Agility. Enabled by Agile.

Agility has been a key attribute for success over the past year and a half. Everyone had to quickly adapt in their personal and professional lives to do things in new ways to keep business and society running. Even the great bureaucracy of government found itself pivoting and quickly changing "how it's always been done" to meet the needs of the day. This should not end with the return to what feels like pre-pandemic normal. In the form of Agile methodology, Agility will play a huge role in the government's ability to continue the fast-forwarded digital push as a result of the pandemic.

Just as government pushed agencies to try Cloud with the "Cloud First" initiative, some are suggesting the same approach for Agile. An "Agile-First" evolution would have a huge impact on IT modernization efforts, accelerating the move from legacy processes and technology to a modern digital approach. The response to COVID-19 showed that the government can move quickly in changing how they do work (across all areas of government). An Agile-first "mandate" could institutionalize that speed and make it the rule rather than the exception.

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Putting a Value on Trust — Introducing Zero Trust Security Approaches

With so many high-profile hacks this year, it's easy to want to throw up your hands and say, "Is there nothing that can be trusted?!" Interestingly, that lament is what is driving the latest approach to cybersecurity -- zero trust. Zero trust is what it sounds like, a security approach centered on the belief that organizations should not automatically trust anything accessing their systems either inside or outside their perimeters. Instead, all people and devices must be verified before access is granted. To the untrained eye, this seems untenable. How, in this day and age, when we depend on digital information and connection to do most anything, can we use a process where we have to constantly verify identity and access permissions? Luckily, the practice of zero trust is more sophisticated than its premise.

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In-Person Events a “Go” for Government — But Don’t Take Away the Online Option

This May, after the CDC updated their public health guidance around masking and social distancing for vaccinated individuals, GovEvents surveyed its members to find out what government professionals were comfortable with in terms of in-person events. Feedback from event planners at the beginning of 2021 showed they were beginning to plan toward a hybrid event schedule, looking to introduce in-person events in the late summer or fall. Now that schedule seems to be a reality based both on health guidance and attendee attitudes.

The GovEvents survey of 275+ public sector professionals found that nearly 75% of respondents would be comfortable attending an event in-person sometime in 2021.

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As Doors Open…Citizens Still Want to Meet Online

As we emerge from the isolation of the pandemic and begin interacting in person again, it will be in a world that looks and feels a lot different. While we crave human interaction, that does not mean we want to go back to standing in lines at office buildings to complete certain tasks. Over the past year, people have gotten used to doing things virtually. Government agencies have made incredible progress moving traditionally manual, paper-intensive, in-person processes online, and there's no reason that should stop now that in-person is an option.

Additionally, the ability to get information online will continue to be an expectation of citizens. During the pandemic, local, state, and federal agencies quickly got data out to citizens regarding COVID cases, restrictions, and later vaccinations to help inform and shape behavior. In fact, Ohio had a jump on many states. They had launched Ohio Checkbook well before the pandemic to provide anyone a look at real-time state budgeting, financial and transactional data. Using that as a starting point, they quickly launched their COVID portal. Post-pandemic, all government agencies need to look at how the COVID data systems can be used to get other critical information and communication to the public about transportation, human services, workforce and more.

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Using AI to Modernize Old Techniques

Artificial Intelligence is being implemented across government to modernize and automate traditional manual processes. For many organizations, this means taking paper-based, tedious, error-prone tasks and turning them over to a machine for automated completion. Beyond using AI to hand off tasks best completed by machines -- those that are rote and repetitive -- agencies are also looking at ways to introduce the technology into already complex human-driven activities to make them even more effective and efficient.

Researchers at Dartmouth College's Department of Computer Science have taken a technique that proved valuable in WWII and applied AI to extend the usefulness of the method. A canary trap is a technique that plants different instances of false information in documents. If one of those documents is leaked, the canary will "sing," identifying the leaker. For example, in WWII British intelligence agents planted false documents on a corpse to trick Nazi Germany into preparing for an assault on Greece while the Allies invaded Sicily. The team at Dartmouth created a modern version, WE-FORGE, that plants different instances of false information in documents. The process is relatively simple when creating a small number of variations in a handful of documents, but to extend it to large scientific or technical documents, AI is essential. WE-FORGE uses natural language processing to generate multiple fake files that are believable yet incorrect.

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