Small Area, Small Problems? Not the Case with State and Local Governments

The operating challenges around budgets, resources, and legacy technology we see at the Federal level are amplified at the state and local level. Just because these groups are responsible for a smaller population does not mean their problems are smaller. On the contrary, historically low staffing levels and a geographically-limited pool of talent feed into the core challenges that all government teams face.

Security - Securing systems and the data that lives on those networks is now seen as a focus beyond IT. Everyone plays a role in cybersecurity, and there is a real need to update systems and processes as well as educate users.

Innovation - Since teams are so busy with day-to-day operations, stepping back to foster innovation can be difficult.  Many are finding ways to make the transformation work. In fact, some of the most innovative public sector programs are happening on the local level.

Managing change - Communication is key in implementing change within small, tight-knit teams. Participation in decision making ensures that new solutions meet the needs of the workforce as well as the citizens.

Finding time for training - All of the challenges above feed into an inability to make time for training and education to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology field. Continue reading

Opening the Data Floodgates

Part of the President's Management Agenda (PMA) calls out leveraging data as a strategic asset for more effective government. In support of this, several pieces of legislation and policy have been created to better enable and even incentivize agencies to make their data available and open for use across government and by citizens.

Federal CIO Suzette Kent recently said that the Federal Data Strategy will be released soon and will prioritize datasets that could help stimulate the economy, protect the nation, and continue important research. The guidelines will present principles that prioritize data security, privacy, and transparency.

This Federal Data Strategy follows the passage of the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act at the beginning of the year. This law requires that all non-sensitive government data be made available in machine-readable formats by default. It also creates a Chief Data Officers Council that will address data governance across agencies.

Even before these laws and guidance were released, we've seen how access to data can impact communities. For example, in Asheville, NC, BeLoved Asheville, an activist group of homeless people, launched the Homeless Voice Project. This project filters public crime data using arrestees' addresses. They were able to show that the homeless population was being disproportionally targeted and arrested by highlighting the number of homeless shelter addresses being used. In Norfolk, VA, community groups are using data to show the impact of re-development on communities, highlighting the size of population displacement that would come with gentrification. These groups are finding there is less "shouting across the table" and common ground is easier to find when arguments are backed with data. Continue reading

Innovation is Local

Local governments are quickly becoming home to some of the most innovative applications of big data, analytics, machine learning, IoT, and artificial intelligence. This embrace of new technology is borne out of necessity. Local governments have had to get creative to meet the needs of citizens, demanding a more digital government, while dealing with tight budgets. Cities have introduced apps that allow citizens to report potholes, they have installed "smart" lighting to conserve energy, government organizations have opened up data to allow people to apply for permits online and see the status of their case, and so much more. Additionally, local governments are taking a new look at how to better use and correlate all of the data they hold to enhance city and public health planning.

In the midst of these exciting applications of new technologies, there are challenges. Privacy is a huge concern, both from a data perspective as well as images and information captured from IoT devices across a city. There's also a communication and publicity challenge. Citizen-centric apps and services do no good if people don't know they exist or don't use them. Similarly, there is a learning curve for employees and citizens, and developing the right training to encourage new technology use is critical. Continue reading

Giving ‘Baby You Can Drive My Car’ a Whole New Meaning

With summer road trips in full swing, many of us may be wishing that driverless cars were available today. The reality is the availability and use of driverless cars is not too far away. †The move to driverless cars may be more of an evolution versus a revolution say some industry experts.[Tweet "The move to driverless cars may be more of an evolution versus a revolution. #GovEventsBlog"] Each model year, cars are introduced with more and more "autonomous" features from self parking, to lane floating warnings, to automatic braking. Some industry experts say this slow inclusion of features is how we'll get to an autonomous fleet of vehicles on the road.

At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the fiscal 2017 budget proposal seeks nearly $4 billion over 10 years in an effort to accelerate the development and adoption of self-driving cars. While Detroit factories may be busy building the cars, cities around the country have to get prepared to host these cars on their roads. Continue reading

Socrata Powers–and Benefits From–Open Data Movement in Government

Originally posted by Benjamin Romano on Xconomy

Drawing on an unprecedented amount of government data that is easier to access than ever before, more than 11,000 software developers, entrepreneurs, students, and others across the country devoted part of last weekend to building technologies designed to help local, state, and federal governments solve problems and improve their communities.

The first†National Day of Civic Hacking†encompassed events in 83 cities including†Detroit, where an understaffed city department sought help†answering its phones; Denver, where the winning team†built an app that helps visitors find legal marijuana dispensaries; and Seattle, where teams developed†tools to connect people with events in their neighborhoods.

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