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TransparentBusiness is back for the pandemic

TransparentBusiness, the little-known software company that alarmed state chief information officers last year with a nationwide lobbying effort promoting legislation that would’ve required IT contractors to use invasive tracking software is trying to take advantage of the recent surge in government telework — brought on by the COVID-19 crisis — by reaching out to governors with the offer of free licenses. In recent weeks, the company's founder, Alex Konanykhin, emailed multiple governor’s offices around the country as state employees have responded to the need to implement social-distancing efforts by working from home en masse. In the messages, Konanykhin offers a product promising some measure of worker accountability, while also promoting a belief that his company is only one or two big government contracts away from becoming one of the most valuable tech companies in the world. But once again, TransparentBusinesses' attempts to ingrain itself in state government has raised concerns from CIOs and the vendors they work with. “They’re essentially taking advantage of a crisis,” said Doug Robinson, the executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Meanwhile, Konanykhin's outreach to governors also teased his longterm goals of achieving a multi-billion dollar valuation. Benjamin Freed reports.

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IBM offers states COBOL help

As government unemployment systems struggle to process millions of new claims due to the coronavirus pandemic, IBM and the Linux Foundation are offering assistance to states in scaling state IT systems built on COBOL, the once-common but now-arcane programming language that still powers many government benefit programs. The U.S. has seen nearly 17 million people file for unemployment in the last three weeks as the coronavirus pandemic closes non-essential businesses, and officials like New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy have publicly called for help from COBOL programmers who can scale state IT systems to meet growing traffic. Working with the Linux Foundation, IBM last week launched employment and volunteer forum and a technical forum where COBOL programmers can be matched with state agencies struggling to keep their aging infrastructure from collapsing under an unprecedented surge of requests. Ryan Johnston has more.

Florida about to overhaul IT agency again

Florida is poised to shake up its IT governance yet again with the state legislature's recent passage of a bill that would do away with the Division of State Technology in favor of a new Florida Digital Service. The Division of State Technology was formed last July, when Gov. Ron DeSantis did away with the Agency for State Technology, an independent entity that had only been created in 2014. The Florida Digital Service would be responsible for data governance, cybersecurity and development of new technologies under the leadership of a statewide chief information officer, a role that has shuffled between interim leaders since early 2019. Ben has more.

How Los Angeles went remote fast after the pandemic hit

Los Angeles' quick transition of thousands of municipal employees to a remote-working platform positioned the city as one of the technological leaders as governments respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And now other jurisdictions are asking for advice as they make similar moves, the city's chief information officer, Ted Ross, said on a recent episode of StateScoop's "Priorities" podcast. Ross said internal conversations started after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began warning localities in February about how quickly COVID-19 could spread in crowded offices. “What would it look like if we had to do some telecommuting, whether it was individuals here and there, or phased approaches to telecommuting or, in hindsight, mass telecommuting, which is exactly what we’re seeing right now,” he said.   Listen to the podcast.

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