What’s New in Civic Tech: 18F’s State Software Handbook

Plus, Pearland, Texas, launches a new hyperlocal mapping tool; Baltimore issues water bills for the first time since ransomware attack; California courts system looks to hire technologists; and more.

by / August 8, 2019
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The federal tech consultancy 18F has released its state software budgeting handbook, a guide to be used by those who fund or oversee state tech projects.

The official name of the state software budgeting handbook is “De-risking custom technology projects: A handbook for state budgeting and oversight,” and the group has billed it as “a 40-page guide for executives, budget specialists, legislators and other decision makers who fund or oversee state government technology projects.”

In the group’s announcement for the project, it acknowledges that state IT projects are a challenging lift, and that many of the decision-makers who handle their funding and oversight don’t have even the basic knowledge they need about software development. Making things more challenging is the fact that many of those involved continue to rely on outdated procurement processes, many of which are firmly rooted in physical infrastructure rather than digitalization. 

Citing a report from The Standish Group, 18F notes that only about 13 percent of major government software projects succeed. Obviously, even if that number is off a little bit, it still leaves quite a bit of room for improvement — that’s where the new state software budgeting handbook comes in. 

So, how exactly does the handbook help? The handbook documents more than a dozen best practices for things like budgeting for software as an operational expertise, limiting the size of relevant contracts, hiring in-house tech talent and measuring success. There’s also stuff in there to help disseminate basic knowledge about software design. 

Interested parties can access the handbook both online and in PDF format. Those interested in interacting with the work can also find the handbook on GitHub

Pearland, Texas, Launches a Hyperlocal Mapping Tool

Pearland, Texas, has created a new hyperlocal mapping tool for residents. 

The tool was launched in late June, dubbed the Personalized Resident Hub, and it serves as a mapping system residents can use to focus on a number of areas of information, ranging from trash collection to flood zones to more. Residents simply have to enter their addresses, and they can easily find info for the area within a one-mile radius of their home. 

Other info on the site includes voting precinct numbers, property zoning designations, appraisal district information and nearby crash reports. 

The system can also be used to learn about restaurant report cards based on city health inspections, maps for garage sales and crime information. Overall, what the tool does is something that’s always an area of focus for gov tech projects: it aggregates information that was previously only available on several different websites. 

Baltimore Issues Water Bills for First Time Since Ransomware Attack

For the first time since Baltimore suffered a ransomware attack in May, the city is now issuing water bills again. 

The city made the announcement this week, offering residents a set of frequently asked questions, a visualization that explains how to understand the bill, and a letter from the city explaining both the bill stoppage and why it has now been resumed. In an interview with local media, the director of the department of public works, Rudolph Chow, said that 10,000 bills are being printed right now. 

The water bill system has been offline even as the city has gotten other critical systems up and running, including employee email and key recovery measures. In the letter, the city mentions that as the system has been turned off, the meters have remained on, which means the bills that residents are getting soon may be a bit higher than those they would normally receive.

No late fees will be charged in connection with the months of missed bills. The city is also offering a payment plan program and a grant program to help residents in need. 

The bills will be issued throughout this month, with the city printing 10,000 per day. 

California Courts System Looks to Hire Technologist

The Judicial Council of California is looking for a technologist — a senior user experience/content analyst to be exact — with a job posting that notes the goal is “transforming the way attorneys, justice partners, and the public conducts business with the California courts, the largest court system in the nation serving over 39 million residents.”

The council is looking for someone to join its Web services unit of its IT office. That office is engaged in deploying new tech aimed at digitizing the court system. As the posting notes, the IT division is working to implement automated systems in appellate and trial courts. 

This is a project that many courts across the country are working on, specifically as it applies to ideas like online dispute resolution

The job will be based out of San Francisco or Sacramento.

Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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