The second quarter of 2017 saw state and local efforts to expand broadband, pilot blockchain projects and target social problems with open data.
The month of April saw several states introduce bills to counter the Trump administration’s support of legislation allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) to sell customer data, including browsing history and location information. The federal bill rolled back privacy protections enacted during the Obama administration, though supporters claim it increased fairness by making the rules for ISPs match those on the books for major Internet companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook.
It was another rocky year for the central IT office in Florida, which faced legislative attempts to scale back its authority and strip its funding. The measures gained some support as they worked their way through the Legislature, but the efforts ultimately failed by the veto pen of Gov. Rick Scott in June, and the Agency for State Technology, under state CIO Eric Larson, lives on.
States across the country continued to tackle connectivity in rural areas in 2017, with creative funding strategies in evidence for connecting communities that don’t pencil out for traditional ISPs. The month of April saw Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sign a bill allowing rural counties to set up special districts to fund broadband improvements, and in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice approved a measure to allow the development of nonprofit co-op groups to advance broadband projects in rural areas.
On May 12, the now infamous “WannaCry” ransomware attack hit organizations from hospitals to transportation networks in more than 70 countries, and its far-reaching effects were not lost on state and local government. While U.S. states were not directly affected, CISOs across the country seized on the opportunity to ensure their cyberdefenses were ready for anything.
“Blockchain” took hold as one of the big buzzwords of the year, as NASCIO released a brief highlighting the distributed ledger’s potential use for government. While in May a NASCIO official said interest in blockchain was “on a very steep acceleration,” many CIOs remained skeptical, with most firmly in “wait and see” mode. However, some states, including Delaware, Illinois and Texas, have blockchain pilots underway.
In theory, the 2005 Real ID Act is simple: States must meet federal ID requirements by 2020 or citizens will run into issues when traveling by air. But as of May, when GT checked in on who was in compliance, just 26 states and territories had met regulations, while 26 more were in various stages of the extension process. Since then, all but one state have gotten on board, with Virginia’s extension in effect until next October.
Cities across the country are finding ways to put newly open data to use for public good, with a growing number targeting homelessness, seeing potential for tech solutions to help track homeless populations and improve policies with more accurate data. Other efforts include New York City’s StreetSmart app, which allows outreach workers in all five boroughs to communicate and log data in real time. And Asheville, N.C., is tackling the problem with the aid of nonprofit volunteers through its Code for America brigade.
As government seeks to increase citizen engagement online, new platforms are emerging that aim to make that interaction as painless as possible. PlaceSpeak is one such tool that not only solicits useful resident feedback, but also eliminates trolls and bots that so often make the Internet unpleasant. Agencies are using PlaceSpeak to identify users based on location, ensuring that only residents who live in affected areas can weigh in on issues relevant to them.
Cloud migration has been on the rise for state and local government, with the number of purchase orders for cloud services rising steadily for the last five years. While big names like Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle are certainly part of the landscape, research proves that government tends to opt for third-party vendors, rather than working with those big companies directly. Instead, vendors like SHI and Carahsoft Technology Corp. implement solutions based in, for example, Microsoft Azure.