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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Putting Work into Defining the Government Workforce

The last year has brought about incredible change in the federal workforce, and it shows no sign of stopping. With a new Director for the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) confirmed, the next several months will bring new energy and activity to formalizing and standardizing workplace policies, processes, and approaches for the "new normal" of a digital-first government.

The move to telework changed how many people view and even perform their jobs. Before the pandemic, telework was sporadically used throughout government and viewed pretty skeptically. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it's clear that government can continue to function without people in office buildings from 9am-5pm. As in-person work starts to come back around, the new shift will be in defining and managing a hybrid workforce.

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Inside President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan is far-reaching, impacting the way we manage, use, and maintain our nation's critical infrastructure. It also has a considerable impact on the job opportunities available in private companies and government agencies at all levels.

 

  • Transportation spending is focused not only on improving existing roads and bridges but paving the way for clean energy and modern transit systems¬† to include electric vehicles, Amtrak repairs, and airport and waterway improvements.
  • Housing and community spending is focused on retrofitting older buildings to be more energy-efficient. Schools also get funding for upgrades and new construction.. Water systems and electrical grids are also being funded for safety and environmental upgrades. For communities at large, $100 billion is earmarked to improve broadband connectivity.
  • Improving care for the elderly and disabled is also a focus of the funding, with $400 billion dedicated to improving wages for caregivers and improving access to care and care facilities.

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Government Security: Looking From the Inside Out

With a number of high-profile security hacks involving widely used software, government agencies are retraining their focus on their organization's security measures and those of the vendors and service providers that work with them. This shift in focus was actually on the rise before the recent hacks in anticipation of cyberattacks just like the ones we've recently seen.

In January of 2020, the Defense Department implemented the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a unified standard for implementing cybersecurity across the defense industrial base (DIB), which includes over 300,000 companies in the supply chain. Contractors have always been held responsible for implementing and documenting their IT systems' security that touch sensitive government data. Under CMMC, this continues, but adds the need for a third party to assess the contractor's compliance.

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