How Can State and Local Agencies Enhance Their Use of Data Analytics?

State and local government agencies have been busy using data analytics tools in the past few years to give citizens access to more useful data and to improve public safety and traffic conditions, among many other uses.

While state and local IT leaders see data analytics as an integral part of modern digital government, they say they are facing many hurdles to maximizing their use of analytics tools.

A survey from MeriTalk questioned 75 IT decision-makers and 75 program managers and found that while 89 percent agree that data analytics is the lifeblood of modern government, most organizations (63 percent) are still in the early or middle stages of maturing their analytics programs.

State and local leaders say they need better workforce training, better data management and increased funding to help improve their analytics programs.

The State of Government Data Analytics Programs

While 90 percent of survey respondents said their agencies have improved their use of data analytics in the past two years, 4 in 5 said “the gap between the amount of data their organization collects and the amount they are able to use for meaningful analytics continues to grow.”

State and local agencies are also increasingly using chief data officers to help them manage and get insights from their data.

Still, agencies have made progress on data analytics during the COVID-19 pandemic. The overwhelming majority of respondents (83 percent) agreed that the pandemic has “emphasized the importance of a data-driven government.”

State and local agencies have also made progress in their data management and analytics capabilities over the past two years.

How to Improve Data Analytics in Government

Despite these advances, 78 percent of respondents felt the amount of data their organization collects is growing faster than their ability to keep up.

State and local IT leaders said they face several significant challenges to leveraging data in a meaningful way. They include a lack of staffing/workforce expertise (41 percent), lack of data prioritization from non-IT leadership (37 percent), poor data quality (33 percent) and an inability to meaningfully combine or share information (27 percent).

Agencies’ current top data analytics priorities include improving data security (53 percent), improving their understanding of the data they already have (51 percent), increasing data quality (44 percent), identifying priority metrics or data points (43 percent) and improving transparency with citizen data collection and use (39 percent).

At the end of the survey, MeriTalk makes several recommendations including: that agencies “identify a potential group of data management and analytic experts, invest in training opportunities, and increase automation to take pressure off an already overworked department.”

It also notes that “leading organizations use resources wisely — both technology and human capital — to maximize data value.” The report further says that agencies should champion CDO appointments.

Finally, the report says it is crucial for agencies to continue to mature their data analytics programs.

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New Jersey Lawmakers Propose IT Modernization

Government websites are some of the most highly trafficked destinations on the internet. However, when state and local government websites are outdated and slow, citizens have a poor user experience and may lose trust in government agencies.

Government services are some of the most important and relevant services people need access to, and government IT leaders agree it should be quick, seamless and secure.

New Jersey is attempting to meet public demand and complete a makeover of the state’s government services user experience.

New legislation, known as the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, or 21st Century IDEA, aims to update websites, implement modern customer service experiences and transition paper processes to digital formats. The act would also authorize the state’s CTO to request that agencies submit IT modernization and improvement plans.

What Does IT Modernization Mean for New Jersey?
Within one year of the 21st Century IDEA’s enactment, New Jersey state agencies would be required to submit IT modernization and improvement plans that leverage data analytics to better understand user interaction with their respective websites and digital services.

The captured data would also inform how best to enhance public-facing websites on mobile devices, improve website operation, and digitize government processes and workflows. Additionally, the plans would need to state how agencies intend to make each website used by the public mobile-friendly and accessible for people with disabilities.

Why Does New Jersey’s IT Modernization Effort Matter?
The new legislation’s impact hinges on its ability to evaluate all technology at the state level. One of the main goals is to make state government websites faster and more reliable. Within New Jersey, many residents tend to experience long wait times when trying to access basic government services.

Residents “need an easy-to-use platform” where they can access information and services. The 21st Century IDEA seeks to supply that platform and help agencies evaluate and improve their websites across the state.

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Ransomware attacks are complex — preventing them isn’t

As geopolitical conflicts increasingly play out in cyberspace, ransomware attacks are ravaging businesses and governments of all sizes.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly recently implored city officials to make ransomware a “kitchen-table issue.” Ransomware must be simplified so it’s easy to understand and discuss with simple solutions and simple actions.

There are things that towns, cities and counties can do that do not require large budgets, more technology, or more staff. They require a better understanding of how ransomware attacks occur and policies that drastically reduce the ability for criminals to snatch valuable data.

The Cyber Readiness Institute provides free, easy-to-use tools and resources to help small and medium-sized businesses and government entities become more cyber-secure and resilient. Resources and guides focus on human behavior and place significant emphasis on employee education and awareness. Most ransomware and phishing incursions can be prevented by taking practical, common-sense steps.

In the case of ransomware, it is as simple as: prepare, respond and recover.


Ransomware gangs and nation states want to hold town’s or city’s data hostage and do the most economic damage possible. To not give them leverage, regularly back up critical data and store it in the cloud or offline. Regularly test your backups.

Know the behaviors bringing ransomware risk including phishing attacks, the most popular entry point for cybercriminals. Conduct routine phishing tests so employees can detect a phishing email before clicking on dangerous links or attachments and, when possible, use anti-phishing software.

Make sure software is up-to-date with the latest security patches. Insist employees use strong passwords or passphrases (at least 15 characters) and implement multi-factor authentication, which requires users to present more than one piece of evidence when logging in to an account. This step alone prevents 99.9% of account-compromise attacks.

If an employee or your government agency is confronted with a ransom request, your organization must first assess the legitimacy by contacting your IT manager. If you have prepared and have backups that work, the ransomware attack is moot.

If the data held hostage is needed and there are no working backups, things become more complex. Check if the data exists somewhere else in the organization so you can “tape” together the data to replace what is being held hostage. If you can’t access the data, ask the following questions:
Is the data critical to your operations?
Has your organization pre-determined that it is OK paying a ransom?
Does your insurance cover it?


The scope of the ransomware attack and the severity of its impact on your daily operations will determine how much time and effort is needed to recover.

As with any security breach, notify all affected parties, reset the user IDs and passwords, update the software on all devices and reinstall your data from backups once the ransomware threat is neutralized.

Ransomware is not an incurable scourge. Protections are not limited to organizations with the deepest pockets.

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No Strategy Needed to Start Leveraging AI in Government

While states should formulate a strategic vision for long-term use of artificial intelligence, the pandemic showed that AI can successfully assist with vital public services.

The pandemic has shown state chief information officers that artificial intelligence is within reach of public agencies, and an overall AI strategy is not needed to start leveraging and benefiting from the technology.

AI refers to systems or machines that mimic human intelligence to perform tasks and can improve themselves based on the information they collect.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, many state governments had to adapt to chatbots, which are computer programs that simulate and process human written or spoken conversation, and other digital assistance to handle inquiries around unemployment assistance and other vital public services to deal with the increase in demand.

From the transition, agency leaders found that technology allowed them to better serve more residents with fewer resources and deploy limited staff to deal with more complicated activities.

Supporting State AI Use
For AI adoption to have long-term success, a defined strategy and vision are important with a clear framework for AI use and governance, and a defined AI vision and strategy.

Among the challenges adopting this kind of technology includes states lacking staff or contractors with the skills required to roll it out, existing computer systems that are badly outdated, and the need for a clearer framework to govern how AI and machine learning can be deployed.

Formulating a Strategic Vision
While most states’ AI efforts are in the early stages, technology leaders have an opportunity to lay a firm foundation grounded in sound strategy.

Steps technology leaders can take when looking ahead include:
Vision: Examine the full breadth of AI possibilities and limitations.
Data: Allow AI to leverage massive data sets to deliver accurate predictions.
Framework: Centralize guidance and standardized processes in an AI strategy.
Business value: Give an AI strategy a narrative of impact.
Deployment: Look at early successes with AI that show agencies the potential of technology tools, like natural language processing, machine learning and sentiment analysis.
Automation: Make sure advanced automation furthers the state’s interests.
Vendor collaboration: Employ companies that specialize in learning automation, software-as-a-service platforms and managed services as primary paths to AI systems.

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How State, Local Government Can Fight Disinformation

To combat false narratives and foster trust in reliable information, governments can invest in local news, support empathy-building initiatives, and ensure election processes are traceable.

The Aspen Institute took on the sweeping issue of mis- and disinformationwith the release of an 80-page report that outlines key goals and steps for government and civic society can take to reduce the harm and spread of false claims.

The spread of deliberate or accidental falsehoods undermines society’s ability to effectively tackle problems like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. It’s hard to frame goals or collaborate on solutions without first agreeing to the facts of the problem.

Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises, because it prevents us from being able to discuss important issues with facts.

The institute’s Commission on Information Disorder spent six months consulting with experts to take a society-wide look at false information. The effort produced a set of 15 recommendations of short- and long-term actions for government, private firms, civic rights organizations and others. These initiatives are intended to bring greater transparency into social mediaplatforms’ activities; better ensure the public has access to and faith in providers of accurate information, such as libraries and local newspapers; and reduce some of the most serious damages of misinformation, such as that impacting marginalized communities, public health and elections.

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5 Factors for Local Government to Consider in Digital Transformation

Municipalities that improve citizen services do so through digital transformation. Here are some key factors for city and county IT leaders to consider as they go on that journey.

1. What Does Digital Transformation Mean for Cities?

In the past, going digital meant taking old processes and simply shifting them online: A paper form became a computer-based form, and the filing cabinet was replaced with a disk drive.
True digital transformation (DX) takes advantage of the advances and cost savings in IT that let us go completely digital. DX means more than converting; it means starting over and asking yourself, “If I were designing this from scratch, how would I do it today?”

2. Where Should Local Governments Focus DX Efforts?

Citizen services are the best places to start because these have the biggest impact on customer satisfaction. When citizens start being wowed by how easy it is to do business with their local government, it helps build financial, administrative and managerial support for more DX down the line.

3. What’s the First Step for DX?

Identity and access management is the key underlying layer for any DX initiative. You need a way to authenticate and authorize users so they can access your services. Building a scalable, private and secure IAM system is the first step to any DX program.

4. What Are the Main Pitfalls That Local Governments Face with DX?

Disenfranchisement and abuse of digital services are the biggest stumbling blocks. If a service requires an internet connection, then it’s critical to have alternative ways to access that service, such as call centers, distributed internet kiosks and walk-in service centers.

5. How Does DX Work Across Different Levels of Government?

DX is based on a rethinking of your processes, and acknowledging that many citizens don’t know whether something is the responsibility of city, county, state or federal government is a first step.


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Cities Should Bridge the Digital Divide Using Federal Funds

City leaders can proactively address the digital divide in their communities with the federal government funds being distributed to localities to expand broadband access and adoption, according to a report by the National League of Cities.
Broadband internet has evolved from a cutting-edge luxury to an essential utility for participation in daily life. Without access to the internet throughout the pandemic, people wouldn’t have been able to get the latest Covid-19 information from their local government, work from home, participate in school remotely or stay connected with loved ones.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access. However, because of barriers in affordability, accessibility, availability, and skills, about 42 million U.S. residents nationwide do not have broadband access and 157.3 million live with slow or unreliable internet service, according to the report.
The funds in the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund are available to help communities close the digital divide. In addition, about $65 billion in federal funding has been allocated toward expanding broadband access and 5G connectivity nationwide in the infrastructure bill that was signed into law by President Biden in November.
Establishing better broadband infrastructure would give more Americans access to high-speed internet, helping close the digital divide existing between urban and rural areas of the country, the report states.
Solutions to the Digital Divide
To effectively use these resources, cities, towns, and villages must be ready to act. While most local leaders are aware of the digital divides within their communities, they may not know the ideal solutions for these inequities.
The NLC launched a new resource called the Digital Equity Playbook: How City Leaders Can Bridge the Digital Divide. This resource can help community leaders evaluate local challenges and build a digital equity plan, NLC says.
It also allows city leaders to complete a broadband needs assessment that helps them understand where their community stands with broadband access when compared to states, peer cities and the country, according to the report.

4 Ways State and Local Agencies Can Swiftly Transition to Hybrid Work

State and local agencies that are prepared to modernize and accommodate hybrid work for employees will be better positioned to achieve higher productivity and workforce retention and be more competitive in talent recruitment.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration issued soft guidance that would make flexible work for federal employees more acceptable post pandemic. While federal guidance doesn’t always translate to state and local policies, the guidance highlights how remote and flexible work arrangements are evolving from a temporary pandemic response to an everyday reality in both the public and private sectors.

What IT Decision-Makers Learned from the Past Year

In a recent survey, 29 percent of U.S. government employees did not have the IT equipment required to fulfill their work duties from home, and 30 percent said they were equipped with short-term solutions. A technology infrastructure that suits at-home and in-office settings is more than something nice to have. It’s a necessary requirement to keep state agencies up and running.

The question of how hybrid work models can be successfully deployed has replaced the initial concern of whether employees should return to the office full time. With the growing number of remote workers across state and local agencies, policy and infrastructure must be in place to meet the demands of their distributed workforce.

Projects with long lead times such as replacing outdated hardware and softwaremodernizing citizen services, and adopting an always-on communication style need to take precedent, which is why enabling an efficient hybrid model is crucial for ongoing agency success.

As state and local governments embark on their tech modernization plans, there are four steps they can take to ensure the transition to hybrid work is smooth.


1. Examine Your Agency’s Digital Workflow

It’s important to remember that the transition to work-from-home life was rocky for many employees juggling daily work responsibilities with the added pressure of family and home responsibilities. As hybrid work becomes the new norm, exploring technology solutions that limit disruption and accommodate the workforce in a scalable and secure way can make all the difference.

Leadership may also want to examine areas where they can improve efficiencies, such as reducing repetitive and mundane tasks for workers. Empowering staff with advanced solutions, such as device intelligence solutions, can free up managers to focus on strategic IT initiatives that are more important to the agency’s core purpose.


2. Build in IT Services and Tools That Bolster Users’ Security

With a distributed workforce comes increased security requirements. In a recent study, only 58 percent of organizations said they could identify every vulnerable asset they had within 24 hours of a critical exploit. This means that over half of organizations could be blindsided by an attack that could impact their entire workforce and compromise operations.

By combining a security-by-design framework with an IT partner that delivers the highest level of endpoint protection available, companies can deploy holistic security strategies that better enable a work-from-anywhere environment.


3. Consider a Device as a Service IT Procurement Model

Device as a Service is emerging as a popular IT procurement model. Enabling a distributed workforce with DaaS can help ensure both cost predictability and flexible service.

With DaaS, agencies can provide remote workforces with the latest technology and ease the burden of PC lifecycle management across their end-user devices — all for one predictable recurring fee and no significant upfront CAPEX investment.


4. Select the Right IT Partner for Your Agency

Finally, selecting the right IT partner will free up internal resources to focus on more strategic agency initiatives. With changing working models, relying on single-vendor contracts can be limiting.

Leadership can be more agile and tuned in to the evolving requirements of a remote workforce when they expand their approved vendor lists. It’s important to remember to review security policies and practices across the board and ask if the vendor has a plan for meeting evolving cyberthreats.

There is growing pressure for state and local agencies to deploy long-term hybrid working environments, and with the help and guidance of a technology partner, they don’t have to do it alone.

Instead, the resource burden of modernizing infrastructure and delivering an enhanced security and services model to constituents can be reduced. By empowering a hybrid workforce with the right technology, governments can maximize productivity and increase security, all while staying within the allocated budget.

Original article here

How quantum computing will transform government IT

The U.S. government is making major investments in quantum technology with the Biden administration supporting legislation that would spend over $100 billion to advance emerging technologies, including quantum computing.

Quantum development and commercialization is already underway, and increasing investments and intensive collaboration among government, private enterprise and academic institutions are already showing significant results. Government and industry recognize that quantum computing is no longer a theoretical, lab-based technology, but one which provides useful business value.


Quantum basics

Quantum computers solve problems differently than classical computers. They leverage the properties of quantum states such as superposition (the placement of one thing above or on top of another), entanglement (when two particles remain connected even when separated), and interference (a non-coherent phase difference) to simulate real-world scenarios. They also perform computations with greater data capacity, increased accuracy of results, and the promise of faster processing speeds.

Where classical computing provides only one “best” answer, quantum computers yield multiple diverse results. For governments, this means the ability to tackle their most complex problems by defining the impact among different scenarios and choosing the solution best optimized for each situation. Being able to solve complex problems with better results in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the resources provides immense opportunities.

However, quantum computing will not eliminate the need for classical computing. In fact, the hybrid model of solving problems with both quantum and classical approaches will yield better answers in certain use cases than either one computing technology could do on its own.

Quantum computing is a completely different paradigm for both hardware and software. Developing quantum programs using current Software Development Kits  (SDKs) requires significant quantum expertise and lengthy timeframes to create the program, algorithms, and low-level coding necessary to have the software work with a single hardware platform.

To overcome workforce limitations and democratize access to these powerful systems, software companies are now developing ready-to-run quantum software that subject matter experts with no quantum experience can use right now.


Cybersecurity: The quantum space race

The U.S. and other governments currently rely on mathematically-based two-key asymmetric encryption techniques. These codes are almost impossible to break with classical computers, but quantum computers will be able to break them quickly and easily. This puts the nation’s most critical secrets and all digital infrastructures at risk. The only way to get ahead of the problem is by leveraging the same powerful quantum technology to develop new cybersecurity solutions.



Quantum computing is ideally suited for government-related complex optimization problems. These include creating optimized routes and schedules for snowplows, garbage pickup, emergency response, and public transportation.

Quantum computing can also enable major operations, such as helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency to efficiently allocate emergency resources to affected communities in the wake of a natural disaster or even predict with greater certainty where a disaster will occur to prevent its effects versus reactively responding to them.



The U.S. cannot afford to fall behind its partners and adversaries in the exploration of new technologies that have widespread implications for government operations.  But technology development alone will not be sufficient to take advantage of new capabilities nor overcome its threat. The nation must ensure that it develops a workforce capable of meeting these new challenges. Additionally, these new technologies must be adopted and integrated into government operations much more quickly. The commercial sector isn’t waiting for quantum computing to reach advantage, but the government still treats it as more of a curious research endeavor than a technology that should begin shifting to implementation.

Artificial intelligence has been around for decades, but only saw government implementation within the past 10 years due to the explosion of data and advanced computing capabilities. Recent government investment in quantum technologies is a great start, but we need to encourage the executive agencies to start on their path to quantum today.


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Rethinking Public Sector Job Descriptions

Local government has been the best-kept secret in terms of a career path but with local government employees reaching retirement age, there are not enough young professionals on staff to move into senior-level positions.
Confusing Job Titles
Inherently, if we as local government employees cannot describe our jobs effectively, how do we expect to advertise open job opportunities? Many potential applicants do not understand city government management structures.
Human Resource Managers keep the job descriptions so vague thinking it will attract more candidates, but this ultimately hurts because applicants have no idea what the job actually entails.
It is important that when local governments post new positions, managers need to get more specific about what the person will be doing day-to-day.
So Many Options
A few career avenues one can take in local government include: Parks and Recreation, Compliance, Auditing, Legal, Emergency Response, Disaster Planning, Waste Water and Sewer, Land Use Management, Sustainability, Planning, Health and Human Services, Economic Development, Community Development, Human Resources, Budgeting, Capital Improvement, and of course, management.
Many young professionals want to work in these areas, but if job descriptions aren’t clear enough, how will an animal lover know about the budget director position at the zoo or the kennel? People subconsciously take jobs that usually align with their interests, no matter how large or small.
Government employees are a little weird for being local government nerds, so highlight the nerdy details in the job description! It helps job applicants see the different career avenues in local government and outlines how cool their jobs will be.
Don’t Hide the Benefits
Too many times we think millennials or generation z will not appreciate the fantastic retirement and healthcare benefits local government has to offer. Movements such as the FIRE movement (Financially Independent, Retire Early) are catching on with younger generations and government can be a good pathway for these individuals.
The younger generation is also very aware of the cost of healthcare and prescription drug prices. Local governments offer great healthcare benefits to help cover these costs. They are great for families and singles. Do not just say “we offer excellent Pension and Healthcare benefits” in your job descriptions. Spell it out for them, over-sell the job. By doing this, you will get many more quality candidates.
Most local government positions are true 8 am-5 pm jobs. Most government jobs are people facing, so when the office closes, there is not much work left to do if people cannot get into the building. This allows employees to pursue passions outside of work.
Meaningful Work
Government work is very rewarding, even if it takes years to see our efforts come to fruition. Young professionals are eager to make an impact and are willing to run through a brick wall to do so.
Managers should give young employees “range” projects that have a major impact on the community, even though they may not be ready. Allowing them to prove themselves while guiding them along the way lets them to grow professionally while taking on important projects. Therefore, in the job descriptions, spell out some of the long-range, strategic projects the applicant could be working on in the role.
Let’s Brag 
Brag about our industry, talk about all the great perks and the awesome work. By making job descriptions more clear, concise, and honest, young people will apply for employment opportunities. Everything government offers is what the next generation wants.


Original article here