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Michigan seeks IT investment as unemployment surges

As nearly one-quarter of Michigan’s workforce files for unemployment, state officials said Tuesday they’re considering using the added strain to the state’s computer systems as an opportunity to seek funding for broader IT upgrades. Jeff Donofrio, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said yesterday that state’s online system for processing claims for unemployment benefits was briefly disabled earlier this week when a record number of residents logged on. Now, Donofrio said he's talking to the state's congressional delegation about using "this moment to try to upgrade all our systems and make sure we don’t have the types of issues if an event like this were ever to occur again.” Unlike other states, Michigan runs its unemployment benefits system on modern platforms, allowing it to avoid the shortage of COBOL programmers that's vexed some states. Colin Wood reports.

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'Digital town squares' boost internet speeds in mid-sized communities

Three mid-sized and rural communities are using the internet at faster speeds than ever before, according to smart city nonprofit U.S. Ignite. Eugene, Oregon; Urbana-Champaign, Illinois; and parts of rural Utah are participating in the organization's Smart Gigabit Communities initiative, which is subsidized by the National Science Foundation. The communities are using facilities that enable network switching between regional internet service providers, who pay to connect their customers to fiber-optic cables, ultimately resulting in faster internet speeds for residents and businesses. Ryan Johnston has more.

Cyber aid for states in next relief bill?

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday that Congress’ next emergency relief bill in response the COVID-19 pandemic should include funding for cybersecurity assistance to state and local governments, especially if government employees continue working from home. “State and local government employees are working hard to ensure continuity of operations,” the members wrote in a letter. “However, working from home, they are more susceptible to phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks.” The letter asks Pelosi to look at recent legislation that would've created a $400 million annual grant program, as Congress considers a follow-up to the $2.3 trillion package approved last month. Benjamin Freed reports.

Vendor-tracking software firm wields pandemic in latest pitch to states

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 the messages, the company claims to offer some measure of worker accountability, but once again, TransparentBusinesses' attempts to ingrain itself in state government has raised concerns from CIOs and the vendors they work with. Meanwhile the company is still teasing its longterm financial goals by teasing potential investors with the possibility of a multibillion-dollar valuation if state governments embrace its product. Read more.

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