StateTech Magazine - Technology Solutions That Drive Government en Tech-Fluent Leaders Can Make the Case for Technology Investments <p>The COVID-19 pandemic heralded <a href="" target="_blank">great unemployment across the country earlier this year</a>. In hard-hit Washington state, a record number of financially stricken citizens sought unemployment benefits, overwhelming public agencies.</p> <p>In looking at state public services, which were stymied by a lack of IT support, The Seattle Times recently found a beacon of hope in <a href="" target="_blank">Suzi LeVine</a>, the state’s <a href="" target="_blank">Employment Security Department</a> commissioner. A former <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft</a> executive, LeVine possesses the aptitude and, specifically, the “exceptional tech fluency” to match resources against the challenges, the newspaper says. She knows how to solve the problem and how to speak to it.</p> <p>Deloitte <a href="" target="_blank">defines tech fluency</a> as “the ability to broadly understand and confidently discuss IT concepts.” The firm regularly examines the idea that corporate CIOs should not only possess tech fluency but also learn the language of business. These combined capabilities result in more comprehensive and convincing technology leadership. Greater tech fluency lends itself to increased persuasiveness. </p> <p>Similarly, public sector IT leaders may become stronger advocates for leveraging technologies to provide public services. The result is tech-fluent leaders like Suzi LeVine in Washington.</p> Jon Mazella How the Pandemic Opened the Door for Data Opportunities in the Cloud <p>Like nearly every city across the country, Chicago has spent the better part of 2020 doing everything it can to battle the coronavirus. As is the case in other municipalities, much of that work focused on prevention and on ensuring city hospitals have sufficient resources to handle COVID patients.</p> <p>But Chicago has also been trying something different: an initiative led by the city’s public health department involving a cloud-based application called <a href="" target="_blank">Chi COVID Coach</a>.</p> <p>The app was launched in April following a month of collaboration with <a href="" target="_blank">Google Cloud</a> and software developer MTX, explains Raed Mansour, director of <a href="" target="_blank">Chicago Public Health Departmen</a>t’s Office of Innovation and the city’s Public Health Tech Group Supervisor in its new COVID-19 Operations section. “There were still a lot of unknowns at the time, and people were looking for answers,” he says. Their goal, in part, was to gather data they could use to track the virus and its spread across the city. “But we also wanted to be able to communicate with people directly in order to get them the information they needed.”</p> <p>For as long as cloud solutions have been available, forward-looking government agencies have had cause to deploy them. But now there is an even greater cause, as the pandemic has scattered workers across regions and simultaneously required public health authorities to collect data over even more disparate areas. Cloud-based solutions have the capability to meet the challenge at both ends, collecting data and centralizing input across an enterprise.</p> <p>“Cloud is not new, but to this point there’s been relatively slow adoption of cloud services by state and local governments,” notes Tim Crawford, CIO for the advisory services firm <a href="" target="_blank">AVOA</a>. For some, the delay can be explained by inertia — employees at least could access everything they might require in a central office — while others have delayed their cloud migrations fearing security risks or expense.</p> <p>“But now COVID has changed everything,” Crawford says. “Their data centers can’t handle everyone working from home. They’re not what you need if you’re a health agency trying to track the virus. So now everyone’s looking for cloud-based alternatives because the way they always did things is no longer an option.”</p> Chris Hayhurst Q&A: CISA’s Masterson on the Election Cybersecurity Battle <p>State and local governments have spent the past year (or longer) preparing for the Nov. 3 general election and enhancing their cybersecurity for election systems.</p> <p>They have adopted <a href="" target="_blank">endpoint detection and response tools</a>, invited ethical hackers to <a href="" target="_blank">probe their websites for weaknesses</a> and have conducted <a href="" target="_blank">security response drills</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">other tabletop exercises to combat misinformation and other threats.</a></p> <p>A constant partner in those efforts has been the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.</p> <p>One of CISA’s core responsibilities is to work 24/7 to ensure that the vote is tallied without major incident. After the <a href="" target="_blank">reported Russian interference</a> in the 2016 election, the federal government is on alert along with state and local election officials to prevent disruptions this year.</p> <p>“There’s more conversation about election administration right now than I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for more than a decade,” says CISA’s Matt Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser who specializes in election security. “That’s a positive. It means more information is out there for the public about the security of the process.”</p> <p><em>StateTech</em> spoke recently with Masterson about what’s being done to secure the 2020 election.</p> Elizabeth Neus Images for State and Local IT Influencers Worth a Follow in 2020 <p>If you’re on the list of <strong><a href="" target="_blank">30 State and Local IT Influencers Worth a Follow in 2020</a></strong>, spread the news and grab our IT influencer images for your social media pages or websites. Below you will find a header image for your Twitter profile, a profile picture for your social media pages and a social object to share on your social media pages. Please be sure to tag <a href="" target="_blank">@S</a><a href="" target="_blank">tateTech</a> when you post! 0</p> 30 State and Local Government IT Influencers Worth a Follow in 2020 <p>It’s been a tumultuous year in state and local government IT, which, like every other sector, has been disrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The most visible sign is that <a href="" target="_blank">state and local governments are facing looming budget cuts</a> as they see rising unemployment and healthcare costs amid plunging sales, property and income taxes.</p> <p>At the same time, state and local governments have in many ways risen to the occasion this year, using cloud technologies to <a href="" target="_blank">increase their capacity to deliver badly needed services</a>. Cloud-based collaboration tools have also helped agency staff <a href="">remain productive while working from home</a>. And remote conferencing technology has actually made it <a href="">more likely that litigants will show up in courtrooms</a>.</p> <p>Technology clearly has a role to play, no matter how the pandemic unfolds. It will help shape the next generation of smart cities and enable <a href="">digital services citizens increasingly expect of their governments</a>.</p> <p>Who will shape and lead those conversations? We think the people on this list will play a big role. To help understand how the state and local government IT landscape is likely to shift in the next year, we have crafted a refreshed influencer list of bloggers, Twitter personalities, podcasts, LinkedIn pros and those who use their social channels to stimulate the conversation.</p> <p>These are the 30 state and local government IT influencers (in alphabetical order) who we hope will be your guides through the uncertain times ahead — and if you’re on the list, <a href="" target="_blank">grab our IT influencer cover image for your Twitter page and spread the news</a>!</p> Phil Goldstein Airport Project Showcases New Use for Thermal Cameras <p>Crises drive innovation, and COVID-19 has been no exception. In June, <a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles World Airport</a>s announced it had deployed thermal cameras at Los Angeles International Airport to help identify travelers with elevated body temperatures.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Terminal Wellness initiative</a> could potentially help mitigate the spread of viruses.</p> <p>The pilot project “is part of our extensive efforts to protect all those traveling through LAX and is another example of how LAWA is setting new standards for the airport industry with best practices, technology and innovation,” says LAWA CEO Justin Erbacci in a press release.</p> <p>In this voluntary program, thermal cameras screen passengers in the terminal. Those with body temperatures of 100.4 degrees or higher are asked to undergo a secondary screening with a handheld, noncontact thermometer.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em><strong>READ MORE: </strong>What are the tools agencies need to rebound from crises? </em></a></p> <h2 id="toc_0">A New Application for a Proven Tool </h2> <p>Experts say this initial reading of surface skin temperature could be a valuable safeguard. The ability of thermal-camera technology to take instant readings “has quickly made it a preferred tool for frontline screening,” says Chris Bainter, vice president of business development at <a href="" target="_blank">FLIR</a>, one of the tech providers on the pilot project.</p> <p>FLIR has a similar program running with Emirates Airlines, with temperature screening for passengers traveling on U.S. and U.K. flights departing from Dubai International Airport — a signal that such measures may represent the “new normal” in air travel, Bainter says.</p> Adam Stone Ohio Invites Ethical Hackers to Target Its Election Systems <p>Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose knows how important election cybersecurity is. Earlier this year, <a href="" target="_blank">he told <em>StateTech</em></a> that his goal is to have Ohio “set the tone for the rest of the nation.” He’s doing that by inviting ethical hackers to find vulnerabilities in its election systems.</p> <p>In August, LaRose’s office announced a new “<a href="" target="_blank">vulnerability disclosure policy</a>,” encouraging hackers and researchers to probe the state’s IT systems for vulnerabilities.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">As StateScoop reports</a>, it is the first such policy created by any statewide election authority.</p> <p>The guidelines advise hackers not to compromise or exfiltrate data or cause damage to systems, and to make every effort to “avoid privacy violations, degradation of user experience, disruption to production systems, and destruction or manipulation of data during security testing.”</p> <p>LaRose says the policy is aimed at giving the state insight from “good guy hackers” who can help it make fixes. “They spend their time looking for vulnerabilities,” he said in August, <a href="" target="_blank">according to local station WKSU</a>. “But the whole point of the vulnerability disclosure agreement is, we’re saying, ‘Hey, if you find a hole and tell us about it, we’re not going to sue you.’”</p> <p>Some of the website domains that are part of the program are integral to Ohio’s election systems, including <em><a href="" target="_blank"></a></em>, <em><a href="" target="_blank"></a></em>, <em><a href="" target="_blank"></a></em> and <em><a href="" target="_blank"></a></em>.</p> Phil Goldstein Q&A: Former Illinois CIO Ron Guerrier on the Pandemic and Future <p><em>Editor's note: Illinois CIO Ron Guerrier <a href="" target="_blank">stepped down from his role on Sept. 4, 2020</a> and announced Sept. 10 he will <a href="" target="_blank">become the global CIO of Hewlett-Packard</a>. This interview was conducted prior to his departure. </em></p> <p>Illinois CIO Ron Guerrier <a href="" target="_blank">joined his state’s government</a> in February 2019 after serving as CIO for Farmers Insurance and Toyota North America. Equipped with the significant experiences of his private sector responsibilities, Guerrier has quickly advanced the digital transformation of Illinois’ IT enterprise.</p> <p><em>StateTech</em> recently chatted with Guerrier about the technology demands that faced Illinois during the pandemic outbreak, his state’s cloud computing posture and his priorities among emerging technologies.</p> <h2><span style="color: #c74037;">STATETECH: </span>How has the pandemic changed the way you are working in Illinois, and what did you do to stand up infrastructure and support for state employees who suddenly had to work remotely?</h2> <p><strong>Guerrier: </strong>We were fortunate that under Gov. J.B. Pritzker, we set a very hard focus on five foundational priorities: architecture, service management, program management, data analytics and cybersecurity.</p> <p>It was late February. I was just returning from an international trip. I was working on connecting Dubai and Chicago to be potential digital sister cities. Upon my return, I was told I might want to wear a mask. That’s when reality kicked in.</p> <p>We already were focused on strengthening the basics. So when the pandemic hit, we had already bolstered our data center team. We had bolstered our cybersecurity team. We already had plans to be a lot more nimble when it comes to more security on the fringe, using tools such as <a href=";key=okta" target="_blank">Okta</a>. And we already had a very good relationship with <a href=";key=Citrix" target="_blank">Citrix</a>. So when it all hit, we were able to spin up roughly 15,000 remote instances in less than 72 hours, and then a week later, up to 20,000.</p> <p>So our challenge wasn’t getting the technology up. It was the human element of change, the organizational change. We had never had remote workers other than those required to go into the field for child services and the like.</p> <div style="padding: 5px; width: 290px; color: rgb(236, 236, 236); margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 15px; float: right; background-color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><img alt="Ron Guerrier" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/" /><br /><span style="color: #939393; font-size: 10px;">Photo: Courtesy of Illinois DoIT</span> <div style="font-size: 18px;"><a href="" target="_blank">Ron Guerrier</a>, Former Illinois CIO</div> </div> <p>But for the most part, every one of our state’s employees came in at 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. They left around 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m., and they’re not expected to work offline unless they’re running a data center and things happen, or there’s an upgrade. And even upgrades were done early in the morning so people wouldn’t have to work late at night. So, we had to navigate that new way of doing work.</p> <p>The other thing we had to get people comfortable with and understanding is that our cyber footprint has increased. Instead of being in a fixed building down in Springfield, our cyber footprint is now everyone’s home. And so, having the right hygiene when you’re working from home is different from working in the office.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em><strong>VIDEO: </strong>Find out how the role of the state CIO will evolve between now and 2023.</em> </a></p> <h2><span style="color: #c74037;">STATETECH:</span> The public normally expects to come into some government buildings to conduct their business. How do you deploy technology to support citizens?</h2> <p><strong>Guerrier:</strong> We have a strategic initiative roadmap to guide us. It directed us to build things in advance. So, for example, we want to deploy AI. But first, we must ensure our data is right. AI is going to be bad if we don’t have the foundation of good data. So, we started introducing things to move forward because we would want them two years from now. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation.</p> <p>For example, when you have a website and a call center, they have to work in concert with each other. But, when the website is down, the call center gets more volume. When the call center’s down, the website gets more volume. And from a state perspective, we never thought of it as one organism. We thought of them as separate channels of communication. When our unemployment security website went from 93,000 hits to 1.7 million hits, we had to bolster the website. But, we also had to enhance the call center. It’s like two parts of a balloon: You squeeze one end, the other end feels the impact, and vice versa.</p> <p>We added chat bots, improved website navigation and increased our network throughput.</p> <h2><span style="color: #c74037;">STATETECH:</span> How did Illinois look where cloud was concerned? Were you prepared to support these functions with cloud?</h2> <p><strong>Guerrier:</strong> I was fortunate. I inherited a strategy to move more data to the cloud. We already had over 50 percent in the cloud and the remainder on-premises, and a lot of those were legacy systems.</p> <p>We are in the midst of a major enterprise resource planning, upgrade going from 198 reporting systems to one — on SAP. On Jan. 1, we went from 30 percent to 88 percent of the entire state on one system. And now, we’re at 90 percent. That’s noteworthy because we’re on <a href="" target="_blank">the SAP HANA platform</a>, which is cloud-based. So again, all the reporting was moving to the cloud anyway. With dropping revenues at the same time, we depended on our financial reporting more than ever.</p> Mickey McCarter Tech Is Aiding Several Aspects of the Criminal Justice System During the Pandemic <p>The coronavirus pandemic has upended all aspects of society, from how work gets done to social gatherings and how people greet one another. It has also posed a significant challenge to the criminal justice system, which has long relied on bringing people into close contact. That’s true for court proceedings, interviewing suspects and conducting parole checkups.</p> <p>Technology has helped judicial and criminal justice systems across the country keep these functions running during the pandemic. In some cases, remote videoconferencing solutions have actually helped make it easier for litigants to appear. That has led to increases in appearance rates in various states.</p> <p>It’s unclear how long courts, jails and probation services will need to maintain such solutions, but for the foreseeable future, minimizing close contact in the judicial system will continue to be an imperative.</p> <p>Courts, police agencies and others involved in criminal justice should use the early learnings of the past few months to continue to improve how technology can aid their operations.</p> Houston Thomas III Governments Embrace Digital Services Amid the Pandemic <p>Gone for the foreseeable future are the days of the crowded city council or state government meeting. Gone, too, are large numbers of citizens congregating in government offices for services such as permits and license renewals. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed how government operates and how citizens interact with it.</p> <p>In many cases, out of necessity, government agencies have been embracing digital services with enthusiasm. While <a href="" target="_blank">some jurisdictions</a> were thinking about these kinds of initiatives <a href="">before the pandemic struck</a>, recently published research and examples from states indicate the pandemic has accelerated those efforts.</p> <p>According to <a href="" target="_blank">a recent survey by Granicus</a>, which modernizes government web services and strategies, 82 percent of government officials believe their organizations need to become more technologically advanced.</p> <p>The survey, which covered 1,490 government officials and citizens across the U.S., found that 61 percent of government officials believe the pandemic has “expedited digital transformation at their organization,” and 52 percent of citizens reported noticing that their “governments are beginning to offer more online options” for services, according to Granicus.</p> <p>According to the survey, 54 percent of citizens now expect government services to be offered online, and 30 percent of citizens “expect those processes to become simpler,” <a href="" target="_blank">according to Smart Cities Dive</a>.</p> <p>Government IT leaders seem to agree and think tightening state budgets due to the economic fallout of the pandemic could make it more likely that states adopt digital services. “We are in a digital era, which means [we need] continuous investment into digital services,” California CIO Amy Tong <a href="" target="_blank">tells <em>Government Technology</em></a>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em><strong>SIGN UP: </strong>Get exclusive access to interviews with top state government IT leaders. </em></a></p> <h2>States Turn to Digital Services to Aid Citizens</h2> <p>As the pandemic unfolded, legacy systems such as unemployment websites <a href="">faced unprecedented pressure</a>. States also addressed the need to get information out to residents during a rapidly evolving public health crisis.</p> <p>Digital services teams and offices in various states moved to address those issues. For example, <a href="">in late March</a> New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of the <a href="" target="_blank">COVID-19 Technology SWAT team</a>, which recruited highly trained and civic-minded IT professionals from the private sector to help the state meet a wave of IT demands during the pandemic. The effort was led by the state’s Office of Information Technology Services and supported by the Department of Financial Services.</p> <p>The teams “completed 40 projects over the past three months, from informational websites to screening applications to training workshops,” <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Government Technology</em> reports</a><em>.</em> The publication notes:</p> <blockquote><p>The result facilitated 49 million interactions between state government and citizens, and it saved taxpayers as much as $14 million through 25,000 hours of volunteer support from employees in the private sector, according to ITS.</p> </blockquote> <p>Some of the projects the SWAT teams worked on included an updated and redesigned unemployment insurance application that was cloud-based and mobile-friendly.</p> <p>“This included: developing a mobile-responsive upfront interface to collect user info and upload it to the … website during downtimes to reduce timeouts and call center volumes; overhauling the design and steps associated with the unemployment insurance process to eliminate bugs and wrong doors; allowing residents to save progress and complete an application later; and integrating the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance process into a single application,” <a href="" target="_blank">according to a report from New York state</a> on the SWAT teams’ progress.</p> <p>Another project was the creation of the <a href="">New York Forward website</a>, which, the New York state report notes, is “a one-stop shop to guide businesses on their reopening plan and provide New Yorkers with the data and resources to stay safe and track regional reopening announcements.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, in neighboring New Jersey, the state’s Office of Innovation modernized the state’s communications and delivered public health information thanks to “partnerships with third-party vendors and organizations like Yext, a cloud-based search provider that built the state’s COVID-19 information hub and the <a href="" target="_blank">Federation of American Scientists</a>, a nonprofit think tank that helped the state build a question-and-answer tool for frequently asked pandemic inquiries,” <a href="" target="_blank">StateScoop reports</a>.</p> <p>The office also worked with Rutgers University and <a href="" target="_blank">U.S. Digital Response</a> to create a “website that helped small business owners find information about government assistance and an internal rapid-assessment tool that gave state officials insights into their supply chain for personal protective equipment,” according to StateScoop.</p> <p>And in Oklahoma, the state rapidly revamped its unemployment system and <a href="" target="_blank">set up a digital portal</a> for residents to use to apply for assistance. The portal allows residents to apply for and track their unemployment benefits online, and “the state has been able to process 30,000 claims per week and deliver more than $2 billion in unemployment checks — all without adding additional customer service representatives,” Howard Langsam, executive vice president at Granicus, <a href="" target="_blank">writes in <em>Government Technology</em></a>.</p> <p>States seem more open to working with private sector IT pros to help them meet the need for digital services, should that need arise. “There was such a need to have a surge of expertise, of resources, so we were glad to have those companies available to do that, and willing to do that,” New York ITS spokesperson Scott Reif tells <em>Government Technology</em>. “We’ve done a lot of after-the-fact thinking … and certainly we would like to go back to these companies if there is a second wave, if we were to need additional assistance. I think everybody hopes not to have to do that.”</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong><em>READ MORE:</em></strong> <em>Find out why better digital services make life easier for citizens.</em></a></p> Phil Goldstein