CIO Turnover Complicates Shared UI

The Original Story: After the Great Recession stretched several state unemployment insurance (UI) systems to the breaking point, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded grant funding to study the feasibility of creating shared unemployment insurance systems that could be used by multiple states. Some of the initial funding went toward writing requirements that lay the groundwork for states to work together. That was followed in September 2011 by the award of $128 million to three consortia of states that plan to share UI systems.

The consortia are arranged geographically. Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming are working together, as are Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

A third consortium is also starting among Maryland, West Virginia and Vermont.

Project Update: The three consortia are in different phases of work on the shared UI systems. Colorado’s website notes that WyCAN, the Western multistate consortium, has named Colorado the lead state, making it responsible for overseeing system design to ensure the reusability and interoperability of the platform. The contract for design and building the new infrastructure was awarded to HCL America.

Another group’s story illustrates the challenges involved in a multistate effort. Jeff May, CIO of the Georgia Department of Labor, said that the Southeast project called SCUBI (Southeast Consortium for Unemployment Benefits Initiative) has identified a vendor and is in final contract negotiations. But May says it has been “exponentially more difficult” to negotiate and pull together a multistate deal than if his state were working alone.

“There has been significant turnover in CIOs in several of the states,” said May, who has been in his position for slightly more than a year. “And this is such a detailed project that it takes time to get up to speed. I have just part of the project on my desk now and it is three binders full of documents. Replacing a system in one state is hard enough, but this multiplies that times four.”

May said he does like the concept, however, and looks forward to the synergy that will allow state systems to talk to one another. The biggest lesson learned, he said, is to stay patient. “During a time of stretched budgets and competing priorities, it is a challenge to get people to make the time commitment to work on something that will come to fruition three years down the road.” --  David Raths

New York City Surveillance ‘Dashboard’ Is Set to Grow

The Original Story: Last August, New York City officials revealed a next-generation situational awareness platform being used in the city’s Lower Manhattan Security Initiative Command Center. The software, called the Domain Awareness System, was the city’s attempt to build a truly one-stop shop for crime and counterterrorism data that’s accessible in real time to police officers and other law enforcement personnel.

Built by the NYPD with technical assistance from Microsoft, the system used predictive analytics and data from multiple city sources — license plate readers, radiation detectors, 911 call information, public and private surveillance cameras, criminal records and incident reports — to create a single dashboard tailored for police work. The information is presented visually on maps and organized chronologically.

Project Update: The Boston Marathon bombers also planned to set off explosive devices in Times Square, and New York City’s surveillance camera network might have helped stop their plans, had they traveled there.

The city’s Domain Awareness System, nicknamed “the Dashboard,” collects data from thousands of surveillance cameras and intelligently flags suspicious behavior. It’s designed to notify officers in the vicinity immediately if, for example, a person leaves a package or bag unattended on the sidewalk. The network integrates facial recognition technology and can search for people with specific traits, such as those wearing a certain color of clothing. -- Matt Williams

NACo Application Store Takes Shape

The Original Story: In 2012, Oakland County, Mich., teamed with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to announce a national shared services computing initiative. Over the years, Oakland County has provided shared computing services to 62 local jurisdictions with its regional G2G Cloud Solutions program. With the new partnership, NACo sought to leverage that shared services model into a national system. NACo’s Application Store was envisioned as a cloud-based app library that would allow NACo members to share government-solutions knowledge across traditional organizational borders.

Project Update: The Application Store was formally launched in March 2013, offering access to Oakland County’s suite of G2G apps. Since then, the platform has been adding information from other counties. So far, 16 counties have entered application data in the system, and 40 counties have accessed the system to use data, said Bert Jarreau, chief innovation officer in NACo’s County Solutions and Innovation Department.

Oakland County CIO Phil Bertolini said the Application Store is an effective way for government executives to learn about applications that are in use by other jurisdictions. The store’s database contains information such as vendor name, hosting location, user department and contract life cycle. He said the information could become a catalyst for greater shared services activity.

“The hope is that shared services will be used when appropriate, and they can take advantage of increased negotiating power of the larger group,” Bertolini said. “There is also the potential for negotiation of shared application maintenance and upgrades.”

G2G Cloud Solutions currently has 51 entities using its services, with five more coming onboard soon. Since Oct. 1, 2012, those customers have used the services to take in more than $2.6 million in online payments, Bertolini said.

Although the current Application Store is more of a library of application information than an actual app store, Jarreau said it will evolve. “There are other counties around the country like Oakland County that can offer software services to other counties. We called it an application store because we really intend it to be one someday.”

First, NACo is working on getting member counties to list all the applications they use and vendors they work with. “Our goal is to have 100 counties enter their data by August after our annual meeting in July,” Jarreau said. “We want to add a document management system so people can add RFIs and RFPs so that people can share ideas. That will create a real knowledge base.” -- David Raths