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GIS and the vaccines

With the Food and Drug Administration scheduled to evaluate two experimental coronavirus vaccines for emergency use, the first inoculations against COVID-19 may be weeks away. But the federal government is leaving distribution to the states, which will need reliable geospatial data to do so, an executive from the mapping company Esri said yesterday during a NSGIC conference. State geographic information officers should be part of vaccine distribution plans, said Este Geraghty, Esri's chief medical officer. “[It] requires knowing, in your state, how many people are in the various phased groups and where they are,” she said. Ryan Johnston reports.

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Defense bill gives states a cyber boost

Congress' must-pass annual defense bill makes a few key investments in states' cybersecurity. The final draft of the National Defense Authorization Act introduced yesterday includes language that formalizes and expands the role that National Guard units play in cyber operations, including when they can be called upon to respond to an incident and how they collaborate with civilian agencies. The bill also directs CISA to appoint a cybersecurity adviser in each state to coordinate with the public and private sectors.   Benjamin Freed has details.

Texas launches AI center of excellence

Texas’ IT agency announced Wednesday the creation of a new artificial intelligence research center to provide assistance to state agencies, local governments and universities interested in implementing the technology. The center will coach state agencies on how they can add AI and automation to their existing services or business processes. The idea, according to the state Department of Information Resources, is to “teach the village to fish, not feed the village.” Ryan has more.

Senators press CISA to do more to stop K-12 ransomware

Members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee this week asked CISA's acting director what more the federal government can do to help school districts fend off a rising tide of ransomware attacks. Brandon Wales said his agency has been expanding the resources it offers to the education sector, especially when it comes to securing virtual learning environments since the start of the pandemic. But it also takes an effort by states to push that guidance out to their local educators. "If states, cities push that information out even to their smaller school districts, this is the kind of information that’s powerful,” Wales said. He also called ransomware a "national emergency."

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