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Ransomware persists, but help may be coming

On Dec. 26, the small town of Cornelia, Georgia, suffered a ransomware attack, the fourth cyberattack to hit it in the past two years. The incident is part of a worsening trend that experts say is bringing cyberattacks against state and local governments that are increasingly frequent and severe. But help could be on the way, with the recent creation of a ransomware task force that will produce a framework designed to help places like Cornelia. There's also heightened attention from Washington and an incoming administration seemingly dedicated to cybersecurity — all signs, experts said, that state and local governments may soon receive additional resources to defend their networks and data. Ryan Johnston reports.

A Message From AWS Educate

With over 1,500 institutions and hundreds of thousands of students who use AWS Educate, we wanted to take you on a trip around the world and highlight how students are learning and innovating with the cloud. Learn more.

Four innovations from the pandemic

Beginning last March, the pandemic has required state and local governments to quickly transition the services that they normally provide in-person — including social services, health care, hearings and city council meetings — to virtual events and digital interactions. Under time constraints and financial duress, their IT departments launched new, innovative solutions to provide new functionality, transparency and support to residents who needed it most. StateScoop took a look at four changes that the pandemic brought to IT in state and local governments.   Ryan has more.

Will 2021 be the year of the cloud for cities?

It’s no revelation that cities are generally slower in embracing emerging technologies to enable innovation than other sectors of the economy. This hesitancy is often for good reason. Many city systems and requirements are essential services and they don’t invite the kind of experimentation and risk-taking seen in the private sector. That doesn’t let them off the hook though. When cities are ready to take the plunge, emerging technologies coupled with innovative processes can lower the cost of operations, deliver better community experiences and automate and accelerate many services. But how might city chief information officers leverage cloud computing as a platform for innovation and positive change in their communities? Read the rest of Jonathan Reichental's newest column..

Los Angeles County deploys smartphone vaccine records

Los Angeles County residents who get a COVID-19 vaccine can now display proof on their smartphone, thanks to a new partnership between the local government and the software company Healthvana. Using a mobile app like Apple Wallet or Google Pay, Los Angeles residents who’ve received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to flash a virtual card — that serves as a record of which vaccine they received and when — to “prove to airlines, to prove to schools, to prove to whoever needs it,” said Healthvana CEO Ramin Bastani. Get the full story.

Need mainframe support? Try Latvia

In the latest instance of a state government reaching for creative solutions to prop up aged mainframe systems, North Dakota has hired two contractors from the eastern European nation of Latvia for additional support. Officials told StateScoop that Job Service North Dakota, the state’s workforce and unemployment services agency, was forced to seek help in Latvia, one of the few remaining regions where mainframe technology continues to be widely taught. The new contractors are providing support for mainframe software for the state’s unemployment insurance system, which has seen heightened use during the pandemic. “The Unisys mainframe software is pretty old and it’s very difficult to find programmers for it in the United States,” said Pat Kelly, an IT manager at Job Service North Dakota. Colin Wood reports.


Supporting children and families by tackling internet disparity

The pandemic has widened the digital divide affecting communities across the nation. Both schools and enterprises are working hard to operate under virtual conditions, but the people that are adversely affected are those without access to reliable internet. A new briefing document explains how state and local agencies can access federal funding to bring internet access their community — but they must act soon. Read more from SAIC.

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