Back to School or Not? Options Abound

By Charles Castelly, SLED Analyst

With the expected return of students back to school in the fall, most counties are trying to figure out the best way to facilitate a safe and orderly process.

School systems are facing many challenges right now — the first being how to keep social distancing. Secondly, they will need to manage remote learning environments — and find a way to pay for new technologies that are required to support them.

Lots of decisions still need to be made and school systems are using all available resources to resolve outstanding issues — and they are reaching out to parents for their input.

For example, Fairfax County, Virginia has given parents two options. A virtual learning option would involve students logging into a virtual classroom for interactive instruction four days a week. The second option would require students returning to school three days a week and spending two days a week at home learning virtually.

Whatever the decision, virtual or hybrid classroom, there will need to be technology enhancements to successfully adapt to the new reality. Other school systems will likely face similar challenges.

Cybersecurity will be a crucial piece. With students and teachers accessing information from multiple devices, endpoint protection is vital. Students will need to be able to access the school’s network virtually or in the classroom without putting their data at risk.

Cloud applications are another crucial piece of the puzzle. With many school systems transitioning to the cloud over the past couple of years, classroom management and learning applications have become great tools for students and teachers alike. With the potential of a fully virtual or a hybrid experience, being able to access resources from wherever students are located will be vital to success.

As school systems work through what the best course of action will be for the fall, the safety of students and teachers will continue to be the top priority. Vendors will need to partner with school systems to understand their specific needs to find best the solutions for them. There will need to be a true collaborative effort between all parties to make the remote learning experience successful.

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Military Space Programs Emerge as a Top Priority in 2021

Lloyd McCoy Jr.

By Lloyd McCoy, Market Intelligence Manager

While passage of the 2021 budget is still months away, Congress and the White House are busy crafting the final version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. This is the most important budget document for the Department of Defense as it establishes funding levels and sets the policies under which money will be spent. As such, it’s a reliable barometer for DOD priorities in the next year or two.

There’s a clear consensus emerging between the Administration and Congress on space as a high priority and the upcoming NDAA will call for a strengthened role in space for our military. More specifically, acquiring the infrastructure and technologies that will further development of space-based assets and capabilities will be spelled out.

Let’s look at where we expect IT solutions to be most needed in the space domain:  Read more of this post

Cybersecurity Spending Continues in State Government

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

By now, most of us are aware of the budgetary restrictions many states will be under due to reduced revenue collections. Arkansas will experience cuts of about $250 million in the next fiscal year. Utah could see budget cuts up to 10%, while Vermont may see budget cuts of up to 25%. This will most likely restrict the number of new projects, but one area many state CIOs expressed continued support for is cybersecurity.

During recent round table discussions hosted by NASCIO, budgets and budget cuts were top of mind for CIOs as they shared top priorities for the coming fiscal year. Many stated that they were continuing with their initiatives as best they could, balancing funding with requirements. Initiatives include projects like service digitization, automation, customer relationship management, and in many cases, improving cybersecurity frameworks.

Some states are planning to leverage funding they receive through the CARES Act for technology, while others are trying to find alternative ways to finance new and ongoing initiatives alike. Despite budget cuts, there is one area continuing to receive CIO attention — cybersecurity. Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening across the country:  Read more of this post

The State Department’s Data-Driven Future

By Jessica Parks, Analyst

In January of this year, the State Department made headlines when it established its Center for Analytics (CfA) to manage and analyze data across the entire department. The formation of an enterprise-level analytics center is a significant move for what has traditionally been a highly decentralized organization. It also reflects a broader goal at to better harness and apply its troves of data.

If you’re looking to get in on the action, read on for a couple of areas worth targeting in FY21.

Analytics to Improve Administrative Functions

Under Chief Information Officer Stuart McGuigan, IT systems at the agency are viewed in terms of business output, especially in how they support operational functions like workflows and onboarding. Speaking at an AFCEA Bethesda event in April, he described how the State Department is exploring robotic process automation (RPA) to speed up the onboarding process for new employees and further empowering back office staff.   Read more of this post

Top CAPEX Investment Areas in Army IT for FY21

It is no exaggeration to say FY20 has been a tumultuous year and that the upcoming FY21 budget will likely see noteable changes from what the White House submitted in February. However, for the Department of Defense, and the Army in particular, the major strategic priorities highlighted in the FY21 budget request are unlikely to change.

Here are the top 5 IT programs the Army has slated for FY21, ranked by level of capital expenditure. These represent areas where the Army is expanding their focus, and consequently dollars and where they need IT solutions to help them address their requirements.

High Performance Computing Modernization Program

With FY21 capital expenditure (CAPEX) funds, exceeding $188M, the High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) is the largest CAPEX program  and a key investment opportunity for vendors who offer products focused on data analytics, big data, artificial intelligence and edge computing. HPCMP provides artificial intelligence and machine learning technology for the Army, Air Force, Navy and other Defense agencies. This program is anticipated to lead to the development of 3D computations and simulations for major weapon designs and war time capabilities.   Read more of this post

Shifting Priorities in the Upcoming FY21 Budget

Lloyd McCoy Jr.

By Lloyd McCoy, Market Intelligence Manager

With the start of the FY21 fiscal year just a few months away, the debate between the executive and legislative branches over priorities and tradeoffs in the FY21 budget will soon begin in earnest. At the heart of the discussion will be on what changes need to be made to the FY21 budget request presented in February, given the current environment.

Areas like artificial intelligence already have seen increased funding support in the request, but we’ll see more focus on areas specific to robotic process automation, security analytics and data mining — due to the ways agencies have had to adapt to conduct their missions.

It’s safe to say that every federal department will ultimately receive a budget that reflects the changing times. Additionally, it’s also safe to say that the priorities reflected in the upcoming budget will be needed indefinitely — to remain vigilant against future threats.

Here are some of the primary federal players that could see the biggest changes in the makeup and composition of their FY21 budget request: Read more of this post

AI Is on the Upswing in State Government

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

When it comes to artificial intelligence, most states are just beginning to uncover its potential.

As I discussed in a recent webinar, AI usage thus far has been mostly experimental. Recent survey data from the Center for Digital Government demonstrates that nearly a third of those surveyed about their current deployment of AI are doing so through proof-of-concept projects.

While widespread use of AI is not taking place, the good news is that the share of states NOT using AI is only 12% — meaning there are far more states open to using AI than not. This is a wide-open field with few standards or common threads from project to project and provides an opportunity for AI vendors to approach state and local governments with their technology. Read more of this post

Remote Work Is Here to Stay in SLED

By Charles Castelly, Analyst

This year’s NASCIO’s mid-year was full of insightful information on how states are adjusting to the new environment and how they plan to move forward during the upcoming fiscal year. One of the topics discussed was the transition to remote work and how each of their states are managing the change.

As part of this transition, CIO’s explained how they handled the immediate demand for more laptops and VPN capacity. Beyond the nuts and bolts of working remote, many CIOs also addressed their future workforce plans once restrictions are lifted. Here are some examples of what Maryland, Georgia and Missouri are doing, which may lead to other states following suit:

Maryland — Creating a Virtual Agency

Michael Leahy, Maryland’s Secretary of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, stated that remote work is likely going to be a major component of his staffing strategy going forward. Leahy said that he has given serious thought about having his staff work remotely full time, creating a “virtual agency.” A virtual agency would enable his department to save on real estate and help ease the pressure from expected budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year. Read more of this post

Top Trending Technologies in DOD for 2020

By Toné Mason, DOD Senior Analyst

FY20 has truly been the year of technology acceleration within the Department of Defense. Our world has never been more capable technology-wise than it is today. The arrival of 5G and the new challenges brought on by a rapidly expanding remote workforce have catapulted the adoption of new and innovative technologies.

The DOD is at a point where they are looking to gain a better understanding of currently available technologies and applying them where it makes the most sense. Below are some of the key areas the DOD is focused on right now.

Data Integrity

Data integrity is one of the essential areas. As the need for transparency increases and desire to expand more into AI and machine learning, there has been more of a realization that DOD’s data is not consistent, not all data is being recorded and data is incomplete. Read more of this post

Cyber Insurance Is Not an IT Strategy

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

Ransomware attacks on our state and local governments’ IT infrastructure are increasing at an alarming rate and our customers are looking at cyber insurance to mitigate risk. But cyber insurance shouldn’t be confused with a sound cybersecurity strategy that guards against attacks in the first place.

Here’s what you need to know about cyber insurance and how you can work with customers to develop cyber strategies that will serve them for the long term. Read more of this post

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