How IT Can Help Streamline the Voting Process and Improve Accountability

By Charles Castelly, Analyst

With the presidential election around the corner, citizens are contemplating when and how they are going to vote — in person or via mail-in ballot. This is an unusual year due to concerns stemming from the global pandemic, and with that comes necessary changes for both governments and voters. The outcome of this election will rely heavily on mail-in voting, which presents some unique challenges.

Election accountability is especially crucial this year and with only a few weeks remaining, states are rushing to ensure their systems are up to par and can handle the influx of mail-in ballots expected.

Citizens are demanding accountability in the vote tabulation. Several states have rolled out applications that enable citizens to track their ballots — from request to vote count. However, there are handful of states that do not currently have an online tracking option, such as Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri, Wyoming and New York. Other states have tracking at a state level but have little to no tracking capability at the county level.  Read more of this post

How Emergency Management Can Be Improved With Technology


By Charles Castelly, Analyst

While state and local governments continue to provide resources to address the current pandemic, many will also have to manage emergency response on a second front. Recent natural disasters around the country, such as earthquakes, wildfires and hurricanes, are placing even more of a strain on already over-taxed state and local governments.

Technology is a crucial element of emergency response efforts — from the radios and broadband networks employed by first responders to the communications systems used to share information with the public. State and local governments will be even more reliant on technology now, during these natural disasters to quickly administer emergency response – as they continue to lessen the impact of the current pandemic.

Here’s how the vendor community can help government be prepared to respond to any natural disaster. Read more of this post

Technology to Aid State Contact Tracing Efforts

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

States are increasingly leveraging technology to help state and local officials trace and contain virus outbreaks – and each state seems to be taking a different approach. Everything from calls and texts to apps and online forms is being used. Patient contact tracing methods vary widely across the states — from centralized tracing by state health departments to decentralized methods that rely on calls and texts sent by individual local health departments.

What’s common is the need for case-management systems that manage interactions and follow-up activities. These systems organize information that contact tracers collect through their outreach, as well as information entered through online portals by citizens themselves.

Data collected by these case management systems can help states identify the total number of cases, hospitalizations, etc., by geography. These systems are typically robust tools that provide everything from analytical dashboards to mass communication tools. But there is so much more states can do with the data by integrating their case management systems with other state-based eligibility and aid systems, such as Medicaid management information systems or unemployment insurance systems — all while protecting sensitive patient information. Read more of this post

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.  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

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

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

State & Local Governments Focus on Continuity of Operations

Rachel Eckert

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

Fiscal environments at the state and local government level are very different today than they were even a few weeks ago. Budgets presented earlier this year are now being adjusted, as many governments face an upcoming revenue shortfall.

Taxes that would have been collected on our trips to the movies, restaurants and shopping malls are now not flowing into government treasuries. Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, is predicting significantly less revenue due to drops in sales tax collections, hotel occupancy taxes, car taxes, business taxes and more. With less revenue, they will have to delay some or all new programs, including additional funding for school technology purchases, police body cameras and affordable housing.

The impact is felt beyond Fairfax County. Seattle, Washington is predicting a revenue shortfall of $110 million. The State of New York comptroller has estimated that the current crisis could cost the state $7 billion in lost revenues for their fiscal year 2021, which started April 1.

State and local governments will still need to acquire IT though. As they navigate the current fiscal environment they will only be able to think about what’s most essential for their continued operations. Here’s how you can help support their critical needs: Read more of this post

Improving Citizen Experience Is Driving State & Local CIOs

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

CIOs are looking to engage citizens in the way they would like to be engaged – be that through the traditional in-person experience, on the phone, online, through social media or even using AI and chatbots. This was one of the major themes this year that came out of the recent Beyond the Beltway conference (besides the ever-present cybersecurity of course). Both state and local CIOs listed improving the citizen experience as one of their top priorities.

Speakers agreed that no matter the engagement method, the process should be seamless to the citizen, almost like a “one-stop” shop for everything a citizen might need from the government. Read more of this post

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