Pandemic-necessitated remote work and increased reliance on online apps and sites for routine everyday tasks like shopping and transportation showed us that Internet connection is a critical utility. It also proved that getting connected is not enough -- the speed and quality of that connection have a huge impact on how we carry out day-to-day activities. In a timely coincidence, this reliance on connectivity comes at a time when networks are improving their service to supply that exact speed and reliability.
Introducing a Whole New Level of Speed: 5G
5G promises to be faster with less latency when connecting to the network. The speeds afforded by 5G mean that visions for smart, connected cities can be logistically achieved as 5G networks will be better able to handle more users, lots of sensors, and heavy traffic. The Department of Veterans Affairs is already tapping into 5G to allow doctors to use augmented reality to look at and manipulate large imaging files, like MRIs or CT scans.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows tasks that typically require human intelligence to be completed at machine speed. For government agencies, this means that they can make better use of the troves of data they hold for daily decision making, strategic planning, and citizen service.
Protecting the Bat Population
Bats are a critical part of the natural ecosystems as pollinators and in their role of natural insect extermination. However, many bats are at risk due to habitat loss. When they lose their natural habitat, many take to bridges as a new home, causing potential damage and even posing health hazards.
FirstNet is a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders being built and deployed through a first of its kind public-private partnership. FirstNet was borne out of the September 11, 2001 tragedy where it became clear that the radio systems police, fire, and paramedics relied on did not easily operate across agencies. First responders also could not rely on land and mobile phone lines as they were overwhelmed by a high volume of calls. The 2004 9/11 commission report cited this lack of connectivity as a fundamental problem for first responders and pushed for solutions to be developed quickly to support everyday public safety activities as well as response to catastrophes.
The development of FirstNet began in 2012 when the First Responder Network Authority was established and a law was put in place that allocated 20 megahertz of spectrum and $7 billion to establish a broadband network dedicated to the nation's first responders. FirstNet was launched in 2018.
Though the word may be overused, state and local governments are indeed facing unprecedented challenges. Forced to move operations online in response to their own stay-at-home orders, state and local agencies have spent the last year retooling how they serve citizens. They have been paying for necessary technology upgrades and other new equipment while revenues from taxes have dropped considerably. Even with these financial challenges, state CIOs are committed to continuing with their innovation and modernization efforts.
A study from the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) showed that priorities for state and local CIOs stayed consistent over the last year, with cybersecurity and enhancing digital citizen service being the top two. Of course, these two areas saw critical investments in 2020 just to keep the business of government running. In 2021, the solutions put in place will be revisited, evaluated for efficiency, and operationalized to support agencies moving forward.
It is called the Internet of Things (IoT) - plural - for a reason. IoT encompasses everything from traditional IT devices like laptops and phones to next-generation technologies like virtual assistants (Alexa, Google Home) to previously unconnected technologies like TVs to everyday utilities like HVAC systems and even refrigerators. With this wide range of things, agencies are finding it difficult to catalog every IoT device, making the creation of policies and processes even more challenging.
Shadow IoT--connected devices that aren't managed or monitored by an organization's IT resources--is a real concern for IT teams. In one study, 90% of organizations found IoT devices they were not aware of using their network. These devices can include fitness trackers, digital assistants, and smart televisions. Once these devices are identified, huge security challenges still remain as many of them were not designed with security in mind. There is also such a wide range of devices and manufacturers that policies cannot be applied consistently across all of the different products and systems.
Even known IoT devices can provide security challenges and concerns. Historically, systems running building automation - lights, elevators, sprinkler systems, HVAC - were separate from the IT systems. Today, these Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) regularly connect to external networks and introduce risk back into the agency networks. As a workaround, a survey of IoT leaders found that 45% of respondents said they were deploying IoT devices on a dedicated network. Continue reading →