States’ outdated technologies were exposed

If it wasn’t clear that state governments’ IT organizations were flawed before the pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s public plea in April for COBOL programmers made the point. The state scrambled to fix glitches and increase capacity of the outdated mainframe technology supporting its unemployment system amid record numbers of claims, while many other states faced similar meltdowns. That early call for help predated dozens of other incidents across state government in which, by state officials’ own admissions, their technology was not prepared to handle a health crisis of this magnitude. The rush to patch systems and buy new technology tested governments’ governance frameworks, cybersecurity policies and data-security standards. Failing systems in some cases led to firings, like in California, where Public Health Director Sonia Angell resigned just a few days after news that glitches in the electronic system the state uses to collect COVID-19 lab data was leading officials to share an overly optimistic picture of the state’s progress in fighting the pandemic.

This list is part of StateScoop and EdScoop’s special report on what 2020 meant for state and local tech.

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He's reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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