shift toward a new executive team.

    Oregon Stayed Blue
    Democratic Gov. Kate Brown held onto her title despite opposition from Republican challenger Bud Pierce. Brown stepped into the governorship following the resignation of former Gov. John Kitzhaber and his allegations of influence-peddling in 2015. The voters' clear choice to retain Brown signals a safe future for Oregon CIO Alex Pettit, who was initially appointed in 2014. At present, there are no signs the administration plans to change its direction in the coming months.  

    Utah Held by Incumbent
    Utah CIO Michael Hussey seems to be in the same position as Montana’s Ron Baldwin. Incumbent Republican Gov. Gary Herbert held his title over Democratic challenger Mike Weinholtz by a large margin. For the sitting CIO, the rollover of the administration signals a likely continuation of his tenure. Hussey was appointed to the state’s chief IT role in 2015.  

    Vermont Turned Red
    Democratically led Vermont fell to Republican leadership after Tuesday’s votes were tallied. The race between Governor-Elect Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter came down to a nine-point split and signaled a very real shift away from Gov. Peter Shumlin. The move will no doubt mean some career disruption for state CIO Richard Boes, who was appointed in 2011. 

    Washington Held by Incumbent 
    Washington incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, held his position over Republican challenger Bill Bryant. Inslee has been governor since 2013 and won the state with a 12-point lead. The win will likely mean no impact to state CIO Michael Cockrill, who has also been at his post since being appointed in 2013.    

    West Virginia Stayed Blue
    The impending term expiration of Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin set the stage for a fresh administration for either side of the ideological aisle, but ultimately fell to a Democrat Jim Justice by a margin of seven percentage points. While state leadership did not fall to the other party, it does not mean state CIO Gale Given is safe from disruption. Given started her tenure in 2012. It remains to be seen whether she will be kept on to lead the state’s technology efforts.

  • Cool Cities Rely on Technology; Smart Cities Rely on Data and Partnerships
    Wed, 9 Nov 2016 02:30:00 PST

    Much has been made about the future of cities and what the 21st-century city will look like. Government officials are quick to reference their ideals for smart technology creating more efficient governance and more livable conditions, but how do we tell the difference between cities that do it for press releases and news coverage against those using the tools in a constructive, cost-efficient way?

    The difference, according to Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City, Mo., is the use of data.

    "Data is what makes it smart,” said Bennett. “Technology makes it cool, but data is what makes it smart.”

    Smart cities are the ones, according to Bennett, who “strategically collect data, analyze it and use it to make decisions.”

    Kansas City has gone on to serve as both a cool and a smart city. With popular projects like its Internet-enabled kiosks or the Uber-inspired on-demand public transit program, the city has mirrored these tangible projects through data analytics and understanding what specific needs the city has.

    Public officials believe wholeheartedly that collaboration with private actors through the city’s open data portal in improving government services is the recipe for success. The portal launched in 2013 but was revamped in 2014 due to Mayor Sly James’ open data policy — and has inspired third-party actors to take advantage of the available data and add their contributions to the city.

    Dominique Davison took that challenge to heart.

    Through Davison’s PlanIT Impact online tool, cities can compare municipal data with hundreds of federal data sets to make the best decisions on city planning and design. In order for continued growth of the city’s smart initiatives, infrastructure will need to be planned sustainably and responsibly.

    PlanIT Impact creates geo-specific solutions for city planners, designers and architects. The tool ultimately aids “smart modeling for smart cities,” said Davison. The tool helps localize data about potential infrastructure being built with regard to energy, water use, stormwater drainage, greenhouse gas emissions, proximity to public transportation and more.

    It all comes back to open data, said Davison. While only working with Kansas City currently, the company is looking to expand its usage to other cities including New Orleans and Austin, both of which bring unique challenges.

    The key to being a smart city development is to know that a universal solution does not exist. All cities must tailor technology to their own specific needs. In New Orleans, for example, the use of PlanIT Impact likely would be used to tackle water drainage, while potential city partners in California are concerned with water efficiency and the use of graywater.

    “Sustainability is not one-size fits all,” said Davison.

    Kansas City has embraced this philosophy and is working to overcome its unique challenges through creating these partnerships.

    “We have to make sure we provide the opportunity to fully develop those ideas, validate them and make them available to other cities,” Bennett said. “The partnerships are the critical note; what we have learned in Kansas City is that the city itself is a part of a much greater ecosystem.”

  • Warrants in the Digital Age: Courts Face Evolving Frontier
    Mon, 7 Nov 2016 11:00:00 PST

    PALO ALTO, Calif. — The smart devices we carry with us and cling to represent treasure troves of personal data; they could be the linchpin a prosecutor needs to prove a person's location when a crime occurred, which is why agencies are more active than ever in going after them.

    Together, our personal technology's value and the related privacy issues has become a new sort of frontier for law enforcement and our courts. And the parameters around law enforcement's access — and whether access is even given — must be dealt with.

    For U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith, who began his term as a magistrate judge in Houston, Texas, in 2004, computer and device searches present an interesting challenge. When he started the federal judgeship, he said the rules of around technology were still solidifying and opinions were difficult to come by.

    “Back in 2004, there wasn’t anything out there as far as giving us guidance as to how to interpret this bizarre complex statute called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and that was very frustrating,” he said during a panel discussion at Stanford University Nov. 2. “There weren’t any published opinions, much less Court of Appeals opinions, and Supreme Court opinions were nowhere to be seen.”

    In the 12 years that have followed, precedent has been set in a variety of cases, but the lack of strong technical knowledge by many judges leaves something to be desired. 

    Smith described his role as being on the “firing line” of new surveillance and digital recovery methods. While he is quick to point out that his duty is protecting the Constitution above all else, he admits the technical nature of some of the requests require outside help and a willingness to seek deeper understandings of the techniques. 

    “I’m still clinging very strongly to my flip phone; believe it or not, I don’t have a smartphone … If somebody like me has to chart their own course, that’s a disturbing thing,” he joked.

    Generally speaking, when applying for a warrant, a law enforcement agent would file an affidavit citing the validity of the request and work with a U.S. attorney to file an application for the warrant with the magistrate judge. 

    Because much of the warrant process is done on the front end of an investigation, Smith said he and his colleagues must act as the backstop against unnecessary searches and carefully weigh what is at risk.

    “We need to take time to get it right," he said. "We take an oath to uphold the Constitution, just like the Supreme Court justices. And so if we are presented with something that violates the Fourth Amendment, we can’t sign it. We shouldn’t sign it."

    The secrecy of the process — to protect the integrity of the investigation — and the lack of defense counsel means magistrate judges must question the scope and validity of each application that crosses their desks.

    Where computer searches are requested, Smith said an extra measure of caution is required. Because more and more information is available on personal computers, each application must be carefully weighed to ensure “fishing expeditions” are not permitted on the part of law enforcement.

    “Where I struggle, more commonly than other areas, is when they are asking to search computers because there will be a crime, they’ll probably have enough probable cause to justify a search of the computer, but I worry that these days, well, everything is on computer,” he explained. “I struggle with that, I really do.”

    Though the federal judge said he considers these issues carefully with each application, a general technical understanding and workload can become an issue as judges negotiate the barrage of applications that come their way. On an average day, Smith said he sees between 10 and 12 warrant applications.

    “Part of the problem is that many judges, who are less attuned to these issues than I am, don’t exactly know what they are being presented with,” he explained. “You can get a very anodyne term like ‘network investigative technique’ or NIT. What the heck does that mean?"

    And that's something that easily can be glossed over, he added, especially if a judge is busy that day.

    “I’m not sure that I or even most magistrate judges have enough technical background to push back,” Smith said. “We need to understand that we are not authorizing these massive general warrant searches that could potentially infect hundreds if not thousands of innocent computers.”

    Moving forward, Smith said his hopes are two-fold: He wants to see tech-knowledgeable lawyers percolating up to the bench, and he hopes transparency within the process will become the norm. He openly admits the secrecy of the federal warrant process is a necessity for many of the investigations, but he also said the public has a right to know how the courts and government agencies are operating around pervasive technologies.

    “One thing that bothered me starting the job was the lack of information given to the public about what we do with these applications," he said. "For all they know, we are just sitting there with rubber stamps granting all these things, and I don’t think that’s the case.”

    In his jurisdiction, Smith said modernization would be required to take the process from where it stands now — in an analog log — to a digital and transparent process.

    “We need to make our warrant docket just as publicly accessible as the civil and criminal docket is. Obviously you can’t immediately disclose the warrant applications or the tracking device applications because you’re going to blow the investigation,” he explained. “So some limited degree of sealing is necessary, but it doesn’t need to be sealed forever. It seems to me that there is some information about that application that ought to be available to the public immediately.”

  • Absentee Voting Data: How Much Is Too Much?
    Fri, 4 Nov 2016 03:30:00 PDT

    Several recent reports on early voting data has been interpreted in myriad ways: Pundits point to the black vote being down; other returns suggest that both Latino and female early voting is higher than in 2012; and some don't see early vote returns as useful in predicting how the states will lean come Nov. 8.

    Regardless of the election outcome, each state offers different rules for early voting, whether it's voting by mail or in person — or not at all. As of November 2016, 34 states and the District of Columbia have permitted no-excuse early voting, which means that a qualified voter can cast his or her ballot early with no justification required. Another three states utilize all-mail voting systems, eliminating the need for early voting. Six states allow in-person absentee voting, which requires eligible voters to specify a reason why they would not be able to vote in person on Election Day.

    Blue signifies states with no-excuse early voting, red represents states with in-person absentee voting, yellow shows states that have mail-in only voting and green indicates states that have no early voting nor in-person absentee voting.

    Much has been made about the important nature of a handful of "battleground states," one of which is North Carolina. But what isn’t covered nearly as much is the amount of easily accessible data from absentee ballots in the state. Looking at the dearth of information available it begs the question: How much is too much?

    North Carolina absentee voter data is readily available for download — and it includes raw voter information not only about how residents have opted to vote and what party ballot has been requested, but also personal identifiers such as name, race, age and voting address.

    The reason, according to Patrick Gannon, public information officer for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, is the state's committment to transparency.

    “We want all the data to be out there for people to use in whatever fashion they wish,” he told Government Technology. And this level of transparency allows data scientists to understand trends, see which demographics are showing up and who is staying home.

    North Carolina stands as a unique case in offering this level of openness. While many other states break down absentee and early voter data, few states deliver the entire data set with such depth. Per research conducted by the United States Election Project, a site run by University of Florida Professor Michael P. McDonald, North Carolina provides the most amount of open data on absentee voter returns.

    The only other state that comes relatively close to delivering the same amount of data on absentee voters is Georgia. The Peach State's list includes names, addresses and type of ballot requested, but does not list political party registration.

    This commitment to openness in North Carolina nothing new, as the same amount of data is available from the 2004, 2008 and 2012 general elections.

    It should be of no surprise that there has been a fair amount of pushback regarding the amount of readily available information given privacy concerns, not wanting names and addresses open to the public. Another concern that's been raised is the possibility of stolen identities.

    “We’ve had a smattering of complaints,” said Gannon. “But it's all public information, and public information should be made public however and whenever possible.”

    Gannon did clarify, however, that in special circumstances, there are ways to redact public information. “If you have domestic violence, protective orders,” he said, there are ways to remove personal information from the spreadsheets.

    Also important to keep in mind is that although voting statistics have been aggregated and numbers released, that does not mean we know who the votes are cast for. Several news outlets have made inferences based on how voters are registered to make guesses on who is ahead, but no vote has officially been cast. The Election Project enforces this belief, stating that, “It is important to understand breakdowns of early voters by party registration are not votes.”

  • Will ‘Government’ Become a Verb?
    Thu, 3 Nov 2016 07:30:00 PDT

    DENVER — “Google it.” “Uber home.” “Airbnb-ing.” Will government be the next noun to morph into a verb? That’s the hope and a driving force behind the Reverb conference, which brought government, tech startups and venture capitalists together Nov. 3 in Denver to discuss innovation in the public sector.

    “These fundamental technologies have changed the actions so drastically that they have redefined the verb, because saying you’re getting a ride isn’t the same as getting an Uber,” said Ashton Kutcher, who is well known for acting but also has been investing in tech startups for more than a decade.

    “The essence of Reverb is really at the core of what these technologies do because when they're done right and they're done well and they're done efficiently, they change the verb, they reassign the verb,” said Kutcher.

    The event, hosted by the Colorado Innovation Network and Sound Ventures (Kutcher is a co-founder), focused on collaboration, partnerships and the future of public-sector IT, while also providing a venue for government tech leaders to meet directly with startups.

    Housed within the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) has traditionally worked to spur entrepreneurialism in the state, but this year used its annual conference to change the conversation to accelerating innovation in government.

    Ashton Kutcher said that if the Reverb event is successful, the idea could be rolled out across the U.S. Photo by Government Technology.

    “Reverb was a new pilot to see if we could deeply connect our public-sector leaders with early stage companies to drive real innovation value inside of the public sector,” Erik Mitisek, the state’s chief innovation officer, told Government Technology

    The one-day meeting was broken into keynote sessions and breakout tracks, while concurrently pairing startups with government representatives to discuss potential needs and opportunities. About 150 people were in attendance, with government, startups and “network leaders,” which included venture capitalists, equally represented. 

    Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper identified a need for “friendly friction” between government and tech companies to move public-sector IT forward. “In the state and, in many cases, counties and municipalities have this kind of old-fashioned approach to procurement — how do they really innovate that, how do they change that?” he asked during the morning keynote. “An event like this today can go a long way. COIN ... is all about bringing together the best and the brightest from different industries to harness that friendly friction, that innovation.”

    Collaboration and partnerships could be a key pairing to move the needle forward on gov tech innovation — but it’s not a new idea.

    "I would say that the state of Colorado has been at the forefront of working with startups,” state CIO Suma Nallapati told Government Technology. As an example, she referenced the 2013 flooding in the state and how there was an immediate need for a platform that would allow multiple entities to track incident response and recovery. “My Google team worked very closely with a company called Simply Local out of Boulder, and we stood up that website in 48 hours,” said Nallapati. “We had to have user interface design happen very quickly so we worked closely with Galvanize [a tech co-working space] and we hired a bunch of programmers on a temporary basis and gave them this project.”

    The site, Colorado United, is still used today, and Nallapati said it’s become a model for resilience and recovery. 

    So what verb will innovation in government lead to? One wasn’t specifically mentioned at the conference, but Colorado’s CIO agrees that it’s only a matter of time until one rises to the surface.

    “We Google, we tweet, we Uber, we Airbnb,” Nallapati said. “We should come up with a great word for that, and it should be so modern and effective that people look forward to interacting with government. We are on the path toward it.”

  • 3 Cities Where User Experience Design Helped Make Services Better
    Wed, 2 Nov 2016 06:35:00 PDT

    OAKLAND, CALIF. — There is a difference between the way a person buys a book on the Internet and the way a person fills out a form to apply for government benefits.

    But why?

    Much of the discussion on Nov. 2 at the Code for America (CfA) Summit was focused on that question. Why is it that so many people have a hard time applying for business licenses, or enrolling in food assistance programs, or doing most things involving government?

    Government leaders, civic hackers and industry representatives at the conference think they know why — often, the systems in place to accomplish those tasks were designed around the needs of the government bureaucrat, the back-office worker, the lawyer. They weren’t necessarily designed for the people using those systems.

    Now, many in government are finding ways to flip the script — to design processes that give government what it needs in a way that is also easier for residents, and they're doing it through user experience design. Sometimes the solutions are high-tech and mobile, and other times it’s as easy as changing the way something is done.

    Here are three examples.

    1. OAKLAND

    In Oakland, like the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, rents are going up. And that can mean conflict between tenants and landlords.

    The city has a process for resolving disputes, called the rent adjustment program, and that became a target for user experience-centered redesigns. Together they looked at the user experience to find slow spots and used technology to streamline those parts of the process. That includes an easier means for petitioning online and text messages for legal notifications.

    “[It’s] changing this really tense conversation to a collaborative one,” said Kiran Jain, chief resilience officer for Oakland.

    On top of that, the city is beta testing a redesigned portal that focuses on simplistic language. It was designed for citizens using all kinds of devices, including older systems. The beta site puts common service requests up top and is designed around what residents need to do on the site.

    “We know that better technology is a result of great community engagement — in fact, we know that user experience is community engagement,” said Mai-Ling Garcia, online engagement manager for the city. “As we develop the city’s first UX strategy, we’re looking to create experiences for people … who are learning to use computers at schools and other public places.”

    2. NEW YORK CITY

    There are no fewer than 11 city health and human services agencies in New York. That means people often find themselves stretched between several different agencies when accessing benefits — which is a problem when it comes to providing things people need urgently.

    “Missing information is one of the biggest causes of incomplete applications in the city, so you might have to deny your client services," said Amulya Aradhyula, a user experience designer with CfA’s New York City team, "and that’s one more night they might have to go without something like stable housing in the city.”

    Working with CfA, the city revamped the Worker Connect system for case workers across multiple agencies. The redesign was driven through interviewing and then shadowing 50 case workers on the job.

    It was all about small, meaningful improvements instead of replacing the whole system. The work made it easier to access useful data in the system and made it easier to use in the field.

    “The incremental, meaningful changes that we’ve made to a system that case workers use on a day-to-day basis has allowed them to use a cleaner, more efficient tool,” said Alicia Mathews, a policy advisor in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations. “That means a missing child is found faster. It means a homeless person is connected to shelter more quickly. And ultimately, by supporting New York City’s caseworkers, we believe we’re supporting New Yorkers. And we’ve begun with the 4,000 case workers that use Worker Connect.”

    3. KANSAS CITY

    The Kansas City Health Department had a problem: Every August, the number of people bringing in children for vaccines or immunization records more than doubled — that was when they needed records to enroll in school.

    So the department sat down with CfA representatives to map out the process parents go through at the clinic and find the pain points, and then worked to address some of the worst ones.

    One of those big offenders was simply letting parents know whether their children needed new vaccines or just proof of immunization.

    “They may stand in line for two to three hours just to find out that all the child needs is a shot record,” said Tiffany Wilkinson, a division manager for the department.

    So CfA helped develop an app, called ReqCheck, that helped parents figure out whether their children were up to date.

    The next step was to get parents to come in during months of the year that don’t end in -gust.

    “People are so busy, often working multiple jobs, and so we needed to come up with a way to reach out to parents and trigger them to come in not just in August, but also in other times of the year so we could rebalance the load,” said Jessica Cole, a Code for America fellow who worked on the project.

    The partners decided to take a whack at the city’s existing strategy of mailing out reminders to parents. They piloted a texting program, sending out more than 10,000 messages, and found some clear benefits.

    For starters, texts were a lot cheaper to send — about 2 cents each, compared with 10 cents for mail. On top of that, they were faster and often more reliable since mail might not reach a parent if they’ve changed addresses.

    “It was a great way to reach people where they’re at,” Cole said.

  • USDS Launches Multi-Benefit Application Prototype, Looks for Feedback
    Wed, 2 Nov 2016 02:30:00 PDT

    OAKLAND, CALIF. — The U.S. Digital Service (USDS) is working on a program that states and local governments might eventually be able to use to streamline multiple benefit applications into one place.

    "It turns out that making multi-benefit applications that people can actually read, understand and complete is really, really, really hard, and every state is kind of trying to do this on their own in their own silo with limited funding," said USDS Designer Mollie Ruskin. "So we thought, 'All right, this is a thing that we can do.'"

    Over the past month and a half, Ruskin and Ryan Burke, a senior policy advisor for President Obama and director of TechHire, have been working hand-in-hand with folks on the ground on a prototype that the two unveiled Nov. 2 at the Code for America Summit.

    "What I'm so excited to share today is the alpha [version] of a multi-benefit, mobile-friendly SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and Medicaid application," Ruskin said, adding that it's sort of a template. "It's something a state could take and customize to their own policy requirements and their own context. But we've done the hard work of trying to understand the myriad questions people are being asked to understand directly from users on the front lines what's working."

    The two are asking for feedback as they develop the program, a demo of which is available here.

    For now, the app walks users through an application for either the SNAP, health-care benefits, or both. Instead of presenting users with a bevy of forms, it works off a model more akin to privately developed computer programs. It asks users rounds of questions relevant to the enrollment process  — their name, their Social Security number, how much money they make, and more.

    The demo doesn't store or share data.

    Tech companies have been working with governments to streamline citizen interactions with government in a number of areas, whether it's applying for a business license or paying utility bills. But this effort comes from the federal government, which often works with state and local government officials administering benefits at the ground level.

    "One thing I hope that you take away from this example is that the solutions we're deploying weren't in the head of some policymaker in a Washington, D.C., office with no windows," Burke said, "but instead they were things that were already being deployed effectively at the local level."

  • GIS Helps Election Officials Ensure Early Voting Goes Smoothly
    Tue, 1 Nov 2016 10:00:00 PDT

    Early voting has become an increasingly popular option across the electorate. Between absentee ballots, mail-in and early voting at the polls, more than 46 million voters — almost 36 percent of the total — cast nontraditional ballots in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. This year is on target for the same or greater.

    This puts the pressure on election officials to do all they can to ensure early voting goes smoothly and easily. In some jurisdictions, authorities are looking to geographic information systems (GIS) to help grease the skids.

    Because so much election information already has a geographic component, maps and voting make a natural pairing. Voting districts, precincts and polling places — all can be tied to maps. In places like Cobb County, Ga., and Forsyth County, N.C., officials are leveraging this geographic angle. Specifically they have implemented GIS applications to give the public easy access to polling-station wait time information, along with other relevant election data.

    In the days before Nov. 8, both counties were seeing high volumes of activity on their early-voting information websites. As of Oct. 31, more than 37,000 users had been to the Forsyth County site, over 10 percent of the county population. In Cobb County, where 49 percent voters cast their ballots early in 2012, almost 24,000 people had been to the website as of Oct. 28, with 3,000 new hits coming each day.

    It’s all about encouraging citizen engagement. “If you drive by the library and you look on the site and see there is only a 30-minute wait right now, maybe you’ll decide not to put off voting anymore, and you will just go in there are get it done," said Forsyth County Geographic Information Officer Joseph Sloop. "Ultimately that is the hope."

    Automated updates

    In 2012, Cobb County officials had a hard time even keeping track of wait times in early voting, much less informing the public.

    “We had workers at each location who would measure the wait times by handing out cards to people in line and then collecting those cards. Then they would either email or call the main office and report the wait time,” said county GIS Manager Jennifer Lana. “Then that person in the office would have to log into the website and post that time, and they would be doing that for 11 different locations constantly throughout the day."

    This year, the county turned to its GIS vendor Esri to build something a little more streamlined. In the new system, poll workers enter wait times directly onto a map, which updates automatically. The county promises to update wait times four times a day, but in practice, poll workers were posting hourly updates the week before Election Day.

    The map is built on an Esri template, a generic layout that county officials have populated with important voting information. In addition to wait times at 11 early-voting stations, the map gives directions, information on voter registration and requirements, and tips on polling-place etiquette (no cellphones, please).

    County officials have picked up some tips in their efforts to apply GIS to early voting. For instance: Don’t share too much too soon. Early voting started at just two locations in mid-October, but the county’s first map showed where all 11 early-voting stations would be opening by Halloween. Although the stations were clearly noted as not yet open, 50 people showed up at one of the later-opening stations weeks ahead of time.

    In the days before Halloween, GIS managers had hidden the not-yet-open polls on the map. “We have all that data ready to go, but we are keeping it turned off, just to keep it very simple,” Lana said.

    Find a polling place

    In Forsyth County, citizens can vote early at any polling place in their home county. With wait times ranging from five minutes to over an hour in October, GIS managers wanted a site that would serve as a guide in helping individuals to decide where to cast their ballots.

    “You can put in your address and it will search the closest polling locations to that address, along with routing directions,” said Jason Clodfelter, a county GIS analyst. “Then the polling locations are symbolized with graduated circles and color coding based on the wait times, and you can click on any individual location to get the exact wait times.”

    At each polling place, workers are equipped with iPads through which they can log wait times. That information goes directly to the GIS system, which is set to refresh an Esri-based online map every 30 seconds.

    “The poll workers refresh the wait times from the moment they open up until they close, so for all practical purposes, it is live information,” Sloop said. “The training was slim to none. There is literally nothing but a green button that says 'start' and when you press it, it turns to a red button that says 'stop.' We wanted to keep it as simple as possible.”

    Looking ahead, all that wait-time data could serve a future purpose, as the GIS system has been set to log and archive all this information. “The board of elections will be able to look at this historical data when the election is over and perhaps use it to help with the planning for the next election,” Sloop said.

    These efforts to use GIS to streamline early voting are part of a larger trend, said Christian Carlson, director for state, local and provincial government for Esri.

    “Governments are modernizing their business processes to provide better services to citizens,” he said. “GIS is riding right in that technological slipstream to provide a new level of service in all sorts of things, including elections.”

    Maps can help facilitate elections in a number of ways. Citizens can look up their polling places or identify their representatives by geography. Candidates likewise use maps to fine-tune the demographics of their campaigns.

    With the trend toward early voting, GIS could take on even greater electoral significance.

    “When there appears to be significant early-voter turnout, people want to know: When do I need to leave the office to go vote? How do I plan my day to make that happen?” Carlson said. “This is a product that makes voters’ lives a lot easier on a universal scale.”

  • Banding Together: 6 Challenges Shared by City CIOs
    Mon, 31 Oct 2016 11:15:00 PDT

    In 2015, President Obama announced the Smart Cities Initiative, designed to help reinvigorate communities so that they could tackle local challenges and improve city services.

    With an investment of more than $160 million in federal research and new technology collaborations, this initiative helped further establish the support needed for cities to think about technology in a strategic and innovative way in areas like transportation, public safety, economic development, energy efficiency, urbanization and environmental stability. This extensive commitment of federal resources to meet local and community-led initiatives is important, particularly at a time when small- to medium-sized cities are rapidly evolving to meet the needs of the people they serve.

    In cities in New York state, CIOs are already self-organizing, convening as a group to leverage their collective experiences. Reaching out to the Center for Technology in Government (CTG), an applied research center at the University at Albany, for trusted guidance, CIOs from New York City, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers and Albany (representing populations of 99,000 to 8.4 million) convene annually to have open conversations in a closed, trusted space to share ideas, discuss common challenges and brainstorm potential solutions. The brainchild of Lisa Bobo, CIO of Rochester, N.Y., the initial goal was simply to see what would happen when a small group of CIOs who shared a willingness to discuss current projects, challenges and solutions came together to explore their issues.


    Bobo is one of six local CIOs in New York who meet annually to discuss current projects, challenges and solutions. Photo by Luke Copping.
     

    CTG, world-renowned for improving government and public service through innovations in technology, policy and management, provided the neutral and trusted environment to help this group of CIOs carry out their vision. For more than 22 years, CTG has been creating and supporting these new models of collaboration with local, state and national leaders so that they can set forth and carry out their innovation agendas.

    A Simple Structure: Why it Works

    Gathering groups of people together to have an unbridled conversation is not new. Gathering CIOs together in this way isn’t new either. Associations are built on convening those with similar titles across geographic regions, and they’ve been doing it for decades. What is unique with this group is the light touch in both organization and facilitation.

    There are no formal presentations, no panels of experts, and no working group with chartered goals or deliverables. These are simply individuals who share the same title and want to leverage one another’s knowledge. The following details the short list of factors that continues to shape the group’s success.

    Everyone sees a need to convene and make the time for the two-day event, which is not an easy thing for each to do. There is little planning, but rather it’s a “we’ll figure it out when we get there” approach. They trust CTG’s guidance and support in addition to each other’s knowledge and experience. There isn’t a regulated attendance. No one has to come back, and if they do it’s because they value the experience. A Snapshot of Candid Conversations

    While these six CIOs are not a complete representation of all cities in New York, or cities across the nation, the topics discussed do represent areas that many local governments are working to address. Weaving in and out of conversations are a multitude of topics including financing municipal Wi-Fi efforts, conducting cybersecurity awareness and education, mapping an enterprise architecture, deploying joint broadband efforts, facing technology adoption challenges, implementing next-generation Web portals, recruiting and retaining talent, and navigating cloud governance issues, just to name a few. The following presents a snapshot of selected conversations from the group’s annual meetings.

    1. Cybersecurity Preparedness

    The thought of a potential security breach is not too far from a CIO’s mind. Thinking about cyberawareness, prevention and mitigation is always a high priority. The CIOs most often begin with accounts of the latest attacks, including types and frequency. The conversation then moves to preparedness, assessments conducted and tools tested, and shifts to facts about the size of their departments, planned preparedness training and the mechanisms in place for response.

    But lately, the conversation has focused on two areas: 1) the need for cyber-readiness collaboration at the local, state and federal levels, and 2) more effective ways to communicate the importance of cyber-readiness to leadership. Discussions in these two areas allow for stories of what has worked and what has not. What all seem to agree on is that the most positive change takes place when there is a significant breach, although all cities work hard to not find themselves in that situation.

    2. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

    CIOs are typically responsible for the development of a citywide plan that puts recovery point and time objectives for each application out in the open, and then leads the assessment of the disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) responsiveness. While DR and BC plans go hand in hand, these CIOs have discussed that some have more time and energy invested in DR than BC. When the conversation moves to simulated disaster response testing, the lessons learned are the most eagerly anticipated stories. Not all participating cities have engaged in real-life testing where their planned responses are followed (or not); some are still identifying citywide expectations and goals. All continue to identify DR and BC as critical conversations and expect to be sharing experience, tips and tricks for years to come.

    3. Moving to the Cloud

    Conversations on cloud are quite different than they were two years ago. In the beginning it was more abstract, fleshing out the general pros and cons of moving to a cloud-based structure. Now the discussion centers around the enterprise governance structures to manage the multilayer cloud services they already have in place. This is not to say that every city has jumped on the cloud bandwagon. Some are just getting their feet wet with nonessential applications, and there are even a couple on the precipice of that leap.

    But for those cities already using cloud services, they share thoughts on costs, terms and conditions, management of expectations, security, public versus private cloud, navigating long-term subscription fees (as opposed to funding capital investments), and the list goes on. What is certain is that while some cities could not imagine living without the cloud, others don’t see the payoff yet. However, all agree that any intelligence they can gain from each other is well worth the discussion. 

    4. Managing Expectations in Technology Adoption

    City CIOs in New York are like their peers across the country in that they are always in the middle of multiple implementations. Taking manual, paper-based processes and introducing or upgrading technology to increase efficiency and improve outcomes is part of the job. While implementing IT projects is nothing new, neither is the consistent human nature to avoid change. Conversations inevitably turn to one story or another about how after months of planning and design with a wide range of stakeholders, when a new system (and process) is actually implemented and disrupts the status quo, the response is surprise. People want the change, but at the same time, they don’t fully appreciate how it will impact their routines.

    There are countless stories of implementation and upgrade projects that aren’t fully embraced because of the embedded processes and practices that require change. These are sometimes the funniest stories and there is never a shortage of them, but they also bring significant value. Through frustration and then laughter emerge new approaches for setting and managing expectations and reinforcing change.   

    5. Recruiting and Retaining Talent

    Attracting and keeping people with the right skill sets is becoming increasingly difficult not just for cities but for all areas of government. With looming retirements and consistent offers from private-sector firms, CIOs are feeling the pressure.

     


    The group of local CIOs in 2015 with Robert Jones, president of the University at Albany.

    In New York state, the Department of Civil Service dictates much of the workforce and in some cities, it has even more stringent residency requirements. Also, with the shift to more specialized training programs, there are fewer people with cross-position skills and experience. This creates a tricky balance between recruitment and retention strategies that don’t always produce the desired results.

    Some cities use hackathons to bring talented folks into their sphere, not just for the apps they’ll develop, but also for the possibility of recruiting them. Other cities have gotten clever with job announcements, highlighting the “cool” projects that await like working on the implementation of body cameras or developing broadband strategies. For these conversations, there’s never a one-size-fits-all strategy, but all realize that they need to step up their game to recruit and retain talent. 

    6. Planning and Funding Municipal Wi-Fi

    Those city CIOs who don’t have municipal Wi-Fi or are at the beginning of the process usually spend more time listening than those who’ve lived through a deployment. In each city, the CIO inevitably plays a role in designing and implementing a system. Of course, the larger cities have had Wi-Fi for quite a while now, and the medium- to smaller-sized cities are working toward the best solutions for them.

    One of the first questions asked is, “What is the sustainable model that the city and partners are willing to put forth?” To answer this and other questions, city CIOs typically work across boundaries with development corporations, school districts, other governments and nonprofits to develop a plan for citywide Wi-Fi. The discussion weaves in and out of financing to development to implementation, and those CIOs who’ve lived through the process from start to finish have essential advice for those just beginning to figure it out. 

    A Common Thread

    While the range in size of participating cities is significant and each CIO has differences in purview and oversight, organizational structure and dedicated resources, they have more in common than not. That’s because the CIO’s role is fundamentally the same across jurisdictions: It requires both operational and strategic thinking, a focus on design and implementation, a view of both city-sponsored and community-sponsored initiatives, and a core competency of more management and leadership than technical skill.

    They routinely engage in a balancing act between their roles as leader, team player and supporter in a range of practices across a long list of government programs and services. While the job is not easy, each has lobbied to get there, so it’s exactly where they want to be. Next year they will again make the decision as to whether to clear their schedules for two days and descend on CTG to swap stories. If they do, it will also be exactly where they want to be.  ¨

    Meghan E. Cook is the program director for the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany.

  • Better Connections: Arkansas Rebuilds its Plodding K-12 Network into a Robust Broadband Service
    Fri, 28 Oct 2016 11:45:00 PDT

    Mark Myers remembers his very first day on the job in January 2015 as the state of Arkansas’ CIO and director of the Department of Information Systems (DIS). “I was with Gov. [Asa] Hutchinson in the mansion, and he said, ‘Hey, Mark, you have got to get this K-12 broadband thing fixed,’” he recalled.

    Myers admits that at the time he knew very little about the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN), which provides connectivity to all of the state’s K-12 classrooms. He did some research and found that APSCN was averaging a pokey 5 kilobits per second (Kbps) per user. In contrast, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set a K-12 Internet access target of 100 Kbps per student.

    He went back and studied some of the history. APSCN was created in the early 1990s as one of the first statewide education networks in the country just as the Internet was starting to take off. “It was pretty advanced at the time,” Myers said, “but as technology evolved, the state had not moved with the times.”

    The access speeds the state was delivering did not match what people were used to at home or at other offices. Some school districts bought a second connection, referred to as direct Internet access (DIA), to supplement what the state was providing. That led to disparities in different parts of the state, with rural areas lagging behind, he said.

    In 2014, the FCC made resources available to close the connectivity gap across the country by increasing its investment in K-12 broadband by $2.5 billion per year to a total of $3.9 billion annually. This should be sufficient funding to connect every public school classroom in America to high-speed broadband. With a goal of increasing the number of state school districts meeting the FCC Internet access target of 100 Kbps per student to 100 percent, Hutchinson directed DIS to upgrade APSCN to an all-fiber network.

    Myers found that the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) had already started the process of procuring a network separately from DIS. “The folks who are the technical resources for these types of networks reside in my agency, so how the ADE was trying to procure it really didn’t match where the industry was,” Myers explained. “The industry is always changing. My folks who engage with the industry every day understand those changes as they are taking place. Something that might have worked three years ago won’t necessarily work today, because of how you have to develop a network and build it. Building a network is sometimes like building a plane while it is flying.”

    It was basically a network architecture problem with three possible solutions: districts buying direct Internet access, a regional model or a statewide aggregation model, according to Myers. “The Department of Education was trying to use a regional model, but they wanted one provider for each region, and that is not how the lay of the telecom land is,” he said. The incumbent telecom providers’ service areas did not match up well with the K-12 regions.

    After a statewide aggregation model was developed and a competitive bidding process took place, the state awarded contracts to 22 telecommunications providers in April 2015. By July 2017 the project will connect the state’s 274 school districts and 600,000 students to the all-fiber APSCN.

    Schools will receive a minimum of 100 kilobits per second per user of E-rate-eligible broadband delivered over fiber-optic cable, funded by ADE, at no cost to districts. This will put Arkansas at the forefront of the nation in meeting federal Internet access targets, along with states such as Wyoming and Hawaii. Myers said that rather than costing the state, the investment will actually save money.


    Arkansas’ all-fiber network will connect 600,000 students in 274 districts with speeds of at least 100 kilobits per second. Photo by David Kidd.

    Between what the school districts were paying for direct Internet access and the $11 million per year the Education Department paid for the network, the state was spending more than $30 million per year for broadband connections, said Myers. “We were able to build this new network for $13 million,” he said. “So the state network is running 40 times faster now for just $2 million more.”

    The fact that it didn’t require new funding from the Legislature helped speed the process. Work started in July 2015, and the statewide network upgrade is now approximately halfway completed.

    Traditional phone and cable companies provide the transport, Myers said. But a partnership with Cisco on the infrastructure — the routers, switches and security — is key to the project’s success. “We looked at piecing it out to multiple vendors, but at the end of the day, Cisco gave us a price that beat everyone, and we are doing some things with Cisco that have not been done anywhere in the United States.”

    For example, Arkansas is using the company’s secure Web gateway product called ScanSafe to kill viruses and zero-day vulnerabilities across the network. “I don’t think we have had a single school district where we haven’t found something that shouldn’t have been on the network,” he said. “One school district alone had three zero-day vulnerabilities on the network, as well as 1,000 infected machines.”

    DIS engineers put some thought into future-proofing the network, so its speeds don’t become obsolete again. Myers said that by putting fiber in the ground to every school building in Arkansas, the network is only constrained by the equipment attached to it. “The equipment we bought does 200 kilobits per second per user today. However, it is sized to do a megabyte per second per user. Cisco has agreed that as things change, they would give us the same pricing on new products. They replace their product line regularly — a switch or router today is probably not what they are going to be selling 12 months from now. That is how we future-proofed it. Cisco said, ‘Since you are pioneering something, we are willing to put skin in the game and go along with you.’”

    As with any project this large, there were some speed bumps and lessons learned along the way. “We didn’t spend enough time doing a proof of concept for some pieces of it,” Myers said. “There were small hiccups about how to transfer from an old circuit to a new circuit that we probably should have known, but didn’t learn until we actually showed up on site. Also, we underestimated the variety of firewalls people had in place we had to deal with.”

    Once the higher broadband speeds are available to districts, it opens up the potential for all kinds of new activities, said Eric Saunders, ADE’s assistant commissioner for research and technology. Besides more devices, such as tablets and laptops for 1:1 programs, teachers need training and support, he said. “We partner with a group called Team Digital that goes out and helps schools with online learning,” he said.

    The network will also enhance professional development and statewide meetings. Arkansas has a coding initiative, requiring districts to offer coding and computer science. “Many of those courses are done in a virtual setting,” Saunders said. “We have realized the importance of students having computer science skills, but one of the barriers has been having enough qualified teachers. We are trying to set up ways for teachers to become trained in that area, and most of the professional development courses are online.”

    Saunders said he hears from teachers and administrators that the upgraded network provides an opportunity to give each student greater choices through online courses, which they didn’t have before. “Students can pursue their interests with concurrent classes so that they can get college credit in high school.”

    Myers has been hearing positive responses from school districts that have switched over. “Folks that have transitioned from their old DIA connection to the new network have had amazing things to say about it,” he said. “It is so much faster than what they were used to having.”

  • 3 Reasons Some Local Governments are Eschewing Big Tech Vendors for Startups
    Thu, 27 Oct 2016 05:00:00 PDT

    SAN FRANCISCO — The public sector moves more slowly than the business world. Government information technology contracts are huge, long-term beasts. Public agencies prefer establishment over risk.

    All of that used to be true — but it’s changing. According to a group of businesspeople and public officials who gathered Thursday in San Francisco to talk about the future of the government technology market, there is a growing number of startups working quickly to solve problems in the space, and a growing appetite for those solutions to go along with it.

    “Government sectors in the past … have always looked for the biggest, most prominent, secure player in the house and then procured a multi-hundred-million-dollar solution with them,” said Peter Pirnejad, director of development services for the city of Palo Alto, Calif., at the first-ever State of GovTech event, held at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco. “That’s all changed. Now we’re looking for the more agile, the more niche solution that’s able to come and solve a specific problem.”

    And that’s exactly what Palo Alto did when its mayor decided to emphasize transparency in the local government — it found a niche solution in a company that was looking to test out its product. It partnered with OpenGov to engage its citizens better in the budgeting process, and four years after launching, the company has since scaled to more than 1,000 customers.

    There are three big reasons governments like Palo Alto are starting to look at startups to do some of the work they used to pay larger companies to do.

    1. They can be cheaper — or free

    In the case of OpenGov, Palo Alto got the service for free. That was because OpenGov was looking to test its product and prove that it worked. Such is often the case for early-stage startups — also at the event, one government official talked about testing out water flow sensors with companies that weren’t sure whether their products worked yet.

    But even if it isn’t free, niche services can just be cheaper than larger, broader solutions. And that’s helpful for a local government that doesn’t want to take on very much risk.


    In the opening government panel, key government stakeholders discussed how changes in technology and public-sector needs are driving change in the GovTech market. Left to right: Peter Pirnejad, director of development services for Palo Alto, Calif.; John Miri, CAO for the Lower Colorado River Authority; Rebecca Woodbury, senior management analyst for San Rafael, Calif.; and Jay Nath, chief innovation officer for San Francisco. Photo by Dustin Haisler.

    “We’re not trying to solve the most wicked problem through a small startup that, if they end up going under, people get fired,” Pirnejad said. “It’s really more along the lines of trying to find something that is able to make a big impact, but doesn’t make a big impact if it fails. So like partnering with a small startup to develop a Wi-Fi hot spot in a local park — great, it’ll make headlines if it’s successful. But if it doesn’t [succeed], well we can always fix it. We’ll take over the project and get across the finish line. That was a few years ago. Now we’re starting to see it [the market] mature a bit more. We’re seeing the propensity and the willingness to partner with small startups on larger solutions — permitting, licensing, things that really matter. But there’s still room for growth, so I’m really energized by the prospect that the startup space is starting to take bigger bites of the apple.”

    2. They can be more nimble

    Large, established companies often have large, established products in place. That means they come pre-tested — but it can also mean they’re not necessarily focused on whatever specific problem a government is trying to solve.

    “Some of the larger companies … come to the table thinking they already have your solution in mind. ‘Oh, we’re so-and-so, we’ve already figured it out. All you have to do is put all these massive sensors on every light bulb and you’ll have all the data you need to make all the analytic decisions,’” Pirnejad said.

    But even government at the most local level is a collection of varied activities. Pirnejad likened a city manager to a CEO of 10 different companies: One that handles transportation, one that deals in business, and so on. From department to department, and from city to city, the problems in need of solving will vary.

    That’s where a startup can be handy, he said. They tend to have a narrower focus, and if that focus aligns with a government’s need then it can mean a very pointed, effective solution.

    The agility of startups is evident in the way they’ve grown too. Ron Bouganim, managing partner of the venture capital GovTech Fund, said during the event that the companies in his portfolio have an average sales cycle of three days. Other investors at the event noted that some government-focused companies are attracting more follow-on investment and scaling up faster than their more corporate-focused peers.

    “The size of government lets you impact a lot of people’s lives quickly,” said Nate Levine, co-founder of OpenGov. “You think about how many companies out there are directly impacting tens, hundreds of millions, billions of people — very few. Maybe Apple, Microsoft. But we have an opportunity now working with over 1,000 cities to impact literally millions, tens of millions of Americans every day. And we were able to do that pretty quickly.”

    3. They can be more attentive

    Startups also tend to be more eager to work closely with customers, according to Rebecca Woodbury, senior management analyst for the city of San Rafael, Calif.

    “The startups I’m working with right now, I mean they’re just constantly hungry for more information,” Woodbury said. “Constantly — ‘Can I sit down with you for another 30 minutes to talk about this, let’s talk about email.’ I think what‘s great is finding vendors that are really willing to have that conversation with you. Because we’ll talk your ear off about pain points, but it’s just whether or not they’re willing to listen and then also whether they’re willing to … turn around a week later and say, ‘What if we did this?’ And having that responsiveness, being able to have that conversation and then see it turn into product improvements right away is really amazing.”

    For new companies looking to prove themselves to prospective clients, appeasing their government customers is a business proposition — improving the product or service is a path to scalability.

    Of course, the large technology companies that governments have traditionally worked with were once small too. So as the government technology market grows, and as governments latch onto startups providing nimble solutions, Pirnejad said he’s not sure whether some might start to lose their agility.

    “We’re gonna see how that plays out,” he said. “But the beauty about this new model is that government as a platform can change the different apps, if you will. The same way an iPhone works, governments are moving into that model. So when one app doesn’t work or serve the needs of their customers or constituents, they uninstall and install a new app. And I think the industry has to be prepared that the government will start making decisions quicker and changing vendors quicker.”

  • Washington's Chief Privacy Officer Tackles Issues In 3 Broad Categories
    Thu, 27 Oct 2016 01:30:00 PDT

    Midway through a discussion about data sharing, Washington state’s chief privacy officer (CPO) was asked if he finds himself having to put up a proverbial stop sign for new projects. “I don’t say ‘no,’ but ask ‘how?’” he replied.

    Alex Alben’s nuanced view of a vexing issue in government IT circles reflects both his experience with data and privacy and the level of intelligence needed to steer IT policy in today’s digitally rich world. Protecting privacy can’t involve knee-jerk reactions to what may seem like a potential conflict involving data. Too many of government’s digital services and operations require data that may touch in some way on a person’s identity. Rather than just say no, Alben tries to take a holistic view of the problem. “I want to enable new services that use data,” he said, “and I want to enable them in a way that is respectful of privacy.”

    Alben was appointed the state’s first CPO in April 2015, and in January 2016 an executive order was issued by Gov. Jay Inslee announcing the creation of a new Office of Privacy and Data Protection, which sits within the Office of the Chief Information Officer. While the CPO position is relatively new and is only one of a handful among states — four at last count — Alben is no stranger to privacy and technology.

    Alben has more than 20 years of experience working with tech firms, and was the general counsel of Starwave Corp. and served in senior management at RealNetworks Inc., where he also held the position of chief privacy officer, one of the first CPO jobs in the country. He has lectured on intellectual property, entrepreneurship and technology issues, and wrote a book, Analog Days — How Technology Rewrote Our Future. Alben is a graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School.

    State CIO Michael Cockrill calls Alben his unicorn. “How often can you find a Stanford Law graduate, with executive experience in private-sector IT, a published author, and [who will] come to do public service? It was a huge win for us.”

    Alben’s decision to come to work with Cockrill may be a huge win for Washington, but he arrives at a time when the conflicts between privacy and technology are escalating. In a report issued earlier this year, the Pew Research Center found 91 percent of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies. Americans also express a consistent lack of confidence about the security of everyday communications and the organizations that control them. These concerns come as state and local CIOs implement more sophisticated data sharing and analytics projects that continually raise questions about when and how data should be collected from citizens.


    Washington CIO Michael Cockrill (left) urged the governor to create the role of chief privacy officer in the state. Cockrill calls Alben his “unicorn.” Photo by Colin Wood

    While many states have had people involved with privacy issues for years, having a CPO reflects a new mindset within state government, according to Alben. “Washington is a tech leader among states in many respects, and the way to foster that kind of innovation means you need a point person on privacy,” he said.

    Alben said his role and responsibilities fall into three broad categories.

    First, there’s the internal focus, in which he looks at what state agencies are doing in respect to their privacy practices. This may involve Alben conducting privacy training for employees and annual reviews of privacy practices to get a baseline on what the state is doing overall, defining best practices and then advocating for them. “I see myself as a resource and a consultant to the people who work in the different agencies in areas that touch privacy,” he said.

    Second, Alben focuses on the new technologies that the state wants to deploy and looks at any privacy implications they may raise. These range from telematics in fleet vehicles, which can precisely track their location, to drones, police body cameras and other types of geo-located devices. “My role is to develop policy guidelines for state use of new technologies,” he explained. Alben also looks at consumer-facing bills and gives the governor and state Legislature advice on the privacy aspects of the legislation.

    Third, the CPO educates consumers on privacy. “People have very broad concerns, not just with the state, but with their own security and privacy, especially online privacy,” he said. One result has been the publication of a privacy guide for Washington state residents.

    Data and Privacy Are Global Issues

    Cockrill, who urged the governor to create a CPO position within the state, believes the high-level importance of privacy justifies having a C-level officer in charge of it. He pointed out that not only is privacy a state issue, but it also is a national and global issue as well. Washington also happens to have an advanced, tech-driven economy, whether it’s Microsoft, Amazon or Boeing, which builds some of the most technologically advanced jets in the world. Cockrill wants to be sure that the state government stays ahead on privacy and when it comes to policy. “Washington needs to take a leadership role [on this issue],” he said.

    To ensure everyone is on the same page, Alben works closely with the state CIO and Chief Information Security Officer Agnes Kirk. “I engage with all the issues; when it comes to security, we don’t view it as a separate discipline,” said Alben. “We view privacy as advancing security and security advancing the cause of privacy.”

    One of the advantages of having a CPO is the ability to look beyond the horizon. Privacy is an international topic, and Alben spends time looking at how privacy is playing out at the federal and global level. “Having to understand privacy on this scale is becoming more of a reality as data flows across state and national borders, thanks to cloud computing,” he said. “Having someone in the state aware of national and international law around privacy is important to the role of CPO.”

    Cockrill acknowledges that having a CPO at the table has tended to raise more issues than would have been discussed before. But the extra scrutiny by Alben is a big benefit in the long run. “In the past, when we weren’t dealing with those issues, they were problems that hadn’t risen to the surface yet,” he said. Eventually the problems that Alben spots early on would be dealt with. “But it’s better to have an opportunity to deal with them early in the process, rather than later when they could be more of a problem.”

    Having a seasoned executive with lots of experience dealing with privacy issues in the private sector means the issues he raises are significant. “But Alex can handle them,” added Cockrill.

    Alben prefers to view his position more as an innovator than privacy watchdog. He mentions the good that comes out of analytics, making it important that he help agencies navigate their way into these new areas of technology while ensuring privacy practices and policies are followed.

    “We really live in a new world, and the solutions that worked in the filing-cabinet era are not working today,” said Alben. “They are not scaling to the volume of data we are collecting and processing. It’s this kind of challenge that makes it such an exciting time to be working in this space.”

  • 3 Ways Cities Are Using Tech to Solve the Problems of Tomorrow
    Wed, 26 Oct 2016 08:30:00 PDT

    Always a vocal proponent for making cities smarter by adopting new technology, Bloomberg Philanthropies co-hosted the two-day CityLab 2016 conference from Oct. 24-25 in Miami, where world leaders from both public and private sectors gathered to discuss pressing global issues — and how technology can help to solve them. Strategies on combating Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases, and proactively using data and technology to avoid a Flint-esque water crisis were just a few high-profile topics on the agenda.

    To kick things off, Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former mayor of New York City, spoke about the incredible potential of autonomous vehicles (AV), the sharing economy and the role cities play in shaping the future.

    “It makes sense for mayors to lead the way on these issues,” Bloomberg said, referencing the influx of AVs into urban landscapes. “Mayors are less weighted down by politics and ideology than the state and national governments. In the end, mayors are the ones held most directly accountable for people’s well-being.”

    So how will urban centers lead technology adoption for years to come? Here are three areas in which cities are taking the first steps in creating a better environment for tech to flourish.

    1. Treating Autonomous Vehicles as a Public Health Crisis

    The impacts autonomous vehicles could have on cities are many and varied — but cities are truly driving the AV conversation (pun intended), regarding autonomous vehicles, said Seleta Reynolds, general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, who also warned that cities must start taking AV technology seriously immediately.

    And the reason is clear: Traffic fatalities are seen as a public health crisis, according to Edward Humes, author of Door to Door, a book exploring the hidden costs of our transportation system. Humes said during the event that such fatalities attributed to more death than “the yearly war dead during each Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, the War of 1812 and the American Revolution.”

    AV Acceleration

    On day one of the conference, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute announced that the two will galvanize experts and data to accelerate 5 cities’ planning efforts for autonomous vehicles.

    According to Michael Bloomberg, these cities are led by mayors “who understand the potential for autonomous vehicles to transform their cities.”

    The five cities are:

    Austin, Texas; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Los Angeles; Paris; and Nashville, Tenn.

    These cities — along with five more that will be announced later this year — will work to produce a set of principles and tools for other cities to follow in creating self-driving vehicle policies.

    “The advent of autonomous cars is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to cities,” Bloomberg said. “If mayors collaborate with one another, and with partners in the private sector, they can improve people’s lives in ways we can only imagine today.”

    Therefore, we can look at the adoption of AVs as similar to the introduction of other public safety measures, such as the seat belt, airbag or child car seats.

    Reynolds noted that within five years, there may be a measure regulating some sort of communication between vehicles and infrastructure. New cars equipped with driverless technology are able to use sensors built into the vehicle, but older models may require a some sort of Bluetooth-enabled device.

    And Reynolds said there are two major public policies to keep in mind when preparing for the future of mobility:

    1. Keeping revenue streams steady despite the shrinking gas tax and expected loss of funds from traffic citations; and

    2. The re-envisioning of public transportation. Private vehicle ownership is already decreasing in many urban centers, so if cities can get out in front of AV technology, a fully integrated transit system could feature shared vehicles.

    2. ‘Making Infrastructure Sexy’

    Can data and technology prevent another "Flint"? Karen Weaver, mayor of the Michigan city, was joined by Syracuse, N.Y., Mayor Stephanie Miner to discuss just that.

    "I don't like to say, 'Use me,'” Weaver said, "but if you don’t use Flint as an example, then shame on you.”

    Mayor Weaver described how the city was subjected to contaminated water poisoning its citizens as the perfect storm of regulatory failures.

    Miner has taken Weaver's advice: Syracuse is working with Bloomberg Philanthropies to outfit underground water mains with sensors that can detect when a leak may occur and how severe a leak may be.

    Even though infrastructure and its maintenance aren't typically issues that garner press coverage or goodwill from citizens, it's those small things that need to be kept up for long-term success, Miner said. “I like to say we made infrastructure sexy,” she added.

    And even though the water crisis in Flint was a tragedy, Weaver used the situation to look for opportunities. While replacing water mains, for instance, city officials are looking at what else can be tackled at the same time. “Since we are going in and tearing up streets," Weaver said, "can we do broadband?”

    3. Utilizing Smart Crowdsourcing

    One of the growing crises during 2016 is the Zika virus. Legislatures have proven to be ineffectual at providing funding for states to combat the disease, so Beth Simone Noveck and her team at the GovLab decided to rethink their strategy.

    The Zika virus has spread to more than 50 countries, and to effectively stop its spread, the most knowledgeable people must have open communication — which is exactly what the GovLab is trying to do. In a multinational effort dubbed "Smart Crowdsourcing," Noveck has teamed up with public health departments, waste management companies,  and representatives from Argentina, Panamá, Río de Janeiro and Colombia.

    By essentially setting up an international conference call, experts from around the globe broke down the spread of Zika into 15 subcategories, one of which included standing water in which mosquitos easily breed.

    Breaking down large issues is crucial to defining the problem, as is using experts to curate the relevant information to then collaborate on a tangible solution.

    “Nobody has said no to participating," Noveck said, "and now we are seeing everyone saying, 'How can we continue to help?”

  • Granicus Merges with GovDelivery
    Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:00:00 PDT

    Two of the largest cloud-based companies in the government technology market, GovDelivery and Granicus, have merged into a single firm.

    The deal, brought about through the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, is a major one for the market — the companies each serve more than 1,000 government entities at the federal, state and local levels in the U.S. Vista disclosed a $153 million price tag on its stake in GovDelivery. While it didn't list the size of its investment in Granicus, GovDelivery CEO Scott Burns told Government Technology that Granicus is about the same financial size as GovDelivery.

    GovDelivery focuses on citizen-facing messaging services, while Granicus is known for live-streaming government meetings and managing documents such as agendas and legislation.

    Burns also told Government Technology that he thinks those services fit very well together. In fact, he said, about 100 governments already use both companies.

    “GovDelivery already drives a lot of traffic to online content that’s hosted in Granicus,” he said. “We already do that today, so citizens are already seeing [this].”

    Burns, as well as Vista Operating Principal Bret Bolin, described the merger as a long-term growth move in a fast-moving space. Both companies are around 15 years old and are firmly planted in cloud solutions — exactly where Bolin thinks government is headed.

    “In corporate as well as government, the ability to move fast and have agile platforms that create market value makes sense,” he said. “And even as you think about security in the construct of cyberthreats, platforms that are FedRAMP compliant, provide a … safer approach.”

    Bolin said there’s no definitive timeline for how long Vista will hold onto the newly combined company, nor are there specific revenue goals. Rather, Vista simply looks to add value to its investments and expand the capabilities of its portfolio companies.

    And indeed, Vista Equity’s website shows a broad range for the amount of time it tends to keep control of its investments. Among 21 previous portfolio companies that Vista has held since 2000, it has invested in some for as little as a year and as long as 12 years. But the average time between buying and selling its stake in the companies was four years and nine months. 

    A common theme in private equity investment — in which investing firms seek to quickly accelerate companies’ growth, often through merging them with other companies — is trying to achieve efficiencies where merging companies overlap.

    But Burns doesn’t see the deal resulting in any staffing cuts. To the contrary, he sees an opportunity to hire more people, or possibly even to acquire more companies.

    “The plan is to take advantage of the skills on both teams and to expand teams where it makes sense,” he said. “So our expectations are that the people who are here today are here tomorrow.”

    One detail that isn’t worked out quite yet is what name the company will take on. Burns said both companies have well established brands, and he expects the branding efforts of each company to continue. But leadership is still mulling over what the name of the combined business will be.

    In the meantime, the deal provides some easy opportunities for organic growth. Beyond the 100 or so shared customers, each company has more than 1,000 unique government clients. That represents a cross-selling opportunity.

    But first, Burns wants to start working to really improve the way the two services work together. That will happen in places like Oakland, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., which are already customers of both GovDelivery and Granicus.

    “We’d love for clients that are overlapping between the services to, for starters, just make sure that they’re really using the services well together,” he said. “What’s happening now is — for some of the people who are using the services together it’s incidental, and we’d love to make sure it’s more intentional.”

    In Oakland, City Clerk LaTonda Simmons has spearheaded many technology implementations to engage citizens, and says the two companies merging is surrounded with excitement.

    “The City of Oakland — with the citizen interest that we have in our legislative process, along with our own commitment to advancing transparency and citizen engagement — sees this as an amazing partnership,” Simmons said in a press release. “It [the merger] will continue to help us mobilize interest in a number of areas, most notably the decision-making process. You can appreciate not just being able to advance awareness, but more importantly effectively drive more citizens to participate in those decisions that affect the quality of their lives.”

    For Burns, the move represents a long-awaited victory. He has been trying, on and off, to merge his company with Granicus for more than a decade.

    “I’ve been a fan of Granicus since 2005," he said, "and I was meeting with the company multiple times a year until 2012 when they were bought the last time."

    The acquisition of the two companies, as well as their merger, is part of a larger stirring in the government technology market. Just among the 100 companies in this space that Government Technology highlighted last year, the total capital raised in 2016 has amounted to about $186 million. 

    Burns is optimistic that the trend will only continue.

    “I hope that this deal drives more capital and investment into this space and the public sector,” Burns said. “Because while it takes a long time, the [value] you’re able to achieve is amazing.”

  • Data Sharing and the Death of Government Silos
    Mon, 24 Oct 2016 10:00:00 PDT

    Sharing data across major programs is evidence cited by Minnesota CIO Tom Baden that traditional government silos are starting to break down. At the annual NASCIO conference last month in Orlando, Baden talked about how data analytics is helping the process along. He calls the phenomenon a "major inflection point for government."

    According to Baden, there's reason to be optimistic. Asked whether data analytics technologies have lived up to the transformational hype that was promised, Baden told Government Technology: "I don't think we've scratched the surface of the possibilities yet."

  • How Analytics Can Transform Government
    Fri, 21 Oct 2016 01:00:00 PDT

    Appointed in 2011 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Stu Davis is currently one of the longest-serving chief information officers at the state level. Like many of his colleagues, he points to data analytics as a key tool in streamlining government and dramatically changing the way services are delivered.

    At the NASCIO Annual Conference held in Orlando last month, Davis reflected on the potential of the technology: "From my vantage point, I think that data analytics is probably the most disruptive thing that we're going to see in my career."

  • 4 Developing Technologies that Could Help Solve Modern Problems
    Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:30:00 PDT

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Covering technology trends for more than 30 years can leave you a bit jaded about what might be considered new, cool and transformative. Too often, what is considered innovative can be a solution that ends up benefiting only small portion of the population that can afford it, while its actual impact might best be described as superficial.

    But the Emtech Conference on Oct. 18-19 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab was a refreshing reminder that technology can both dazzle and impress, and be used to help solve modern problems, such as inclusion, climate change and health care. More importantly, the takeaway from the conference is that technology, when conceived and applied in a meaningful way, can improve the lives of many people, some of whom are far removed from our modern digital society.   That’s important, because if technology is going to avoid the kind of negative feedback that can slow its adoption (e.g., robotics and artificial intelligence are job-killing technologies), it needs to benefit a broad segment of the world’s population. Fortunately, some brilliant men and women, young and old, are looking at developing and applying different types of technology in fundamentally new ways. Here are four highlights from Emtech: 1. Robotics

    Imagine a robotic device assisting a disabled or elderly person by handing them a glass of water so they can take their medication or bringing them utensils so they can eat their meal. It could happen soon, but first scientists have to figure out the problem of manipulation: identifying an object and then picking it up, said Stefanie Tellex of Brown University, who is working on robots that can help people.

    “The problem right now," she said, "is that most robots can’t pick up most objects most of the time."

    That’s because human environments are tremendously complex. The solution is to develop computer vision so that robots can both recall what an object is and then pick it up with precision. To do that, Tellex is crowdsourcing more than 400 robots, known as Baxters, currently used in research, to practice picking up a variety of objects. The visual information that is captured during the learning process will allow other robots to learn more rapidly what an object is (a ruler? a fork? a glass?) and pick it up correctly.


    Teaching robots how to pick up everyday objects is a complex task, according to Stefanie Tellex of Brown University. Photo by David Kidd.

    Robotics could also be a tremendous help to first responders, entering structures too unsafe for humans. Sangbae Kim, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, showed a clip of the interior of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant shortly after the earthquake hit in 2011. Because of the high levels of radiation, workers couldn’t get inside and stem the radiation leaks and mitigate the damage. But the right kind of robot could have worked its way through the rubble and get to the source of the leaks.

    The robot that Kim has in mind is based on “bio-mimicry” and has the ability to traverse uneven terrain under its own propulsion. In other words, a robot that can mimic human- or animal-like motions, able to walk or even run.

    “It will be a robot that can go where humans cannot or should not go," he said, "surpassing the capabilities of humans in dangerous locations."

    While Kim has developed some prototypes that can walk, jump and even run, building an autonomous robot that can precisely mimic human action is still a way off.

    2. Gene Therapy

    The human body has 6.4 billion genetic codes. A change in one can create a disease. So far, medical science has identified about 5,000 diseases based on genetic defects that afflict millions of people. The question more scientists are asking these days is, “why can’t we edit the genetic code to fix the disease?” said Nessan Bermingham, chief executive officer and founder of Intellia Therapeutics. 

    The answer to “why” is beginning to turn into “how” — and more recently “when” as new breakthroughs make it possible for scientists to edit certain genes at the cellular level and to slow down, stop and possibly reverse some genetic illnesses, according to Bermingham. Already, scientists have figured out how to edit a gene by insertion, deletion or repair, by taking certain cells out of the body, changing them and then returning them to the body. 


    Gene therapy has become a promising strategy to fight cancer, said Marcela Maus, director of Cellular Immunotherapy at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Photo by David Kidd

    Gene editing is cutting edge, but it’s also still experimental. While scientists can change a single gene, the next goal is to tackle more complex changes in the genome of the human body. Clinical trials involving humans could start in 2018.

    Another form of gene therapy involves special kinds of cells, known as T Cells, that can attack and kill unhealthy cancer cells, according to Marcela Maus, director of Cellular Immunotherapy at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. By combining computer technology with immunotherapy, Maus and others have figured out how to enhance T cells so they can attack and reverse the effects of certain cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma. 

    Will cancer eventually be cured? “Some cancers might be cured,” said Maus, “but it’s hard to say all cancers will be cured. We need to continue working at combining gene editing and immunotheraphy.”

    3. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

    Hard to believe, but nearly 4 billion people on the globe do not have access to the Internet. The barriers are threefold: lack of infrastructure, lack of affordability and lack of necessity. Facebook, which already has 1.7 billion monthly active users, wants to bring down at least two of those barriers, according to Yael Maguire, who works at the Facebook Connectivity Lab.

    It starts by mapping where the unconnected (and those who are connected at very low speeds) live. Facebook is using machine learning tools to create maps with good resolution to identify the location of unconnected communities and how many live there. So far, the company has identified at least 1.6 billion people who live outside the range of mobile networks. 

    Now the company is in the process of constructing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to bring digital infrastructure to some of the most remote parts of the world. The company wants its Aquila drone to become the next communications network in the stratosphere. Aquila is a solar-powered UAV, which Maguire referred to as a high-altitude platform that will eventually fly for months at a time, providing Internet connectivity to rural locations at low cost. Facebook must first figure out, however, how to keep such a large drone up in the air for long periods where the atmosphere is extremely thin. Getting Aquila into full production is years out, Maguire conceded.


    Yael Maguire with Facebook’s Connectivity Lab explained how his company hopes to bring connectivity to more than 4 billion people around the globe who lack Internet access. Photo by David Kidd

    The company is also working on ways to bring low-cost connectivity to urban environments in developing countries. The project known as Terragraph will fill a city with small nodes capable of providing high-volume connectivity at low cost.

    The secret to Terragraph’s potential is its use of the so-called V-band, an unlicensed radio spectrum that has been ignored by most carriers up to now because of interference from oxygen and water. By saturating an area with numerous nodes, Facebook believes it can overcome the limitations of the V-band and open it up to use in urban locations where fiber or cable connectivity is too expensive and existing mobile networks are too limited.

    4. Artificial intelligence

    Can a computer describe what it sees? Thanks to deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, computers are beginning to learn how to define what’s in an image. Russ Salakhutdinov, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, provided examples of where a computer not only recognized a cat in a photograph, but was able to add more information, such as the box the cat was in and the color of the pet. 


    The next challenge for artificial intelligence is multimodal learning: the ability to train computers to describe what they see and to provide coherent feedback on the words, sentences and books they read, according to Russ Salakutdinov of Carnegie Mellon University. Photo by David Kidd

    For humans, such recognition might seem simple; for computers, this kind of image understanding, called “multimodal learning” is a breakthrough, according to Salakhutdinov. The goal is to have computers extract knowledge from just a small number of images and learn how to tell different stories based on the image. For example, Salakhutdinov showed a photo of a duck swimming on water, with a reflection of the duck on the water. But the computer saw two ducks. Trying to teach computers a task such as image recognition in a way that can be done accurately and fast is incredibly difficult. 

    But Silicon Valley sees deep learning as the future for AI; companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on AI labs and are in a bit of recruiting arms race for the best minds — like Salakhutdinov. When he was introduced to the audience at Emtech, the moderator announced that the scientist had just taken a job at Apple to help with their deep learning projects. Salakhutdinov would not say what those projects involved, but according to a recent tweet, he will serve as Apple's director of AI research.

  • 3 Concerns Automakers Have With California’s Autonomous Vehicle Regulations
    Thu, 20 Oct 2016 03:20:00 PDT

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nearly 200 local government officials, federal transportation policymakers and private industry representatives gathered in the California Capitol building on Oct. 19 to comment on and share concerns about recent revisions, released in late September, to the California Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) draft guidelines for the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the state.

    “The goal is to get this type of life-saving technology on the streets as soon it can be,” said DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet. “But also, to make sure that it is done in a safe manner.”

    Over the last several years, the DMV has taken a collaborative approach, working with manufacturers, consumers, public interest groups, the disabled community, local agencies, academic/research institutions and other stakeholders.

    However, many at the hearing were still not pleased with the latest revisions. The concerns generate primarily from the discrepancies between the federal policy released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the DMV draft regulation. Also at issue is that the revisions would require companies to “self-certify” that their vehicles meet both federal vehicle safety standards and NHTSA’s guidelines for autonomous vehicles.

    Many of the speakers who addressed the panel represented automakers and trade groups, and their concerns with the DMV's guidelines generally fell within three particular areas.

    1. Data-Sharing

    A lot of confusion surrounds how much data and what type of data must be disclosed.

    The federal policy states that a data-recording and data-sharing policy should be worked out with relevant standards-creating bodies in order to hasten the process of deployment. California's draft regulations, however, require manufacturers to equip the vehicles with data recorders and release the data within 24 hours to law enforcement agencies.

    The primary understanding is that sharing data will help manufacturers to understand mistakes made by other developers. By sharing information on collisions, sudden braking and acceleration, for instance, there will be a reduction in errors that cause such mistakes.

    “Data sharing is an essential component,” said Jennifer Cohen of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “Crash and disengagement data must be shared with local municipalities and with the state.”

    But a potential fear among AV developers is that this data could become public record and reveal information about how to operate and program a self-driving vehicle. This could create competitive disadvantages for California manufacturers.

    “Regulations that require manufacturers to describe how they achieve their results is tantamount to forced disclosure of intellectual property and trade secrets,” said Peter Leroe-Muñoz, vice president for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, whose sentiments were echoed by representatives from General Motors and Audi.

    2. Municipal Permits

    Another point of contention was the requirement that any AV testing must receive municipal permits or specific ordinances allowing the experiment. The draft regulations maintain that any testing of vehicles without a human driver present can only be done with the explicit consent of the local community in the form of an ordinance or resolution.

    But this creates an unnecessary amount of red tape that hinders the deployment of autonomous vehicles, explained Ron Medford, safety director for Google's self-driving car.

    “Having three layers of government overseeing the testing of self-driving cars,” he said, “could create a patchwork of regulations.”

    3. Mandatory 15-Point Safety Checklist

    Perhaps the most common concern voiced was fear that the DMV has effectively mandated the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 15-step safety self-checklist. The NHTSA policy clearly states that the checklist, which the administration refers to as the "Guidance," is not mandatory, "and is not intended for States to codify as legal requirements for the development, design, manufacture, testing, and operation of automated vehicles.”

    Federal Safety Self-Checklist Data Recording and Sharing Privacy System Safety Vehicle Cybersecurity Human Machine Interface Crashworthiness Consumer Education and Training Registration and Certification Post-Crash Behavior Federal, State and Local Laws Ethical Considerations Operational Design Domain Object and Event Detection and Response Fall Back (Minimal Risk Condition) Validation Methods

    The federal policy suggests that manufacturers submit a "self-check" letter to state and federal agencies signaling that it passed all of the tests, but does not require this.

    The DMV drafted rules, however, state that the manufacturers must submit a safety assessment letter explaining how it performs in relation to the aforementioned test. By requiring this letter, many automotive representatives argue that the DMV has effectively mandated the voluntary guidelines. If adopted in its current form, the DMV regulations run contrary to the NHTSA goal of having its policy and rules be a flexible, living document.

    The panel committed to taking concerns raised into consideration before releasing finalized regulations, and DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said that together, through collaboration, the department will be able to get the final guidelines right the first time around.

    The CA DMV draft regulations can be viewed here (PDF). The NHTSA AV policy can be viewed here (PDF).

  • Need for FirstNet Greater Than Ever, First Responders Say
    Wed, 19 Oct 2016 11:54:00 PDT

    The government organization charged with building the nation’s first high-speed data network for first responders says it will make its first contract award soon. It will likely happen in November, although no firm date is set.

    With an award on the $7 billion First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) program potentially just weeks away, first responders say that despite years of planning, they still have more questions than answers when it comes to the future LTE communications backbone.

    “How will this thing be deployed? What are the subscriber fees going to be? What will be the impact will be on the local budget? How will the network be controlled?” said Yucel Ors, federal advocacy program director for public safety at the National League of Cities. “There are a lot of unknowns still.”

    Officially no one even knows who is in the running. FirstNet won’t release the names of bidders, under the rules of the federal procurement process. Unofficially, three groups say they have put their hat in the ring: AT&T, Rivada Mercury and pdvWireless.

    This alone is noteworthy. When the FCC auctioned public safety spectrum in 2008 it failed to receive a single viable proposal. Many wondered whether the 2016 procurement effort would draw credible attention from potential network builders. It has.

    FirstNet won’t comment on the pending award. Officials won’t say whether they are considering a multi-vendor play or if they plan to give the project to a single team. What they will talk about is the process that has been going on during the evaluation period — a process of relationship-building with the states and emergency response agencies who will eventually implement FirstNet.

    “The consultation and outreach this year has been really intense," said Teri Takai, a member of the FirstNet Board of Directors and senior adviser at the Center for Digital Government (a division of Government Technology's parent company, e.Republic). "Initially it was very much focused on state and tribal agencies, but this year there has also been more activity to involve local first responders."

    Conversations have been especially active in Las Vegas, San Diego, Boston, Kansas City, Mo., and Los Angeles, as well as in other cities where FirstNet officials have solicited direction on the eventual form and function of the network. “We have been diligent about collecting input from first responders,” Takai added. “The genesis of FirstNet was from the public safety community. They were the ones who came together as the catalyst for the original legislation.”

    Members of the public safety community say they remain eager to see FirstNet implemented. Despite what feels to some like a prolonged process, they say the need for such a network is greater than ever.

    “Every incident that public safety responds to can be shown to have benefited from a reliable, public safety network like FirstNet,” said Ray Lehr, former assistant chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department and Maryland’s former designated FirstNet single point of contact (SPOC), who noted that the recent flooding in the southeast brought many first responders from as far away as New York to assist in rescue and recovery. "Communications were a challenge because commercial networks are not reliable. To communicate, first responders needed to bring their own network equipment and determine the best way to connect with local agencies.”

    Born in the wake of 9/11, when interoperability problems hampered first responders, FirstNet was conceived to address just these kinds of issues. Early efforts have shown that the vision of first responders who can readily share data even during times of high-volume communication can be achieved.

    FirstNet designated several “early builder” cities to demonstrate the potential for high-speed, interoperable data networks.

    The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS), for example, pulled off a successful demonstration at the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. During the course of an event that drew hundreds of thousands of spectators, LA-RICS forged a communications network across more than 120 law enforcement, security, crowd control and emergency response personnel.

    New Jersey’s emergency broadband authority, called JerseyNet, scored a similar win, delivering critical communications capabilities during a Papal visit to Philadelphia in September 2015. That network delivered secure communications and live streaming security video via two system-on-wheels (SOW) trailers positioned in the upper levels of parking garages. JerseyNet also helped the Atlantic City Police Department provide video, voice and radio communications for two major concerts — Maroon 5 and Rascal Flatts — with a combined audience of nearly 100,000 fans.

    Such undertakings suggest the principles behind FirstNet are sound, and yet there has been skepticism raised, most notably in The Atlantic, which published a highly critical article that referred to the proposed FirstNet architecture as “obsolete.”

    Experts take issue with that characterization. “I expect the network to provide first responders with better coverage, capacity, priority and preemption all at a better cost,” said Robert LeGrande, founder of The Digital Decision consulting firm, referring to the mechanism whereby it can be assured that emergency traffics takes precedence on the new network. It’s a major concern among the emergency community and, until the award is made, no one knows for sure how FirstNet plans to get there.

    But LeGrand consulted early on in the legislation that created FirstNet, and in his mind, "the probability of achieving these goals has increased substantially,” he said.

    LeGrand points to the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) as solid evidence that FirstNet remains on track. Through that program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has doled out $116.5 million in grants to 54 U.S. states and territories to help identify needs, gaps and priorities for public safety wireless broadband. 

    Minnesota, for instance, received $2.3 million in SLIGP funding to update its Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan. Nebraska got $1.5 million toward that same task and Louisiana drew $1.9 million. Such funding has helped ensure FirstNet will respond to the practical needs of the emergency community, LeGrande said.

    As may be expected, the bidders likewise decry The Atlantic article. Declan Ganley calls it “ridiculous.” He’s CEO of Rivada Networks and co-CEO of the Rivada Mercury coalition, which includes Ericsson, Nokia and Intel Security, along with IT contractor Harris Corp., backhaul provider Fujitsu Network Communications and telecom construction firm Black & Veatch.

    “The suggestion that public safety has better alternatives with existing solutions is patent nonsense," he said. "In terms of coverage and capability and speed, the reliability and the resilience of the network, all of those things are addressed very well in that [FirstNet bid solicitation]."

    The devil is in the details, of course, and so far those details have not been forthcoming. While public safety won’t get the answers it wants until the award is announced, FirstNet officials do want to be clear that at least they have heard the questions.

    “They are concerned about what the cost is going to be to them. They want to know we are making sure there is consistent coverage around the country," Takai said. "Those things have been there from the very beginning."

    Once award is made, FirstNet will deliver state plans to the governors. The states (specifically the governors) will either accept the FirstNet plan for deployment, or opt out and plan their radio access network that is interoperable with the nationwide network. Either way, state officials will face a massive undertaking, and success will require broad buy-in.

    “It is important that all the decision-makers be engaged, and that includes legislators and the governors’ offices. On the local level that includes commissioners and councilors," said Takai. "Everyone needs to be part of the education process."

  • States Feel Pressure to Comply With Real ID as Stiff Consequences Loom on Horizon
    Tue, 18 Oct 2016 12:30:00 PDT

    A looming federal mandate continues to put states on edge and threatens to further complicate air travel in the United States.

    The so-called Real ID Act was passed in 2005 as part of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations for more consistent identification standards, but implementation of the stricter rules — which includes incorporating anti-counterfeit technology into the card — has been anything but straightforward.

    Distilled down to its simplest form, the law means that people living in states that have not met federal identification standards will not be able to use their existing drivers' licenses to pass through airport security checkpoints or enter certain federal facilities.

    Even in cases of domestic travel, citizens would need to present a compliant form of identification, also known as an enhanced driver’s license, a passport or other Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-approved documents — anything less would be turned away after the Jan. 22, 2018 deadline.

    States like Alaska, California, Oregon and Virginia, have pushed back on the interim deadlines and have filed and been granted a limited extension, but as Oregon DMV Administrator Thomas McClellan explained, meeting the requirements is not as simple as changing the state’s identification methods.

    “States are at different points in achieving compliance, and there aren’t just one or two provisions that states are encountering as barriers," he told Government Technology via email. "The [Department of Homeland Security (DHS)] has indicated there are 42 provisions in Real ID, although there are well over 100 requirements when all the subsections and regulations are considered."

    And a state doesn’t really find out its status — whether all requirements are met — until it's submitted a compliance package with documentation of issuance processes, card and physical security features, and system capabilities, McClellan said. 

    "We’ve told our legislature that the elements fall into three main categories: security of the physical card; reliability of the information on the card; and security of DMV and its contractors," which he said includes physical facilities and personnel. "The state agencies share some of their findings and revelations from DHS, but it’s mostly kept private between the state and the federal agency."

    On the balance, Oregon faces the possibility of roughly 2.8 million license holders being affected by the changes. For California, that number increases almost ninefold to affect roughly 25 million document holders, according to documents supplied by McClellan.     

    On Oct. 17, the state was granted a partial-year extension until June 2017 — but that extra time does not solve problems like funding for the changes or the direct affront to the state’s own constitutional documents. 

    “The provision that is most problematic for Oregon is the requirement that we collect and retain copies of applicants’ identity and legal presence documents. This can be in paper files, microfiche or digital images ... but the real question is why a state motor vehicle agency would need these records and retain them for seven to 10 years,” McClellan said. “Presumably, this is for law enforcement investigative purposes ... which in some states is a function for which [driver's license/identification] fee revenues cannot be used to finance.”

    And despite the fact that the DHS — the TSA's parent agency — is leading the charge for the new ID standards, they aren’t about to pay for it. 

    McClellan said the unfunded costs associated with re-enrolling and issuing of state identification poses a real concern for states facing down these rules. He said California officials have voiced this issue as a major concern.

    California officials declined to speak about their concerns, but told Government Technology via email that the DMV "has been working diligently to comply with federal Real ID Act requirements. The Department of Homeland Security granted the DMV an extension for Real ID compliance through June 6, 2017.”

    While Oregon and California are clearly struggling, the situation is more dire in states like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina, where the DHS issued warnings state that it would deny any further extension requests, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

    This would mean residents of the state would be unable to pass through airport security as early as January 2018. 

    Though officials from the Virginia DMV were unavailable to discuss their state's progress on Real ID, spokesperson Brandy Brubaker told Government Technology that residents of the state will experience no immediate interruptions to their travel plans or access to federal facilities, and that DMV officials would be maintaining communication with DHS moving forward.  

    “… We are pleased Virginians will experience no interruption in access to federal facilities or commercial flights until at least June 6, 2017. We are requesting a meeting soon with DHS to further discuss Virginia’s efforts toward meeting the requirements of the Act.”

  • Can Security Awareness Training Change Behavior and Reduce Risk?
    Mon, 17 Oct 2016 12:30:00 PDT

    In 2014, a Durham, N.H., police officer opened what she thought was a digital fax attached to an email about an investigation she was working on. Earlier this year, an employee at the Lansing Board of Water and Light in Michigan opened what seemed to be a legitimate email attachment. In both cases, the government employees were victims of a type of phishing attack known as ransomware, which encrypted the victims’ computer files and sent them a digital ransom note, demanding money to decrypt them. Both agencies were able to resolve the issue without paying any ransom, but not before dealing with a costly cleanup.

    State and local governments continue to be victims of data breaches and cyberattacks, with unauthorized access to files and data as the most persistent problem, according to IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security

    Intelligence Index. And the attacks are becoming more frequent. In 2015, government joined the ranks of four other industries — health care, manufacturing, financial services and transportation — as the most frequently attacked sector in the world, according to the report. 

    Despite investments in intrusion detection software, firewalls and a host of other cybersecurity tools, attacks, breaches and extortions continue to plague states and localities. A chief reason why security fails is the human factor, say experts. “Over 95 percent of all incidents investigated recognize ‘human error’ as a contributing factor,” according to a 2014 analysis of cyberattacks from IBM’s worldwide security services operations. “The most commonly recorded forms of human error include system misconfiguration, poor patch management, use of default user names and passwords or easy-to-guess passwords, lost laptops or mobile devices, and disclosure of regulated information via use of an incorrect email address.”

    Thanks to personal information available on the Internet and via social media, hackers and data thieves have become extremely sophisticated at sending what look like emails from colleagues or businesses with the goal of gaining victims’ trust and having them open an attachment or click on a link that installs malicious software on a government agency’s server. The technique is called social engineering, and over the past three years, most major cyberattacks on U.S. corporations have included it, according to The Washington Post.

    CIOs and CISOs in both the public and private sectors realize that human error is perhaps the biggest weakness in any information security program. Not surprisingly, a fast-growing business has sprung up to deal with changing human behavior. Called security awareness training, the aim is to condition employees not to click or open anything that looks remotely suspicious.

    Michael Roling, CISO of Missouri, reported that every tax season, the state’s email system sees a spike in W-2 phishing campaigns. “They go through the roof,” he said. Data thieves, hoping to gain a crucial bit of personal information that can be used to file fraudulent tax returns, try to trick employees into sharing information. “Sometimes the only thing that is suspicious might be a misspelled name,” said Roling.

    Michael Roling, chief information security officer, Missouri. Photo by David Kidd.

    Since 2009, Missouri has used awareness programs to train employees what to look for in a suspicious email, how to work with two-factor authentication or how to create strong passwords. The initial programs weren’t that effective, according to Roling, but recently the state switched to its latest training program, an online service from Security Mentor. Roling described it as more educational than past efforts, as well as interactive and consumable.

    Security Mentor is one of a burgeoning number of firms that specialize in awareness training. It’s a business worth $1 billion a year and growing 13 percent annually, according to Gartner, the technology research firm. Other firms in the market include the SANS Institute, MediaPro, Wombat Security, Digital Defense and BeOne Development, to name just a few.

    Missouri’s program is delivered online monthly and is taken by 40,000 end users in 14 state agencies. Each lesson lasts 10 to 15 minutes and covers a specific security issue. In addition to explaining about phishing, authentication and passwords, the program also teaches employees about physical security, data loss prevention, what’s acceptable to send over the state network and even how to keep data secure while traveling. “The program also includes games and puzzles to keep it interactive,” Roling said.

    The awareness program costs the state $4.68 per user, per year, but it’s well worth the investment, according to Roling. “The effectiveness of employee awareness training is so high that it would be one of the last things to go if we had to cut,” he said. “Not only does it raise awareness, it keeps the security culture alive that we struggled to get going five years ago. Even cabinet-level officers have to take the training.”

    Unlike security training, which focuses on teaching employees and testing their knowledge on a set of rules, awareness training focuses on changing human behavior and making security part of the workplace culture. “It’s all about changing behavior as it is about actual security training,” said Lea Deesing, chief innovation officer of Riverside, Calif. “Awareness is key because it’s the users who can put the integrity of our network at risk.”

    Riverside used to perform awareness training as a classroom exercise, but this year the city began using an online program from the SANS Institute called Securing the Human. The training is now mandatory; if employees don’t take and complete the one- to two-hour course within the designated time frame, they are locked out of the city’s network. The training is modular and can be tailored to the type of data the employee works with, such as legal documents or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act forms, for example. Deesing described the training as interactive, and should an employee fail the short test at the end of the course, he or she must take it over again.

    Exposed: The Stupid Things Workers Do

    13%
    let their colleagues use a device that can access their employer’s network; 9 percent allow their partners to access such a device.

    20%
    of employees share their work email password; 12 percent share passwords to other work applications. Nearly half of all employees are unaware of any company policy around password sharing.

    One in five
    employees do not have any security software on their mobile work devices, beyond what ships with the operating system.

    Source: InformationWeek; research conducted by Arlington Research in 2016 on behalf of OneLogin

    Another program is Managed Online Awareness Training from Awareity, which is used by Loudoun County, Va. Wendy Wickens, the county’s IT director, said all employees must take the training once a year; the session lasts 30 to 90 minutes and is also interactive, with videos, test questions and a review of the county’s security policies. The program costs $39,000.

    Along with awareness training, the county has ratcheted up security by turning off employee access to personal email on the county’s network. “That has drastically reduced the instances of ransomware, which has become rampant,” said Wickens. However, the county offers public Wi-Fi (separate from the county network) to employees who have a personal device and want to access personal email when they’re not working. “Since we instituted that policy, we haven’t seen any instance of ransomware [on the county network], which is significant,” she said.

    Not all state or local governments are investing in cloud-based awareness training programs from third parties. In Prince George’s County, Md., the 6,500 government employees receive their awareness education through a custom learning management solution that has been crafted by the county, according to CIO Vennard Wright. The training takes place annually and is both online and offline for certain workers who don’t have access to a computer.

    Wright also has seen a big drop in employee-triggered malware attacks since the county made the awareness training mandatory, and bars employees from the county network who haven’t taken the training or failed to pass the course. “The first year we made it mandatory, there was a lot of pushback, but now the training is accepted,” he said.


    Vennard Wright, CIO, prince George’s County, Md. Photo by David Kidd.

    Not all security awareness programs are foolproof when it comes to changing behavior in the workplace. The programs can fail to perform as expected for a variety of reasons. Ira Winkler, president and co-founder of Secure Mentem, a consulting firm that focuses on security awareness, said problems can start with the basic objective. “There’s a difference between awareness and training, and most people are providing training, not awareness,” he said. “Training is putting a fixed body of knowledge on employees and testing them. Awareness is about changing behavior. But most people don’t know that. Showing employees a video is not going to work as far as changing behavior.”

    Online awareness programs need to be part of a broader, more holistic approach toward security, according to Winkler. Making awareness ubiquitous requires a broad array of tactics, including pervasive messaging to workers through posters, newsletters, message boards, events and contests. “It’s up to CISOs to create a security culture, an environment where people do the right thing,” he said.

    Awareness experts criticize the approach where security awareness training takes place once a year, with a short quiz at the end. “That’s compliance and checking a box, not true awareness,” said Winkler.

    In Missouri, making security awareness part of the employee culture includes the use of gamification techniques to maintain interest. Roling said his department will also periodically test employees by sending out fake phishing attacks, usually tied to a theme around a current event. Employees who fail to identify the fake phishing email and click on the link will find themselves at a website that explains what has happened and what they should have been looking for.

    Roling keeps track of which agency makes the lowest number of mistakes and which makes the highest. The rankings are posted, and agencies that struggle are encouraged to improve and increase their awareness ranking. It’s part of a broader set of metrics Roling keeps on how employees fare with awareness training, and it’s considered an effective way to measure what’s working and what isn’t.

    By mixing gamification, a little competition and metrics with the overall awareness program, Roling said that state employees see the monthly exercises as less of a burden and understand that it is a regular component of work. “Awareness training is one of the most important components of our security posture,” he said. “All the security tools out there will never be as sharp as the human mind.”

    It’s a point that more government CISOs agree with and has made them realize just how critical security awareness has become. In Riverside, security awareness has broadened into a larger education program for city workers, according to Deesing. “We are educating our people about how to handle different types of data and whether or not they should even be storing different types of data. We are also scanning our data to ensure there aren’t any human errors that could put the city at risk.”

  • Chatbots Debut in North Carolina, Allow IT Personnel to Focus on Strategic Tasks
    Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:00:00 PDT

    Facebook made waves in the tech arena this past April when it announced that chatbots — computer programs that simulate human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence — would be facilitated exclusively through its Messenger application, enabling individuals and organizations to have an automated, intelligent assistants.

    And now, North Carolina’s Innovation Center (iCenter) is testing chatbots to aid internal IT help desk personnel, potentially freeing them up to focus on more strategic tasks, said iCenter Director Eric Ellis, who also serves as North Carolina’s chief technology and innovation officer.

    “About 80 to 90 percent of the tickets submitted to the IT help desk are for resetting passwords,” he said, “so if we can help there at all, it’s a win. Chatbots may be able to help us do that.”

    If the test is successful, North Carolina workers would eventually report technology issues to a chatbot rather than calling or emailing the help desk. The chatbot would respond and perform the password reset immediately. If the issue is more complicated and requires the help of a live tech person, the chatbot would prioritize the call to the help desk. With chatbots handling the majority of the routine IT issues, IT staff could work on more complex issues.

    Rise of the chatbot?

    Chatbots can be designed to make life easier in various ways. While the idea of the chatbot has been around for a long time, chatbots gained renewed notoriety recently as companies including the aforementioned Facebook, as well as Microsoft and Slack, have begun using them in a new way: to enable users to accomplish a wide range of tasks from one spot.

    “People use their smartphones for an increasing number of activities today and prefer to remain within the various apps they are using,” said Ellis. “Companies want to go where their customers are, hence the rise of the chatbot.”

    Rather than leaving his or her favorite app, a user can relay to a chatbot, usually in natural language, what he or she needs. Someone using Facebook, for instance, who sees that a friend’s relative has passed away could use a chatbot to order flowers from within Facebook. The technology essentially lets users handle a variety of tasks with the least amount of clicks possible.

    Microsoft introduced Clippy, the virtual assistant, with Windows 97, but eventually pulled the plug.

    The recent proliferation and increased affordability of open data, APIs and natural language processing technologies have made chatbots more feasible. And fortunately, today’s chatbots aren’t like those clunky, irritating virtual assistants of yesteryear (some may remember Clippy, the virtual assistant Microsoft introduced with Windows 97 that was so annoying the company eventually pulled the plug), or the pop-ups that appear on websites offering unsolicited help.

    “There is a right way and a wrong way to roll these out,” Ellis said. “You want people to be asking the chatbot for help, not for the chatbot to pop up unsolicited to interrupt them.”

    A future full of chatbots?

    Ellis said while the iCenter is still in the early stages of developing a chatbot that can integrate with the IT service management desk, he envisions big things for the future.

    “We’re starting with a simple concept, but if it works well we can continue to grow it,” he said. “I think chatbots could potentially could offer a lot of value for citizens, kind of like an automated 311 that people could use to ask a wide variety of questions. I think that’s the next step.”

    Ellis recently spoke at the 2016 NASCIO Annual Conference about the use of chatbots to serve citizens, and said a lot of state CIOs expressed interest in the technology and its potential benefits.

    “Theoretically, bots could mean the introduction of new forms of automation that lead to cost savings and innovative ways of engaging with citizens or improving the overall citizen experience,” he said.

    While some media reports about chatbots have focused on their potential to replace workers, Ellis sees it differently.

    “Workers would potentially have the chance to focus on things that are more difficult and challenging rather than spending time on simple things like password resets,” he said. “That could also help boost morale. How frustrating is it to perform password resets every day and not really use your brain? We have some very smart people that are being underutilized. I believe chatbots will allow people to do more meaningful and valuable work.”

    Ellis predicts chatbots will find their way into a number of government applications over the next five years. He even envisions chatbots eventually “sitting” alongside people in meetings and offering useful input.

    “We’ve all sat in meetings where questions have come up that no one knows the answer to right away, but we take up time contemplating the answer and it stalls the dialog,” Ellis said. “What if a chatbot could pop in and answer the question for you and keep you in the flow of the meeting and maybe even enhance your meeting? I think chatbots are going to be interacting with us in a lot of different ways to make us more efficient state employees.”

  • Ekistic Ventures Brings Government Experience to the World of Tech Startups
    Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:00:00 PDT

    On Sunday, Brett Goldstein discussed cloud architecture with a tech startup. On Monday, he dug into the company’s code to try to solve a problem.

    But Goldstein doesn’t work for the startup, and his job is not coding. He’s an investor — and he wants to take a run at a new kind of venture capitalism to explore the burgeoning government technology market.

    For Ekistic Ventures, which launched Sept. 22, that means tinkering with the cogs that drive the companies in which they invest. It means focusing intense time and resources into a small group of seed-level and series A startups. It means carefully choosing those businesses with the input of people such as Goldstein, who is the former chief data officer for the city of Chicago; Michael Nutter, former two-term mayor of Philadelphia; and David Spielfogel, who has served as senior adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    And from time to time, it might also mean starting a new company in-house.

    “It’s not just about deploying capital,” Goldstein said. “Yes, it should be a good financial investment, but is it a good match for our skill sets where we would provide direct value?”

    The Chicago-based firm is bringing a $15 million fund to the table, which Goldstein said comes from family offices and high-net worth individuals. Its leaders want to invest in four companies and start one new business each year.

    If Ekistic were to spread the investments evenly, that would be $3 million per company. By comparison, Silicon Valley’s infamous Y Combinator invests a standard $120,000 each in an average of nearly 100 companies per year.

    The company — whose team also includes Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures and O’Reilly Media; Anne Milgram, former attorney general of New Jersey; and Michael Sacks, chief executive officer of asset management firm GCM/Grosvenor — won’t be focused exclusively on investments that serve government. Rather, the idea is to solve urban problems. And that will inevitably touch government.

    Goldstein declined to name any of the startups Ekistic is investing in, for the time being. But the fund’s leaders will be looking at areas such as big data, analytics, transportation, public safety and wellness.

    Big data and analytics are particularly interesting to Goldstein, who sees something of a void in the market when it comes to government-serving data tools.

    “I am very, very interested in — how do we find ways to leverage the plethora of data that is out there and make it operational and useful?” he said.

    As someone who has both worked for government and with government — he has served as a Code for America board member since 2014 — Goldstein said he’s noticed a need for flexibility when it comes to serving government. When government hires large, established companies to craft solutions, he said, they often take approaches that have worked in other contexts.

    However, he believes that different types of government agencies have unique needs and quirks that demand a certain level of customization.

    “When [Spielfogel and I] were inside government, we realized that we saw problem after problem that, candidly, we weren’t in the right position to help fix at that point,” he said. “But now when we came together in our post-government life, we feel that we can pull back and, instead of the traditional approach to a problem, we can do a smaller, more agile approach.”

    And if Ekistic sees a need that current market solutions don’t seem to be filling, that’s when the team might turn to partners in research institutions and academia to help build a company from the foundation up.

    “We have the patience to create something new,” Goldstein said. “What’s important to me is that we solve real problems, we innovate and we provide the same sort of caliber of solutions that we see in other sectors.”

  • 5 Ways the Chicago-London Data Alliance Will Bolster Data Sharing, Collaboration
    Mon, 10 Oct 2016 12:45:00 PDT

    When London Mayor Sadiq Khan visited Chicago for the first time on an overseas trade mission in September, he and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had more to talk about than economics. Though Chicago-based companies invest and expand into London more than any other global city, according to London & Partners, Khan’s nonprofit business development company, the two cities also have a keen interest in the benefits and challenges of open data.

    Following their meeting, Kahn and Emanuel signed the Chicago-London City Data Alliance, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing the two cities to working together on a number of data-based projects. Through the MOU, the cities agreed to develop a joint working group that will include city officials, members of the academic community, private-sector representatives and nonprofit organizations to focus on the development of a broad range of urban technologies.

    “The agreement commits both cities to pursue real work based on all the great ideas generated by mayor Khan’s visit,” said Chicago CIO Brenna Berman, adding that once formed, the working group will collaborate in the following five key areas: 

    1. City data technology deployment, including co-development of open source products and services. 

    Both cities have existing open source projects and solutions to build on, said Berman. For the city of Chicago, that includes projects like the Open Grid Data Portal and the Underground Infrastructure Mapping project. In London, it includes projects like the Schools Atlas, the London Urban Operating Platform, the Witan City Modeling Service and the Olympic Park Smart Sustainable District project. Through the alliance, the cities will consider replicating each other’s existing successful projects, as well as build new collaborative open data projects. 

    2. City data challenges 

    The cities plan to organize publicly run data science exercises to generate solutions from public and civic volunteers. While both cities have hosted such projects before, they hope that conducting joint challenges will generate more participation and more innovative solutions. 

    3. Data policy and strategy

    The two cities plan to jointly develop policies in critical new areas such as emerging business models, data sharing, data privacy and cybersecurity, economic development and public service design. 

    “There are a lot of issues that are emerging for cities, especially as technologies around big data are evolving,” Berman said. “Working together to design policies and strategies with another city like London will allow us to be more effective when it comes to policy development.”

    4. Capacity and skill set building 

    Chicago and London will also work together to design and deliver practical tools that promote city services through better data strategy, interoperability and data architectures (including things like open standards and analytics, governance, and business models). 

    “The focus is really on better technology preparedness both for our city staff," Berman said, such as how do we make city government employees more data savvy and data-ready, because we know that will improve government service delivery? "And also, what kind of capacity can we create among our residents, to make them more savvy in how they interact with the government?”

    5. Economic development 

    Finally, the cities will consider how to create economic development strategies built around their shared values, with a focus on developing shared data-driven initiatives designed to create greater economic growth. 

    The next step in the alliance, according to Berman, is to name the working group and come up with a near-term quick-win plan to get the alliance rolling. 

    Berman said the Chicago-London City Data Alliance is part of the Chicago’s overall strategy to increase the work it does through partnerships with other cities and organizations.

    “The big problems cities face today aren’t going to be addressed within their own borders anymore,” she said. “We’ve proven time and again that we do better work when we partner with our communities, with universities, with innovative consortium, etc. The agreement with London is another example where we’re going to be able to do better, more innovative work in this case with another global city.”

  • Inside One of the Most Aggressive Intelligent Transportation-IoT Efforts in the U.S.
    Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:25:00 PDT

    Cars really aren’t that connected yet — not compared with what auto makers want to build in the next five years, anyway.

    But Miami-Dade County is already preparing for them, and it’s one of only a small group of local governments in the U.S. to do so. The county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, which integrates all of its transit, traffic and transportation operations, has begun installing its first set of controllers on traffic signals that will allow them to connect with cars, public transit and other vehicles in the future.

    And in the process, it’s also creating a backbone for the Internet of Things and other smart city projects.

    “We just don’t want infrastructure to be a hold-up,” said Carlos Cruz-Casas, the department’s assistant director. “We know there are going to be a lot of issues to address.”

    The concept Miami-Dade is pursuing is called vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connection, and its promises are many. Traffic signals could coordinate cars approaching from different directions and warn about collisions. They could work with vehicles to let drivers know how fast they should be driving in order to avoid hitting a red light. And as vehicles begin to drive themselves, they might be used to help self-driving systems make decisions.

    Some V2I applications are on their way to market. Audi has announced an on-board application that will give drivers information about oncoming traffic signals — though that will work even in places without the kind of equipment Miami-Dade is installing — and both Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac are working on cars capable of two-way communications right now.

    “Once other vehicles start doing the same … they will all be able to talk to each other because [the auto industry] worked together on that protocol,” said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

    Miami-Dade County, which has some of the worst congestion in the country according to an annual report from Texas A&M University, is home to some 3,000 traffic signals. In August, it set up the first 2070LX controller on Northwest 36th Street in Miami, the first of 300 the department will set up at key congested intersections in its first wave of installations. After that, he said, the plan is to spread out and cover the entire county. The department plans to issue a request for proposal to update the remainder of its signals by fall 2017.

    “It’s important to understand that once you reach capacity, you’ve reached capacity,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do is avoid reaching capacity … so then you can avoid bumper-to-bumper.”

    Passenger cars, especially luxury models, are exhibiting more and more connectivity options and automated driving features, but the ability to connect to public infrastructure is still lacking. The Miami-Dade model, then, is about preparing for the future.

    “What we decided is we’ll just go in and build the infrastructure," Cruz-Casas said, "and we’ll start looking over the next year for companies that want to participate and join forces with us in order to develop what connected vehicles will mean for Miami-Dade County."

    The project was inspired partly by a series of projects in New York City; Wyoming; Tampa, Fla.; and Ann Arbor, Mich. Each had a different objective, but they all involved some form of vehicle connectivity — and all are aimed at testing, as opposed to Miami-Dade’s all-purpose rollout. The department is already working on writing a rule that would require new vehicles to have connectivity capabilities.

    But while Miami-Dade County waits for that to happen, Cruz-Casas said they will reap other benefits from the traffic controller upgrades — the first of which is simply having more modern equipment.

    “We need to change our infrastructure anyway,” he said. “Our controllers are old.”

    The 2070 series of traffic controllers are, according to MDOT Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Manager Matt Smith, the most advanced available today. They aren’t quite capable of Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), a radio-based method of connection protected by the Federal Communications Commission, but extra equipment can make them DSRC-ready. What they can do, though, is connect to the Internet.

    “You have something that is Ethernet capable, then that controller has a multitude of different paths that they can communicate through,” Smith said.

    Because of that, the controllers will allow the county to implement adaptive signal timing and transit signal priority. Adaptive signal timing allows intersections to change their green-red cycles based on current traffic conditions instead of pre-set protocols. Transit signal priority allows buses and other public transit vehicles to run their routes more quickly and reliably by reducing the time they spend waiting at intersections.

    Cruz-Casas said he expects the project to cost about $217 million. The money will come from development fees and a portion of the local sales tax set aside for transportation funding.

    But it won’t be the only part of the county’s smart governance efforts. Cruz-Casas’ department — which includes public works — is also taking on a campaign to replace its 26,000 street light bulbs with LEDs. The bulbs, which use a fraction of the electricity that traditional incandescents use, will save money in the long run.

    They also give the county more control over its lighting. Along with the bulb replacement, Miami-Dade will start looking at putting things like sensors and cameras on its traffic signals and street lights. Those can, in turn, provide a huge range of uses for the county to consider.

    “The options for this are virtually endless, since you can tag on any kind of sensor you want,” Cruz-Casas said.

    Take the Array of Things project in Chicago. That city, through a partnership with Argonne National Lab and the University of Chicago, is putting up sensor nodes around the city to capture information ranging from traffic and pedestrian counts to air quality and even standing water identification. It will all become open, public data available to help the city gather real-time, spatial intelligence.

    Miami-Dade’s plans are flexible at this point. But having the connectivity in place will give them options.

    “As they [upgrade] traffic signals that are … Ethernet connected, that becomes a backbone in the Internet of Things,” Steudle said. “It becomes a node that ultimately helps in the movement of Miami-Dade to become a … smart county.”

    Of course, the infrastructure is only the first step.

    “It’s more than just putting some stuff out there in the field,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a lot of network development and application data management-type work that needs to happen in order to get the information out there broadcasting to the vehicles.”

  • Utah IT Agency Prioritizes Communication, Transparency with Internal Customers
    Fri, 7 Oct 2016 03:30:00 PDT

    Frequently cited for leadership in many aspects of enterprise IT, the state of Utah now offers real-time visibility into its IT projects via a metrics dashboard. As of June 2016, 220 active projects were listed, 210 of which were meeting schedule and budget targets. This accountability is a part of the commitment the Department of Technology Services makes to its internal customers — the agencies it serves.

    Here, Utah CIO Mike Hussey talks about the importance of being transparent about all aspects of delivery throughout the life of a project. 
     

  • What Procurement Officers Should Know Before Finalizing Deals with Smart Tech Vendors
    Fri, 7 Oct 2016 01:45:00 PDT

    In today’s rapidly growing market of Internet-connected devices, product security is too often an afterthought. But with the explosion of smart cities, smart cars and smart devices, it is pertinent that all "things" in the Internet of Things (IoT) are kept secure.

    The public sector has recently ramped up its investment in the IoT, with the federal government spending an estimated $35 billion on IoT solutions from fiscal 2011-2015. Analysts only predict that number will grow with the advent of sensors, smart cities and connected cars.

    Recently several reports about the vulnerability of the IoT have been released. Krebs Security called out nefarious actors launching a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack while a security research team in China hacked into a Tesla Model S. And what this means is that manufacturers of Internet-connected devices need to get a lot smarter about security — and governments purchasing IoT devices should be paying attention to product security.

    To help guide startups toward creating more secure products, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), an organization dedicated to perfecting the best practices for secure cloud computing, released a report detailing 13 steps necessary to ensure a well protected product — steps that, when followed by vendors, will also protect government-procured devices on the Internet of Things from being exposed to breaches.

    13 Steps to Secure IoT Devices

    1. Start with a secure development methodology

    2. Implement a secure development and integration environment

    3. Identify framework and platform security features

    4. Establish privacy protections

    5. Design in hardware-based security controls

    6. Protect data

    7. Protect logical interfaces/APIs

    8. Provide a secure update capability

    9. Implement authentication, authorization and access control features

    10. Establish a secure key management capability

    11. Provide logging mechanisms

    12. Perform security reviews internally

    13. Perform security reviews externally

    Cloud Security Alliance

    Brian Russell, chairman of the CSA IoT Working Group, wants to make sure all procurement officers know the security protocols necessary before finalizing deals with smart tech vendors.

    “Make sure as somebody who oversees technology for a local area that your vendors are actually following some best practices in how they develop things you're procuring,” Russell forewarned.

    It is necessary to set up guidelines for any potential companies that are trying to sell to the public. And while the first step may be the most important in developing a secure device, the work doesn't end there.

    The security process is cyclical, according to Russell. All steps taken in designing the product should be followed by security tests and reviews. Even if a city has already fielded IoT devices, it's not too late.

    “Do something now,” Russell advised. At the very least, pay a security group to investigate products that have already been deployed and see of they can find any vulnerabilities. That is a cheap and efficient way to safeguard devices in your IoT network. External security testing, he said, can be done at, “low cost and be done immediately.”

    Perhaps the biggest danger for municipalities is shelling out millions for a network of upgraded IoT devices and then question how secure the system is, said CSA Senior Research Analyst John Yeoh.

    Public officials should be weary of retrofitting existing infrastructure and devices with smart sensors and Internet-enabled devices, he said, explaining that some of the biggest vulnerabilities are in legacy devices or systems trying to move into the smart market.

    This is because systems in place, such as traffic control systems, were never envisioned to be Internet-connected. The predicted mass introduction of self-driving vehicles, however forces governments to introduce a communication medium for cars, traffic lights and pedestrian walk lights. And in these types of upgraded systems lie the greatest potential for danger.

    Nobody wants to be the face of government incompetence. Security of data and IoT networks is crucial for the next decade. Whether procurement officers operate in cities the size of Chicago, putting hundreds of sensors on buildings and traffic lights or a smaller towns buying new smart water meters, the public sector needs to know what they are up against.

    “As municipality or state government," Yeoh said, "the last thing you want to see is all the assets you procured to enable a smart city are now zombies in a botnet."

  • What Technology Dewand Neely Wants Out of His IT Portfolio
    Thu, 6 Oct 2016 11:00:00 PDT

    Indiana CIO Dewand Neely had a quick answer to the question, "What technology would you most like to leave behind?" He'd like to get rid of expensive on-premise storage.

    Over the next several months, Neely plans to downsize his data center and offload as much data storage as possible to the cloud. At the NASCIO annual conference in Orlando last month, he told us about his plans for a hybrid approach that enables testing and development to take place in the cloud, reserving data center space for production. 

     

  • Mississippi's Longitudinal Analytics Project Drives Economic Development Policy
    Wed, 5 Oct 2016 11:00:00 PDT

    Many state IT leaders are achieving results leveraging data across agencies, while others are still working on establishing the necessary policies to enable the breakdown of departmental data silos. 

    At the NASCIO annual conference in Orlando last month, Mississippi CIO Craig Orgeron offered a few key takeaways from the state's Lifetracks program, described as an interoperable data system. Uniting information on all levels of education — from early childhood education to post-secondary — policymakers can make projections about workforce needs and adopt policies that drive economic development.

  • Is 18F on Solid Financial Footing?
    Tue, 4 Oct 2016 02:00:00 PDT

    Editor's Note: This story was updated on Oct. 5 to include comments from FAS Commissioner Thomas Sharpe and clarification from the GSA.

    After a bout of internal and IT industry criticisms, an investigation into the digital innovation team 18F has uncovered less about the federal group itself, and instead, prompted more questions about funding at the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), an agency procurement service.

    Last June, a House subcommittee hearing was held to assess 18F’s effectiveness at helping agencies build, buy and share modern technology. A few agency CIOs had expressed concerns about the digital consultancy’s operations and cost recovery methods, while established IT industry firms sought to limit, or halt, 18F’s reach into procurement policy and IT services — something the IT lobbyists complained hindered their ability to secure profitable contracts.

    As a result, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on Sept. 14 with findings and recommendations that essentially urged 18F, and its sister organization, the U.S. Digital Service, to tie performance metrics to outcomes and cost savings. At the same time, the GAO asked for greater definition of the relationship between agency CIOs and digital service teams.

    Yet 18F’s work wasn’t the only thing that came under scrutiny.

    As part of the report, the GAO called attention to 18F’s funding source, a special $8.2 billion fund managed by FAS called the Acquisition Services Fund (ASF). Unlike many federal funding mechanisms, the ASF does not require appropriations from Congress but generates revenue from a portfolio of procurement programs and services. This provides the fund independence from congressional funding approvals, while at the same time, demands that FAS maintain a balanced budget — a practice that became an issue in 2015 when, for the first time in years, the ASF dropped into negative numbers.

    The imbalance adds credence to commentary from former GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini, who said in July that ever since 18F was founded, FAS officials have looked at 18F as a burden, with tensions likely escalating as 18F has grown in numbers — now at about 200 technologists, procurement specialists and policy experts.

    “Another mission to be funded out of the same amount of resources is always going to be an imposition ...” Tangherlini said in July. “I think as 18F has grown, and commanded, and frankly demanded, more resources that sense of imposition has probably grown with it.”

    But according to the GSA, the ASF is a cost-recovery revolving fund, and 2015 was the first time that operating results dropped into negative numbers. The agency has further clarified that the ASF "maintains sufficient capitalization to manage accounts receivable and payble cycles, fund capital purchases and provide for investment."

    And since it was founded in 2014, 18F’s costs have risen. It has not achieved its directive to operate as a cost-neutral program, contracting its services to agencies that pay for its operations. The GAO reported that the group has cost the ASF — FAS primary fund — about $18 million from 2014 to 2015 at an average expense of $9 million per year. This cost is projected to grow slightly before eventually balancing in 2019 when the GAO calculates 18F will generate $1.1 million.

    Money matters notwithstanding, President Obama, those inside 18F, House legislators, agency officials and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have praised 18F for its assistance in saving multi-million-dollar federal projects like HealthCare.gov, instituting cost-effective procurement strategies and providing a pipeline for Silicon Valley expertise for federal departments.

    While 18F still has to fine-tune its operations, there may be greater need for scrutiny of FAS. A source inside 18F, requesting to remain anonymous, submitted expense projections of other ASF programs and services. These show the fund is expected to continue with revenue losses in 2017, at $55 million; in 2018, at $24 million; and then recovering in 2019 with $19.9 million in revenues. There are also funding categories that seemingly run on indefinitely with million-dollar losses. The last year of projections is 2021 and the greatest cost overrun is found within “General Supplies and Services Categories” that posts total estimated net operating losses at about $322.4 million from 2017 to 2021 — see below for a complete list with dollars in the thousands.


    Image from the GSA Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Obtained from an anonymous source.

    The GSA denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain more information about these figures, citing a FOIA exemption for “pre-decisional” documents. Even so, the agency did confirm the existence of the documentation saying they had been prepared for planning the 2018 budget.

    “The [GSA] Office of Budget prepared these documents as pre-decisional, deliberative materials for an internal FAS leadership meeting on the topic of the fiscal 2018 budget ...,” the statement read, adding that the figures change throughout the year until they’ll be finalized, and the documents released, in the spring of 2017.

    Sharpe told Government Technology that FAS programs provide immense value to the American people, helping the government leverage its collective buying power.

    "FAS helps the government act and buy as one, saving billions of dollars for the taxpayers each year," he said. "The ASF is not in the red. The Fund maintains a balance that is appropriate to manage its operations and serve customer agencies. All FAS programs must have an intent and plan to recover costs. We continuously monitor our programs to ensure that we are operating as efficiently as possible. Through the financial planning cycle, programs aim to achieve break-even through cost reductions, business development efforts and/or rate reductions to our customers. FAS has taken many steps to streamline operations and reduce costs, passing those savings to our customers."

  • Massive Connectedness: Formal Structures Emerge to Take on Cyberthreats
    Mon, 3 Oct 2016 03:30:00 PDT

    Even as Texas’ chief information security officer (CISO), with the full weight of the state’s IT apparatus at his disposal, Edward Block has a limited range of vision when it comes to cybersecurity.

    “We don’t see everything that is out there. We see a lot of stuff, and we tend to see things pretty early in their evolution. But we don’t see everything. So collaboration is really critical,” he said. To succeed in cyber, the state’s 160 distinct agencies have to pool their resources. “The bad actors out there are happy to share information with each other all day long. If we don’t do the same, we are letting them have a distinct advantage.”

    Given the unheralded complexity and severity of the threat, some say cyber is going to have to be a team effort. “There may be times when assets or authorities from one agency are needed to help another work its way through cyberproblems. And indicators of compromise in one system may indicate or presage indicators of compromise in other systems,” said Martin Libicki, a RAND senior management scientist who works extensively on government issues.

    This way of thinking increasingly typifies the government approach to cybersecurity — and necessarily so, said Steve Spano, president and chief operating officer of the Center for Internet Security, which operates the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    “Any government agency can connect to 15 other government agencies,” he said. “One system services health care, but health care ties to other state services. So once an adversary gets into one agency, it isn’t hard to go from there to see what other agencies you can get into.”

    In response to this emerging landscape, government IT executives, emergency planners, security agencies and other key players across the nation are forming alliances. They’re putting in place formal structures to ensure that when new cyberthreats emerge, all relevant players can be prepared to act.

    Connected Networks

    In Georgia an executive order in mid-2015 established the State Government Systems Cybersecurity Review Board to be headed up by the state CIO, with members to include the adjutant general of Georgia and the leader of the Georgia National Guard, the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, and Jim Butterworth, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security.

    “With everything going more and more to the cloud, it is quickly becoming obvious that any network that is connected to other state networks could be vulnerable,” Butterworth said. “That means we need to create the security across the entire infrastructure.”

    The group’s first act was to request a self-assessment from agencies. Based on a December report, the state Legislature approved $3 million over the next three years to fund a deeper study of Georgia’s cybersituation. “That is going to get us out of the gate and get us some good data that shows us exactly where we are,” Butterworth said. “It is definitely a good push to get us started.”

    The effort is already having a direct practical impact. State agency IT leaders have been emboldened to get more aggressive on cyber, knowing they have a larger body backing them. Take the ransomware attacks, for instance. “Because of some of these conversations and because we have empowered these agency CIOs, they are beginning to back up systems more and more, so when these ransomware demands pop up — and they have been — we don’t give in,” said Butterworth. “We don’t pay, and so far, we have been able to successfully stop those efforts.”

    The actual mechanics of collaboration are still a work in progress. Everyone says they want to work together; no one wants to be told what to do, and not everyone likes to make it known when a problem has impacted their systems. These early days require finesse.

    “We have to make it clear that we are not beating them over the head: ‘We have the clout of the governor’s office and we are throwing this in your face.’ So we say up front that if an agency comes up red in some area, we aren’t going to publish the name of that agency. This is not a punitive effort,” said Butterworth. “Our philosophy is that a rising tide raises all ships. We are simply here to empower them in what they are already trying to do.”

    While the state CIO and security chiefs make an obvious fit on the board, some might wonder why Administrative Services is at the table. Simply put: These are the folks who ultimately purchase the systems. If there are going to be security concerns around IT purchases, best bring them in early. “They have the control to say yes to this system and no to that system. If they are in the conversation, we can help them understand the needs for certain protections,” Butterworth said.

    Taking Center Stage

    “The thing about cyber is, it is truly worldwide and it is instantaneous. So it requires massive connectedness to combat it.”

    That’s Victor Chakravarty, an enterprise architect in the Maine Office of Information Technology. Like Georgia, Maine has in place a formal body designed to take cyber out of the IT closet and put it smack in the center of the room. The Maine State Information Protection Working Group is chaired by the state CIO and includes the Office of Information Technology, Maine Emergency Management Agency, Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC, or the fusion center), Maine National Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the University of Maine, and IT directors of the cities of Auburn and Bangor.

    Different players bring different expertise. Some on the team look at cyber as a law enforcement or national security issue. Chakravarty just wants to be sure he can keep the lights on — like last year, when hacking group Vikingdom struck state and local agencies in 27 states with a denial-of-service attack. “My job is service restoration,” he said. “The most important thing I care about is that the state of Maine services remain up and my customers’ services are not affected. But when you look at the fusion center, they are focused on public safety, so they are more interested in the forensics and the prosecution.”

    Having that plurality of interests at the table works to everyone’s benefit. “That is what makes it a rich, symbiotic relationship,” said Chakravarty. “I personally do not have the wherewithal to do forensics and prosecution, but there are others who do. Because we meet and spend time together we have evolved these patterns of information sharing that play off of each other’s skills, and that is something that can only come through a long partnership.”

    In practical terms, the relationship is very much about responding to immediate threats. “If new ransomware hits the state of Maine, I consider it my sacred duty to inform the fusion center, and they then up-channel it to DHS and FBI,” Chakravarty said. “If the university sees some variant in the malware, or if we see something in the state networks, we all consider it our immediate responsibility to share that. It is in my best interests to contribute to that sum total of community wisdom.”

    At the same time, the group takes a bigger-picture approach. Members share best practices among one another, and they are building cyber-recommendations to help guide the governor’s office, the Cabinet and Legislature. “Part of our mission is to educate them,” he said. “And we also would like to up the profile of cybersecurity, so that potentially they can help us overcome burdens we ourselves cannot overcome.”

    ‘Body Armor’

    Mike Sena literally helped write the book on cybercollaboration. As executive director of the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) he helped develop a toolkit on the topic, the Bureau of Justice Assistance Guide: Cyber Integration for Fusion Centers from the U.S. Department of Justice.

    With Silicon Valley in the region, it is perhaps not surprising that the NCRIC fusion center has become a hub of cyberactivity. Partners in the effort range across the state and federal gamut: The highway patrol and state justice department stand shoulder to shoulder with representatives of DHS, DEA, FBI and local law enforcement.

    The primary mission is defensive, with planners utilizing FireEye software to continuously monitor participating networks. “When one group is being attacked by an actor, and that attack fails, that actor is likely to go on to the next person. So the goal is to be able to collect and share that information in real time, to create the body armor as best we can for disparate networks,” Sena said.

    NCRIC does outreach too, engaging state agencies in cybertraining and readiness activities. Sena’s team has gone spearfishing among critical infrastructure stakeholders, sending out bogus messages to ensnare sloppy users in a mock security breach, and they usually get a bite. “The last time we did this, 7 percent of the folks clicked on the link,” he said. “My advice to the organization is you only need one person.”

    Sena is angling to position the 80-person NCRIC as the go-to source for government IT when cybertrouble occurs. To that end, in addition to sending out a steady stream of warnings and updates, the center also has produced a mobile optimized application to help people report incidents and threats. It also mounts a 24/7 response team.

    When an incident or threat is reported, “we have the ability to reach out to that agency, to reach out to law enforcement, to reach out to the IT folks. From there we can send a team out, to have a human body out there working with them,” said Sena. “We don’t have enough bodies to send someone every time, but if it is a priority issue we will have somebody on the ground.”

    Why the pressing need for collaboration? Because, as Sena puts it, cyber is not like other threats.

    “We come together on a unified message for physical threats. ‘If X happens you do Y.’ But when we get to cyber it isn’t the same,” he said. “With cyber, if A happens, you can either do B, F-l, M or 3. That’s not the best thing. We need to be able to say, ‘This is the way we handle cyberevents in America. This is the way we handle cyberinvestigations.’ We are not there yet.”

    The Virtual Threat

    Mike Geraghty joins with Sena and others in government in wanting to change that status quo. As director of the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, he oversees a collaborative effort intended to forge a common front against the cyberfoe.

    “No one agency has all the answers or is even capable of keeping up with information security on the necessary scale,” he said. “When you have a threat that is physical and local, you can protect against that. But this is a threat that is virtual, that can happen anywhere against anything, and the only way to protect against that is cooperatively.”

    To get at it, the cell embraces a broad mandate. “We want to be the one-stop shop for cybersecurity,” Geraghty said. “That may be information on current threats, it may be best practices to implement cybersecurity, or the current state of cyber. We are also doing a lot of analysis, looking to see what a viable threat is and making sure we can articulate the nature of that threat and why it is important.”

    That’s a lot to bite off. Automation helps: A security information and event management system deployed across state networks records up to 2 billion events a day. Operations and analysis teams track that feed; communications professionals get the word out to more than 1,500 members.


    Mike Geraghty wants the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell to be a one-stop shop for the state’s cyberefforts. Photo by Donnelly Marks.

    The cell gets regular alerts from outside sources like DHS and FBI. The art here lies in taking all that information and lining it up against what’s happening internally. “Others can receive the same sorts of external information from the same sources. Our secret sauce is in comparing that to what we see on our network,” he said. “We vet that information so that what we provide our members with what is most relevant. We strip out the noise. Otherwise you are just opening a fire hose.”

    While agencies are generally cooperative, Geraghty admits encountering the occasional “reticence to disclose” — IT leaders shy about lifting the covers on their systems’ vulnerabilities. His promise: Tell us your troubles, and we’ll keep it anonymous. “Even if you don’t strip it out and sanitize it before you give it to us, we will do that on our end so that when we do make use of that information, we will not disclose anything about you or your systems,” he said.

    In the drive toward cybercollaboration, this appears to be the big looming hurdle: the need to drive cultural change in an IT environment that tends to play security issues close to the vest.

    In Texas, agencies are required to report cyberincidents to CISO Block, “but they are really uncomfortable doing so, because they don’t know where that information is going to go. Will it go to the people who manage their budget? Will it go to the Legislature? Will it end up in a report that is available to the public?”

    Texas law says everything is public knowledge unless specifically exempted. Block will go to bat to shield agency IT leaders from the spotlight, but only to some extent. “If it is just something embarrassing, if it is just the news of a breach, that is not something I would try to protect” from disclosure, he said. “But how it happened? If showing that would put that system or another in jeopardy, that is something I would try to protect.”

    Experts across government say IT leaders will need to find a way to walk this fine line. With collaboration virtually the inevitable next step in government cyber, they will have to construct not just the technical mechanisms to anonymize breach reports, but also the trust and relationships that will make it possible for all players to feel secure in putting their cards on the table.

  • A Possible IPO, and 3 Other Ways Accela Might Grow Post-Maury Blackman
    Mon, 3 Oct 2016 09:00:00 PDT

    After more than a decade and a half with Maury Blackman at the helm, Accela — which clients call a “poster child” for the burgeoning government-facing technology market — is moving on.

    The move came as a shock to some. Under Blackman’s leadership, the company grew steadily and then hit a growth spurt in recent years, acquiring eight or so firms in the past two years and raising some $233 million in 2015. Offering an array of services from billing to permit and licensing management, Accela saw its accounts grow to more than 2,000 local governments in multiple countries.

    And that is exactly why, according to interim Chief Executive Officer Mark Jung (pictured at left), Accela is moving on.

    “I think we got to the point where … the board felt that from a leadership standpoint, we needed somebody with more leadership experience,” Jung said. “We are in more of a growth phase now.”

    And what a growth phase that might be. According to Jung, the company’s board is mulling — though it hasn’t made any decisions yet — the possibility of going public. In the meantime, it will take a “breather” from mergers and acquisitions and focus on expanding its work with its base of existing clients.

    Put broadly, Jung wants to make Accela the kind of company that’s ready to go public if it wants to.

    He compared the leadership shakeup to so many others in Silicon Valley — some people are best at helping small companies grow, and some are more adept at seeing them into maturity. Blackman, Jung said, was the hand that guided the company to become ready for that next phase.

    “I do not think we would have gone as far as we did without him,” he said.

    One of Jung’s priorities is to serve Accela’s customer base better. Rapid growth can sometimes mean a loss of personal touch with a company’s established clients.

    But Tom Vanover, chief building official in Cleveland’s Department of Building and Housing, said that hasn’t been the case for him. Cleveland has worked with Accela for a long time — more than a decade, in fact — and Vanover’s department has moved most of its processes to the company’s software.

    “Any type of company that gets to a certain size, there are pros and cons that come with that, and one of the pros being that they’re able to acquire other companies and moving in that direction. One of the cons is that … the intimacy of the relationship is affected,” Vanover said. “Not to be misunderstood, but I don’t believe that there was an issue from a Cleveland standpoint because Accela was too big.”

    Actually, the company’s growth worked out pretty well for the department. Just as they were looking to go mobile, Accela was expanding its mobile services. And even as they acquired new companies, Vanover said his contacts at the vendor were up-front and honest with him.

    “They’re very candid in that they’ve always told us, ‘We just bought these guys but they’re not ready; they’ll be there in six months,’” he said.

    Aside from Blackman, Accela is also losing Technical Evangelist Mark Headd, who tweeted on Sept. 15 that he was joining 18F. Another customer, Evanston, Ill.’s interim IT Division Manager Luke Stowe, said the loss of two talents — Blackman and Headd — will be challenging for Accela. Stowe called Headd, who came to the company after serving as Philadelphia’s chief data officer, “one of the best in our field.”

    As for Blackman?

    “I always felt [Blackman] was a great spokesperson for Accela and for the civic tech space in general,” he said. “I think that he’s a champion for civic technology.”

    Stowe said he’s not concerned about the departures per se, but is waiting to see who will replace them.

    “Accela is what I call kind of an ‘indicator species’ for the industry, where their growth and their health probably impacts everybody in the space,” he said.

    While Jung declined to reveal the circumstances behind Blackman’s departure, he described it as a mutual decision and a positive situation. Blackman did not respond to requests for comment. Headd also did not respond to requests for comment.

    So what will Accela look like after Blackman? Here are four ways Jung said the company might grow:

    1. (Possibly) going public

    Jung said Accela’s leadership is in no rush to make a decision, but the board of directors is considering an initial public offering.

    That would mean many things for the company. It would mean reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which would mean different standards for things like projecting revenue. There would have to be internal audits. The company would aim for predictability, and that would mean losing a degree of flexibility in decision-making.

    Before a company goes public, Jung said, it’s best to see if it can run like a public company. And it would also need the right leadership in place.

    “If we choose that direction, that is a long-haul commitment in terms of a public company and a CEO of a public company that has the experience and the wherewithal and the staying power …. to [lead] a public company,” he said.

    2. Doing more for existing customers

    Accela has plenty to do without acquiring new companies or signing more clients.

    “Even if we closed our doors and did not sign any new customers, I think we would still grow for the next 10 years,” he said.

    So for now, he said he just wants to focus on serving those customers better. Part of what he wants to do is reorganize customer support efforts, including assessing what the needs and levels of support are for different tiers of clients.

    It will also mean working to integrate the companies Accela has acquired so that they can offer more to the client base.

    3. Improving internal processes

    Meanwhile, Jung said he wants Accela simply to run better as a company. In the day to day, his focus is on making internal processes more efficient. He wants to improve management of the pipeline of projects the company is handling, for example.

    Already, Jung said Accela has centralized a series of four functions that used to vary from team to team. He wants to keep following that path, making sure that the company enshrines the things that work.

    “The key is process, to make sure the right hand is talking to the left and that we can institutionalize best practices across our customer base,” he said.

    4. Leveraging clients’ expertise

    One quirk of working with government instead of private industry is that clients aren’t in competition with each other, Jung said. That presents an opportunity for Accela: If it can bring its customers together and enable them to cooperate, it can give the company better insights into what government needs.

    “The culture is to share, not to hoard and defend,” he said.

    And there is quite a bit of expertise readily available to Accela, Jung said. If there are 10 people at each Accela client with expertise in some specific area, that adds up to an enormous number who engage with the company’s various offerings. They might be able to learn from what they do, or even bring together data to get new insights into what government is going through and how it solves problems.

    “You’re talking about 20,000 people or more who are experts in their own right who you can tap into,” he said.

  • Open Data's Unexpected Benefits in Utah
    Fri, 30 Sep 2016 10:00:00 PDT

    On the job since last October, Utah Chief Information Officer Mike Hussey leads IT in the state's fully consolidated environment. One area of notable leadership is Utah's open data portal, opendata.utah.gov

    At the NASCIO annual conference in Orlando, Hussey talked about why the effort is a priority for state leaders, and the many other groups who stand to benefit. 

  • Georgia’s Data Experts Lean on Good Governance to Protect Digital Assets
    Thu, 29 Sep 2016 06:30:00 PDT

    Georgia lawmakers walk a tightrope when it comes to finding the balance between data protection and the health and prosperity of the state’s diverse business interests. Over-regulate and you risk holding back valuable innovations. Under-regulate and you put potentially millions of constituents' information in harm’s way.

    Managing data and the privacy issues associated with it was part of an extensive discussion at the Georgia Digital Government Summit* in Atlanta Sept. 29. During the panel discussion, which included Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-Dist. 14, and Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R- Dist. 25, experts from various stations throughout the government enterprise hashed out the necessary considerations that must be made around the increasingly valuable and abundant digital asset.

    The Challenges Around Data Collection

    Since computers first arrived on the scene, the role, and certainly the value, of data has changed. As panel moderator Howard Woodard, with Georgia College and State University, explained, the transition from strictly computational to hyper-valuable has taken several decades.

    Though this evolution may have happened gradually, Woodard asserted that policies and best practices have not necessarily kept pace with the various channels of data gathering and uses of the last decade. Dudgeon, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, agreed.

    “The technology for wiring and accessing data has gone at such an amazing pace the last 10 years in the big data world, where the tools just for everybody to gather enormous amounts of data and access it anywhere has just grown way faster than anybody thought about how to secure it,” Dudgeon said.

    Thompson, who serves as chair of the Senate Science and Technology Committee, said the growing number of uses for personal data has added another component to the issue — the challenge of balancing business, convenience and modern expectations with the inherent vulnerabilities.

    “As many of the businesses out there continue to use credit and personal data to be able to drive rates, you look at the insurance industry, you look at the various things that are out there, they look at the model of the individual and their data to be able to do that,” Thompson said. “Well, then you have to have access to be able to do that. The more points of access you have, the more vulnerable it becomes.”

    Privacy and Security Are Expectations

    The conversation around data is further complicated by the expectations of stakeholders. While many millennials are comfortable sharing their personal data, experts argue that the older generations are more hesitant.

    There may be a willingness by younger age groups to provide data, but it still comes with an expectation of security, said Robert Orr, CIO for Georgia College and State University. “I think from the higher ed perspective, we are no different from each of you in the room. If you are collecting data on somebody, they expect you to keep it secure,” he said. “Following best practices, following NIST standards, following whatever standards that you have in place.”

    In addition to policies and standards, Orr said audits ensure compliance within his organization.

    “The challenge for us is that we have to rely on our policies, we have to rely on our processes and we have to rely on a very good data governance structure," Orr said. "I think the ability to move forward with protecting personal data and using it rely on those three things."

    Crafting Policy to Meet Modern Demands

    Fulton County CIO Sally Wright said much of the privacy conversation developed out of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of the mid '90s around medical information sharing. Since then the wealth of data on the market and the applications for it have exploded.

    While the myriad uses present opportunities, some of which Wright called “scary,” she said the opportunities need to be measured against the larger costs to privacy. The open data movement is one where she said extra thought is needed before simply making “everything open.”

    “It sounds good, but if you don’t take a step back and start to think, ‘What does that mean?’ you could get in a lot of trouble.” She advocates for a clear data classification policy to help define the various forms of information collected and maintained by an organization. This policy should be reviewed and revised regularly.

    “If you define that upfront, when organizations want to do open data, you already know what is open and what is not,” Wright said. “There are things you have to start with, but it’s always evolving, so having a general policy in place doesn’t mean it is good to go forever. It needs to be on some kind of a cycle to be reviewed, especially IT policy.”

    *The Georgia Digital Government Summit is produced by the Government Technology events division and the Center for Digital Government, both owned and operated by e.Republic Inc., the same parent company as Government Technology magazine and Govtech.com.

  • What Obama Did for Tech: Transparency and Open Data
    Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:00:00 PDT

    Editor's note: This story is part of a six-part series on how Obama has, over the last eight years, elevated the profile of IT in the public sector. He taught government how to ride the technology bicycle, so to speak. A future president who neglects technology won’t be able to make it forget the skills taught through the influence of Silicon Valley and startup culture, said Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s first chief technology officer.

    Before “open data” became a catchphrase for innovation there was Data.gov, the first open data portal for federal agencies. Under the direction of President Obama and the guiding hand of U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra, the site went live in 2009. It was the first platform to deliver federal data to citizens, civic hackers, academics and anyone else seeking insights from government information.

    In the beginning, it could arguably be described as an experiment. Yet its growth soon became an inevitability as the Obama administration, along with bipartisan research and transparency groups, latched on to the site as a persuasive tool to drive policy with data. The site has gone on to publish more than 180,000 data sets from federal agencies, embracing a belief long held by successful companies like Google and Amazon that information supersedes the heated emotions and rhetoric of politics.

    It’s this idea that fueled the president’s 2013 executive order urging agencies to make open data a default practice. Since then, the White House has leveraged technology and data to find solutions to a host of pressing societal problems. Some of these prominent works have included the Police Data Initiative, which partners with police departments to publish crime data, the Opportunity Project, which publishes open data apps to assist citizens, and coordination of the National Day of Civic Hacking, an event that encourages data-driven hackathons in communities in all 50 states.

    Yet it’s probable that the greatest gift that Obama will leave transparency advocates is a set of fundamental policy shifts. During his last term in office, he signed two defining pieces of legislation: The first law requires agencies to publish expenditures in a digital format, and the second holds agencies accountable for public record requests.

    The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), signed in 2014, established a historic precedent. Unlike most open data policies that merely encourage, this law mandates that officials publish finances online in a standardized, machine-readable format. Because of the bipartisan DATA Act, a host of financial information — including payments, procurement contracts, budgetary actions, monetary assistance and management reports — is all set to be published on Data.gov starting in May 2017.

    Similarly, in 2016, the president signed a bill that to transparency lobbyists represented a much needed update to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation’s first open public records law. On July 4, 50 years to the day after that law was passed, the president signed the FOIA Improvement Act, an amendment to the original that adds a “presumption of openness” to all records that are not protected or classified. The distinction places a burden of proof on the agencies that seek to withhold information to present a valid reason why records, if released, would cause foreseeable harm. Prior to the law, agencies could deny record requests from journalists, researchers and watchdog groups by citing FOIA exemptions without proof.

  • Presidential Debate 2016: Cybersecurity Highlights Significant Differences in Policy, Understanding Between Candidates
    Tue, 27 Sep 2016 12:00:00 PDT

    The first of three presidential debates Sept. 26 was full of the typical political jabs and deflections, but at least six minutes of the roughly two-hour ordeal fell to discussion of cybersecurity and the 21st-century threats facing the country.

    During the debate, the stark differences between Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump were highlighted in their policies on jobs creation and growth to the need for policing and prison reform and immigration. But perhaps no divide was as glaring as their positions on cyberwarfare and defense.

    When asked by NBC moderator and journalist Lester Holt how they would address cybersecurity challenges and the growing international threats online, Clinton pointed to “probing” aggression on the part of nation states, like Russia, and the need for firm national resolve.

    “I think cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, will be one of the biggest challenges facing the next president because, clearly, we’re facing at this point two different kinds of adversaries. There are the independent hacking groups that do it mostly for commercial reasons to try to steal information that they then can use to make money,” Clinton asserted. “But increasingly, we are seeing cyberattacks coming from states, organs of states. The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia.”

    In his rebuttal, Trump was reluctant to pin a growing list of online assaults and data thefts to any one nation state, despite reports that support his opponent’s argument. He instead argued that perpetrators could be anyone, including overweight individuals launching attacks from the comfort of their homes.

    “As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we are not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying 'Russia, Russia, Russia,' but I don’t – maybe it was,” Trump countered. “I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK.”

    Whatever the case may be, Clinton called for a tougher stance on international cyberattacks and warned that the United States would protect its online assets. Though she made it clear her administration would not look forward to engaging in a “different kind of warfare,” she said aggression would be met with the necessary force.

    “We need to make it very clear, whether it’s Russia, China, Iran or anybody else, the United States has much greater capacity," she said, "and we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information."

    In his subsequent response, Trump shifted the conversation to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the need to get “very, very tough” with ISIS online.  

    “We came in with the Internet, we came up with the Internet, and I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much when you look at what ISIS is doing with the Internet, they’re beating us at our own game. ISIS. So, we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyberwarfare. It is a huge problem,” he said. “I have a son, he’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough and maybe it’s hardly doable, but I will say we are not doing the job we should be doing. But that’s true throughout our whole governmental society.”

    Trump ultimately offered little in the way of solutions to the problems of recruitment and radicalization in cyberspace. And the former Secretary of State agreed that defeating ISIS would, at least in part, require an online component. But she also added that the effort would require ongoing military action and the continued targeting of the group’s leadership.  

    She also said the greater technology community would be an integral part of the limiting the reach of the extremist group.

    “I think there are a number of issues we should be addressing. I have put forth a plan to defeat ISIS, it does involve going after them online,” Clinton said. “I think we need to do much more with our tech companies to prevent ISIS and their operatives from being able to use the Internet to radicalize, even direct, people in our country, in Europe and elsewhere.”

  • In Los Angeles, Tech Is All About the Customer
    Mon, 26 Sep 2016 02:45:00 PDT

    Embracing technology for technology's sake is missing the point. While it's easy to get swept up in the excitement of the latest feature release in a piece of software, forward-thinking tech leaders in the public sector are grounded by the business need that technology is aimed at solving. 

    At the Los Angeles Digital Government Summit last month, CIO Ted Ross described the way the tech agency is now organized, with separate bureaus for applications, infrastructure and customer engagement — which is responsible for delivering value to both internal and external constituencies. 

    "We need to focus on our customers, have a great understanding of who they are and what they need," Ross said, "and deliver the maximum value to them using technology."