How Government Workforce Policies and Programs Support the Most Vulnerable

With nearly three million people in the federal workforce, the government has to be prepared to support employees with a wide variety of needs. With a workforce that resembles the population as a whole, the policies that the government puts in place can be used as an example for private sector companies as well as for organizations supporting our nation's more vulnerable populations.

The following three programs illustrate the ways the government is supporting its workforce and citizens when they are in vulnerable situations. Continue reading

Strengthening Internet of Things Security at the Federal, Local, and Consumer Level

"Our world is more connected than ever." This phrase can be interpreted in many ways, one being the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Traditional materials and devices, including bridges, streetlights, water processing machines, home refrigerators, and even our doorbells, are now connected to the internet and to users who need to track how they are functioning. However, this cyber connection also means that these devices are open for others to access and use in ways we never envisioned.

Cybersecurity practices must now extend to non-cyber products to ensure that operational technology does not compromise information technology or the networks that connect them. In fact, 1.5 billion attacks were launched against IoT devices in a single year.

Efforts to secure IoT devices must happen across all levels of users, from the federal government through state and local agencies to even citizen consumers. Continue reading

Grading the FAFSA Roll-Out

The Department of Education underwent a complete overhaul of its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online system to improve the user experience. The existing form consisted of 108 questions, and the Department saw that many applicants were abandoning the process out of frustration and confusion.

The FAFSA Simplification Act was passed in 2020. The act helped fund the work needed to simplify the form and update how aid was calculated. The system rolled out in December 2023, more than a year later than expected and at the height of college application season. While the new system did reduce the number of questions to a maximum of 36 and the intake of 3.1 million forms in the first month alone, the rollout has been marred by some glaring issues that have made the customer experience worse, not better, for many, already stressed college-bound students. Continue reading

Ensuring Broadband for All

Ensuring broadband access for all citizens has been a key government focus, particularly since the pandemic accelerated the move to digital-first services. No longer a nice-to-have service, high-speed internet access is critical for education, healthcare, and access to government services. Ensuring this access means building out the infrastructure from urban centers to the most rural spots of the country and making access to broadband service affordable.

Broadband as a Utility

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to restore net neutrality policies that were canceled in 2017. These policies prohibit internet service providers (ISP) from throttling speeds to accelerate or degrade the delivery of online content. This practice can impact how underserved communities receive broadband access, allowing, for example, ISPs to prioritize certain traffic in exchange for user or content provider payments. With net neutrality, internet access is treated as a utility, similar to water or electricity, with equal access. Continue reading