7 things that happened in government tech this year

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Surprising things happened this year, both technologically and politically, and the implications for state and local government are vast. We’re skipping Bitcoin — here’s a quick recount of a few, but not all, of the most important things that happened in the world of state and local government technology in 2017:

A lot of people changed jobs

People come and go every year, particularly in the government C-suite, but this year saw a lot change — StateScoop reported on more than 60 stories of government tech career comings and goings, including the departure of more than a few of the space’s fixtures.

Here are some of the people who have already left or announced their transition out of a government role in 2017:

To fill the gaps left by departures and to build new teams, particularly around cybersecurity, state and local government also hired a lot of new leaders. Here are some of the senior IT officials who were hired in 2017:

Cybersecurity got even more attention and funding

Keeping government’s networks and data secure has remained a top priority for years, appearing again on a list of top priorities presented annually by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. The number and scope of attacks continue to grow. But in 2017, state and local government executive offices made new commitments — from funding mechanisms to security operations centers and workforce initiatives — showing that they realize they need desperately to catch up.

Through the National Governor’s Association, a group of 38 governors signed a pact in July committing their states to improved cybersecurity efforts, and it appears some of them are taking the agreement to heart.

Rhode Island and Idaho appointed their first cybersecurity directors this year, while Nevada opened its Office of Cyber Defense Coordination and Illinois unified its security policy under a statewide strategy.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made cybersecurity one of his administration’s priorities in 2017, adopting a cybersecurity framework to standardize language used in the field, placing its first graduates of a security training program for veterans, and urging other governors to make security a high priority in their states.

California launched its first cybersecurity operations center, and Georgia broke ground on a 167,000-square-foot facility expected to be completed in 2018 that has since doubled in size thanks to $35 million in additional funding.

To bolster the cybersecurity workforce, training and research centers have opened up in Baltimore and New York City. Delaware is turning to high schoolers to create a pipeline of talent to fill a growing security workforce gap.

Efforts by the federal government and national efforts are turning to the traditionally ignored state and local government IT security space, too. The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced new security programming this year to be co-hosted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, and NIST also removed the word “federal” from the title of its security and privacy controls catalog, in recognition of state and local governments’ growing relevance in the space.

Florida didn’t lose its technology office

State leaders told StateScoop it was touch-and-go for a little while in the middle of 2017, but ultimately, an attempt by the legislature to dismantle the Agency for State Technology fell short as it failed to gain momentum in the Senate and was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. It was a break from tradition, as AST, just a few years old, finds itself the fourth iteration of a statewide technology agency in 12 years.

Far from finished, the Agency for State Technology now has a new CISO, its first chief data officer and funding for a geospatial information system (GIS) office, for which the state is also expected to soon announce a lead.

Mapping got its day in the sun

After some niggles between industry factions about the direction that the Geospatial Data Act should take, groups like the American Association of Geographers (AAG) and the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) agreed that the pair of bills submitted to Congress in November were a sign of good things to come.

The legislation — which would codify existing federal governance structures like the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee while mandating congressional oversight of federal geospatial expenditure — would sort out a wonky political infrastructure that GIS leaders say is years past needing an overhaul.

The bills haven’t yet been touched since introduction, but with their current bipartisan support, supporters say they are hopeful the legislation will give subnational entities a stronger voice in the discussion surrounding geospatial technologies. A primary goal is enabling more foundational projects for state and local government, like Arkansas’ recent statewide orthoimaging project.

Autonomous vehicles went from fantasy to almost a reality

Exactly what a smart city is — or why anyone should care to live in one — remains a nebulous concept, but the conglomeration of sensors, devices, data and robots that the term seems to denote got a little more tangible this year as autonomous vehicles made huge strides both technologically and with regard to government policy.

A bill to fast-track 80,000 driverless vehicles onto roads screamed through Congress and only in December began to find any kind of resistance. With the Trump administration leaning away from the high cost associated with a vehicle-to-vehicle technology mandate, government becomes more aligned support for the autonomous vehicle industry.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is relaxing safety reporting requirements and encouraging states to review their traffic laws and regulations to ensure compatibility with autonomous technology. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is leading states in this regard, targeting June 2018 for its pending autonomous vehicle regulations to become effective.

Virginia is still fighting with Northrop Grumman

Like a couple that is always arguing and never seems to break up for good, Virginia waits out the remainder of its contract with Northrop Grumman. The details of the he-said-she-said dispute vary depending on who’s telling the story, but one thing that’s clear is that the commonwealth wants out as soon as possible. Virginia plans to transition away from the 13-year $2.4 billion contract with the estranged vendor as it prepares to a move to a multi-sourced IT model in 2019.

States committed to public safety communications

At the start of 2017, FirstNet, the federal agency assigned to build the U.S.’s first nationwide communications network for public safety workers, hadn’t yet named a vendor. But after naming AT&T as project lead in March, things moved quickly.

In June, FirstNet launched a portal for sharing initial state plans, and in July, Virginia became the first state to opt in to the network. After releasing final state plans in September, a majority of states quickly committed to opting in. New Hampshire initially announced that it had decided to opt out, selecting Rivada Networks as its vendor, but reversed course with hours remaining in the decision period. As of December 28 — the deadline for states to opt-in to FirstNet — 51 states and territories opted-in. 

Two states — Florida and California — and three territories territories — Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa — did not make a decision on FirstNet, meaning they automatically opted into the network. 

With FirstNet President TJ Kennedy on his way out at the end of the year, FirstNet and the nation’s public safety community looks forward to new firsts in emergency response, as AT&T readies its network core to go live in early 2018.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that New Hampshire had opted-out of FirstNet and was updated to reflect that the state reversed course and opted-in on the final day of the decision period.

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Autonomous Vehicles, Careers & Elected Officials, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Cybersecurity, Emerging Technology, Legislation, Public Safety, Self-Driving Vehicles, Smart Cities, State & Local News, States, Tech News, Transportation, Virginia, yearend, year in review
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