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Not all tech workers spared from city furloughs

For months, city leaders across the United States have been warning their residents that the coronavirus pandemic’s ravaging of tax revenues and the absence of federal aid will result in drastic budget cuts and significant furloughs for staff as the health crisis continues. While the furloughs announced this week by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio spare the city's Department Information, Technology & Telecommunications, they do include IT personnel who answer directly to the mayor's office, including the city's chief technology officer and open data team, as the city faces a $9 billion shortfall. Ryan Johnston reports.

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Hear from StateScoop 50 winners

Like everything else in the world, the way governments use and depend on technology has been dramatically changed by COVID-19. But the pandemic has also revealed how technology has never been more important in ensuring that government services remain available to Americans, especially at the state level. But the winners of the 2020 StateScoop 50 Awards for GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year, have spent the past six months — and will likely spend many months in the immediate future — taking steps to ensure that government has the IT resources to remain functional. In a new podcast miniseries, StateScoop 50 winners talk about how they've weathered the last six months, and what the future might hold. Benjamin Freed hosts.

California wants innovative ways to double COVID-19 testing, transport

California this week returned to its new, lightweight procurement process to seek help in improving how the state collects and transports biological samples to be tested for COVID-19. Using a process created last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, called Request for Innovative Ideas, or RFI2, the state’s health, general services and technology departments on Monday asked companies and community organizations throughout the state to develop new ways to improve the efficacy and speed with which samples can be processed. The goal is to double California's daily testing capacity to 150,000 by March 1, and reduce turnaround times to 24-to-48 hours.   Colin Wood has more.

Utah's troubled COVID-19 tech contracts could spur procurement reform

Findings by Utah’s legislative auditors this week that state agencies sometimes failed to communicate effectively on developing contracts for coronavirus response efforts could lead to changes in statutes outlining emergency-spending requirements. Work on several no-bid contracts were highlighted in an auditor’s report Tuesday, including two contracts together valued at $9.6 million with Nomi for symptom surveys and testing capacity, along with a $4 million contract for a contact-tracing app. Auditors said that communication between Gov. Gary Herbert's office and other agencies should have started earlier on in the pandemic, while members of the state legislature questioned why some contracts were given to companies with "absolutely no background in health care."     Colin has details.

Idaho got a chatbot for elections

Election officials in Idaho said Thursday that their recent adoption of a virtual assistant based on IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform has answered thousands’ of voters questions about voter registration, ballot delivery and polling places, and that they plan to expand its use in the run-up to the Nov. 3 general election and in future contests. The tool, which uses natural-language processing to respond to users’ queries both online and over the phone, was first implemented ahead of the May 19 primary, when Idaho was one of many states to switch to an all-absentee election amid the initial peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Benjamin Freed reports.

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