AI Goes Local

State and local agencies are home to some of the most innovative ideas in government. Their use of artificial intelligence (AI) is no exception. Localities are embracing AI as a way to make sense of all the data they hold to better understand how citizens are using their services and where gaps may exist. A survey from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released in the fall of 2019 found that 32% of those surveyed "strongly agreed" that AI and related technologies can help them meet citizen demands and improve operations. Specifically, the survey found that nearly 50% of respondents planned to use AI as a way to shift workers away from rote tasks and toward high-value activities.

Taking a look around the country, we see some interesting applications of AI at the state and local level.

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FedRAMP’s Role in a Post-COVID World

The Federal Risk and Automation Management Program, more widely known as FedRAMP, was put in place in 2011 to create a standardized approach to evaluating the security controls of cloud solutions for government use. For nearly a decade, FedRAMP has continually evolved to keep up with the growing availability of and demand for cloud solutions. In fact, the number of authorizations granted between 2016 and 2018 increased roughly 33% year over year.

With this in mind, the latest modernization of FedRAMP may be coming via the FedRAMP Authorization Act of 2019, which would expedite the approval process. Of particular interest is language in the bill that introduces the "presumption of adequacy." This means that once a cloud vendor is authorized through the FedRAMP process with one agency, it is cleared to work with other agencies under that initial authorization. The legislation also formalizes roles and responsibilities, designating the Office of Management and Budget as responsible for FedRAMP policy and making the General Services Administration in charge of day-to-day implementation. Finally, the bill stipulates metrics to track the implementation of the program.

Further influencing the demands on FedRAMP is the quick surge of support for flexible cloud solutions to enable telework environments amid the COVID-19 response. These developments may have a significant impact moving forward. While private industry is stepping up and offering technology for free to help secure public health and safety, the federal government must still look to FedRAMP guidance in utilizing cloud solutions. Today, more than ever, a quick and efficient approval process is essential.

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Virtual Events Time to Shine – Are They Here to Stay?

We've written quite a bit about virtual events and webinars. With our new COVID reality, we thought it was an important topic to revisit.

While virtual and online events may be the only option in the short term, event organizers can benefit from a virtual mindset when they approach all events going forward. Integrating a plan to host your event virtually if circumstances demand it should be a mandatory part of the overall planning process. Organizers should have the technology in place so they can easily "turn it on" when needed. Even if the event does go off as planned, live and in-person, consider adding online aspects to increase engagement. The option to create streaming video should become an essential event utility like electricity or WiFi.

While social distancing may have accelerated the acceptance of online events, webinars, in particular, are not a new concept in the federal market. Market Connections' Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) found that three-quarters of federal workers reported watching live webinars during the workday and at least one in five were watching recorded webinars on their own time (weeknights and weekends). Webinars tend to be mainly one-way communication - with a speaker presenting and time for questions at the end. Frequently, the Q&A is not done "live," rather questions are gathered via messaging, vetted, and asked by the host. However, as our collective comfort with platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Skype grow, future webinars could become more interactive, allowing for video participation and interaction between speakers and participants.

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Renewing the Focus on Citizen Experience

Citizen Experience (CX) has been an important focus for many government agencies, as well as a key tenant of the President's Management Agenda. Now with considerably more people depending on government support for everything from general public health information to loans to keep small businesses running to unemployment benefits, CX is more important than ever.

While government still scores poorly on customer satisfaction surveys when compared with commercial organizations, there have been a number of bright success stories in the federal market. Looking at what has worked, there are several themes that every agency should keep in mind when designing customer experience improvements.

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In the Age of Social Distancing, Government Meetings Go Virtual

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

State and local governments are holding virtual meetings to slow the spread of Covid-19 and trying to find ways to continue public participation.

City council members in Worcester, Massachusetts on Tuesday gathered for their regular weekly meeting, with one new rule in place: No members of the public would be allowed to attend and if residents wished to make comments, they'd need to do so by calling into a teleconference line.

"It worked OK. It wasn't perfect," said Eric Batista, director of the city's Office of Urban Innovation on Wednesday. "We're debriefing today to kind of talk through about how it went. We're doing everything we can to make sure it's cleaner for the residents, and to make sure they always have an opportunity to engage and comment and be part of the process."

The move, a precautionary measure to help limit the spread of Covid-19, is permitted under an executive order issued last week by Gov. Charlie Baker that suspends a requirement in the state's open meetings law that governmental bodies meet physically in a public space. When possible, officials are required to provide "alternate means" of public access, such as teleconferencing or live-streaming. If that's not possible, boards must post a full transcript, video or recording of meetings online "as soon as practicable upon conclusion of the proceedings." Continue reading