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03/16/2020
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WorkScoop

Now New York is getting a digital service

New York State officials announced on Friday the launch of a new digital services office that will recruit technology workers and assign them to 18-month stints in which they’ll seek to make government services easier to use and find. The aptly named New York State Digital Service will be booted up with the help of two digital government veterans: Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka, who will help interview and select candidates, and former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, who will serve as an adviser to the new program. “The creation of the New York State Digital Services program will enable New York to use the principles and practices of the digital age to serve its people better, faster, and cheaper while strengthening trust in government at a time when it is badly needed," Pahlka said. Such dedicated agencies have grown increasingly common in state and local government, springing up inside the governments of San Francisco, Colorado and Georgia, among others. Colin Wood reports.


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Voatz audit confirms MIT report

An extensive audit published Friday of Voatz, the mobile app that’s been used to collect live ballots from overseas voters in multiple states since early 2018, revealed 16 “severe” technical vulnerabilities. These include sensitive user data being exposed to the company’s developers and improper use of cryptographic algorithms, a blow to a company that has staked its reputation on its use of blockchain technology. The audit, which conducted by the security firm Trail of Bits and commissioned by Voatz itself, confirmed the findings revealed last month by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who found, among other flaws, that Voatz’s use of third-party vendor to authenticate the identity of its users could compromise the anonymity of ballots the app collects. “There’s a lot of things they had access to that we didn’t,” Michael Specter, one of the MIT report's authors, told StateScoop. “But as expected, there turns out to be a lot more vulnerabilities.”     Benjamin Freed reports.


For accurate census counts, local data may be the answer

As census forms begin to show up in mailboxes across the country, communities that struggle to count residents might benefit from taking a data-driven approach to outreach. Chris Dick, a managing director for Civis Analytics, a data analytics company that’s working with counties in Texas and Michigan to maximize their census outreach efforts, told StateScoop he’s encouraging such an approach. This year also marks the first time that the U.S. Census Bureau will conduct its survey mostly over the internet. Yet some people remain skittish about filling out census forms. To reach the pockets of residents who are apathetic or fearful of the census, local officials in Texas’ Harris and Dallas counties are compiling geographic information about their communities and attitudes about the census to create a more informed and targeted outreach strategy. Analytics software then helps them sort through the data, Dick said, which could be critically helpful in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has refused to use state funds to promote census participation. Ryan Johnston has the details.


FirstNet Authority promotes interim director after 18-month search

After an 18-month search, the federal agency that oversees the public safety cellular network known as FirstNet announced on Friday that its interim executive CEO and director, Edward Parkinson, will take over the position full-time. Parkinson, who's been with the FirstNet Authority since 2013, was named acting CEO after Mike Poth resigned in September 2018, and has helped guide the rollout of FirstNet beyond 75 percent completion, according to AT&T, which is building the network. Ryan has more.


North Dakota creates 'chief customer success officer' role

Most government technology agencies try to avoid falling victim to “shiny object syndrome,” a tendency to become fixated on the novelty of new technologies rather than the problems they’re intended to solve. In North Dakota this week, officials announced a new role within the state’s Information Technology Department designed explicitly for that purpose. The state is now searching for a candidate to become its first-ever "chief customer success officer," who will be responsible for ensuring that state agencies have the technological support they need to succeed, CIO Shawn Riley told StateScoop. Colin has more.


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