Text-To- 911 Capabilities Launch in Suffolk County, NY

The Suffolk police department has implemented technology that allows cell phone users to send a text message to a 911 call center during an emergency. An estimated 80 percent of 911 calls in the United States come from smartphones.

The “text-to-911” program can be particularly important in a case of domestic violence or active shooter situation when a voice call may be impossible. The technology also allows hearing- and speech-impaired individuals to contact 911 during a medical emergency, a more efficient means than the TTY system.

The system cannot accept group texts, photos, or videos and it is recommended that users not use abbreviations, symbols, or emojis.

The Suffolk system is funded on a surcharge to cellphone users and had an initial cost of $72,000 with an annual cost of $49,500.

(summarized from govetech.com)

5 Ways to Contain Software Costs

In 2018, the federal government budgeted $95.7 billion on IT, much of which was spent on maintaining unused or out-of-date software. On the local government level, consideration must be given to the potential for a proportionate amount of waste.

When an agency is faced with initiating a new project, software is often sourced for that specific need without research to determine if it already accessible from another municipal division.

Steps to save taxpayer money in this area include:
1 – Track and reclaim unused, existing licenses – Analyze whether or not people are using existing software and if not, reclaim the software and apply it elsewhere to satisfy other needs.

2 – Address ‘software-as-a-service’ spending – If governments don’t collect appropriate metrics or institute effective reporting in real time, there is no way to determine value for the software being used.

3 –Consolidate server virtualization into fewer data centers – Creating virtual data centers requires knowing what is installed and what licenses are required as a means to minimize the cost of new software licenses.

4 – Limit audit risk and consequences – Independent audits can be a big issue for governments. When agencies don’t know what’s installed and being used, it is too easy for an auditor to declare them out of compliance.

5 – Implement “known state” on all clients and monitor in real time – “Known state” ensures that software use doesn’t get out of control, that all employees can work effectively, that devices are secure, and downtime and disruption is minimized. A live picture of all endpoints will give agencies the ability to automate corrections in real-time, reducing software costs and risks.


Summarized from GCN.com

Local Governments Lack Defined Digital Services Strategy

A survey by the Public Technology Institute (PTI) shows that local government digital strategies are predominantly ‘ad-hoc’ and ‘not defined.’

The results showed that only 32 percent of respondents have or plan to create a digital services organization and 68 percent either do not have one defined or have left the responsibility to individual agencies of departments.

PTI recommends developing a digital strategy that addresses:
Citizen participation and engagement
Web management
App management
Use of multi-channel systems
Use of metrics and sharing the information among departments
Active management and engagement with leadership and community
Governance, policy, and procedures
Security and crisis management
Understanding and anticipating compliance issues
Use of GIS


Summarized from statescoop.com

Technology and the Difficult Issues of Governance

Governance is about the guidance of collective behavior to promote public interest through the basic goals of productivity, equity, and trust. Technology is the means to power the way to meeting the goals.

Early computers were cost-effective only for limited, well-structured calculations and were dependent upon individuals with special skills. As digital productivity has improved, computers can now do things that only humans could do before. The growth of this digital productivity will accelerate and according to Oxford University research, nearly half of all existing jobs will be eliminated or require substantial retraining in the next 10 to 20 years.

Another factor of digital growth is that people are now more connected by computer, resulting in the opinion that government makes good decisions falling from 80 to 20 percent. People with greater access to knowledge are more anxious, angry, and harder to govern that before.

To maintain pace with technological development, good governance must make smart choices about new targets for automation; make smart choices about computer-accessible job training and job sharing; and make smart choices about public service responsiveness and accountability

Summarized from governing.com

Citing Security Risks, Vermont Prohibits Government Use of Huawei, Kaspersky Technology

The Vermont Governor’s administration has banned state government agencies and their IT vendors from using products made by Chinese telecom firm Huawei and other technology that may be considered a security risk.

The intent of the ban is to assure that equipment cannot be used to steal information of initiate a cyber-attack.

Prohibited technology includes:
AO Kaspersky Lab including Anti-Virus Huawei Technologies
ZTE Corp. Hytera Communications Corp.
Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Dahau Technology Co.

The Federal government has taken similar action based on “ties between Kaspersky officials and Russian government agencies.” The inclusion of Chinese companies is based on the potential for technology to be used for espionage.

(summarized from Burlington Free Press)

ATON Computing Preparing for Next Decade with Ownership Change

SOMERVILLE, NJ – ATON COMPUTING, INC, a New Jersey Information Technology firm serving public and private sector clientele across the state, has changed ownership with the purchase of the firm by the former Operations Manager.

Walter Hansen, founder and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the firm, retired after 26 years of company growth. He will remain available to the firm as Senior Advisor/Consultant.

New owner and President Josh Schmookler has been with ATON for 13 years. He earned his Certified Government Chief Information Officer degree from University of North Carolina and has certifications from Cisco, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard & VMware.

“I have full and complete confidence that Josh will continue to serve our clients with the same dedication to detail that has been the hallmark of ATON for the past 26 years,” commented Hansen. “I have been totally reliant on his ability to understand complex problems and develop and implement effective solutions.”

ATON has been at the leading edge of the IT revolution, supporting the needs of county and municipal governments and small/medium private sector businesses. ATON focuses the expertise of its professionally trained staff on computer networking, business continuity, cloud computing solutions, and cyber security/risk management. Staff provides hands-on hardware & software integration specifically configured to meet the technology needs of today while anticipating the needs of the next generation of technological advancement.

ATON staff focus provides comprehensive Information Technology services including custom Microsoft network design and installation, software program implementation, cyber security, and training that enhances efficiency, provides protection, and results in a positive return on investment

The staff of IT professionals maintain current technical credentials including: Microsoft MCSE, MCSA, MCTS & MCP; Cisco CCNA, VMware’s VCP, A+ Core Services; numerous hardware & software product certifications.

Phishing Scam Hits Minnesota State Agency

A “phishing” scam resulted in erroneous access to social security numbers, medical information, employment records, and financial details stored in the Minnesota Department of Human Services computers.

Phishing is a type of email fraud that attempts to trick a person into providing sensitive information including passwords and financial data. Phishing is often an easier information stealing process that hacking into an entire computer system.

Phishing email characteristics include: the appearance of real emails or web pages; suspicious attachments; prize or trip offerings; and requests for urgent action. The compromised data is often used for additional phishing attacks.

Signs that a phishing email has arrived include: links embedded in messages that display a weird address when hovered over by a mouse; spelling mistakes and poor grammar; a vague salutation; a request for personal credentials; threatening or urgent language; unexpected attachments; or a vague signature.

Technology exists that can help to prevent phishing attacks, a funding issue that is being addressed by the Minnesota legislature.


Summarized from West Central Tribune

New Jersey Bill Would Push State Government to Go Paperless

State legislators are contemplating legislation that will push state government to go paperless. The bill will establish a task force to examine the feasibility of transitioning to digital records. The task force goal is to lower costs and minimize waste while streamlining operations, assessing risks, determining necessary modifications to state law, and defining cybersecurity protections.

Over the past decades public and private sector entities have moved many operations online including electronic banking and bill paying, direct deposit of salaries, and preparation of meeting packets.

Though efficiencies and money savings are positives, negatives to be addressed include cyber threats and improper destruction of electronic information.

The Task Force will have one year following formation to report its recommendations.

Summarized from govtech.com

How the Government Shutdown Put National Cybersecurity at Risk

The recently ended partial government shutdown has weakened cybersecurity with both immediate and longer-term negative consequences. While many essential cybersecurity functions continued, the jobs were made harder because other IT staff who would normally implement routine fixes were furloughed.

Close to half of the employees within the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), were furloughed as were eighty-five percent of the National Institute of Standards and Technology workers. These are the employees who help private- and public-sector companies stay up to date on the latest cyberattacks and mitigation techniques.

Among the most critical problems during the shutdown was the suspension of basic maintenance procedures. Cybersecurity functions otherwise deemed “essential,” suffered because of a lack of incoming information and assistance from other government agencies. Additionally, during the shutdown malware may have been implanted that will last long past the time when the deal was reached.

Summarized from CNBC

A Third of U.S. Citizens Prefer Mobile Access To Government Services

A Unisys survey of more than 2,000 people in eight states showed that people who prefer mobile engagement want a single app to download for access to all government services. About a third of the people surveyed want to use their mobile devices with half of those wanting a single point of access.

The greatest barriers to online engagement between the populace and government are privacy and security issues. Two-thirds of the respondents were concerned about how their data would be used by the agency and how the personal data would be protected.

Additional conclusions are the computers and tablet are preferred for complex tasks including paying taxes or renewing licenses and mobile devices are preferred for more simple issues including obtaining general information or reporting incidents. A large number of people surveyed want to see the government share data for limited purposes related to strengthening security or increasing efficiency.

Summarized from PR Newswire