Tech News for June 7

California Makes America’s Economy Great

Most of what makes America great is happening in California, where on Tuesday voters will decide the largest of the presidential primaries. The horse-race reportage from the campaign trail gets caught up in delegate counts and the daily back and forth, but beneath all that there is a consensus about the challenges facing the world: globalization, urbanization, climate change. California is addressing them better than any country, while simultaneously setting an example as the world’s most diverse and dynamic economy. If the state were stacked up against nations, California would be the seventh-largest economy, with an equivalent gross domestic product greater than Brazil’s. It’s not just big, but also booming. California had a 3.29 percent growth rate last year, more than five times that of No. 3 Japan, almost twice No. 4 Germany, about half again as much as No. 5 U.K., almost three times No. 6 France and a third more than No. 1 U.S.

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Heinrich Backs Legislation To Protect U.S. Electric Grid From Cyberattacks

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to introduce The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act of 2016, a bill to protect critical U.S. energy infrastructure from potentially catastrophic cyberattacks. The legislation would examine solutions to defend the U.S. energy grid by replacing key devices like computer-connected operating systems that are vulnerable to cyberattacks with analog and human-operated systems — a “retro” approach that has shown promise as a safeguard against cyberattacks.

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Government Framework Offers Cybersecurity

A security framework established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is serving as a template for protecting networks using a threat-centric approach. The framework establishes five core functions in sequential order, and they are applicable across all network sectors. The five core functions are Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover. Some of them can be bundled as part of an overall cybersecurity program, which is an approach already being adopted by commercial security providers. One model, developed by Cisco, aligns the five functions into three groups based on event timing. Identify and Protect are grouped as part of a “before” element that encompasses activities prior to a cyber attack. “Before” engages three operations: discover, enforce and harden. These prepare the network for a digital onslaught.

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Community Technology and the Ghost of Civic Hacking Past

As Code for San Francisco’s National Day of Civic Hacking weekend event winds down, I’m reflecting on organizing my first hackathon, and exorcising the Ghost of Civic Hacking Past. Given the recent brouhaha over the end of civic technology kicked off by Dan O’Neil (formerly of Smart Chicago), the shortcomings of our collective checkered hacking history are top of mind. Dan is not the only person wondering where community fits in civic technology. The leadership team at Code for San Francisco, especially Co-Captains Jesse Biroscak and Maddie Suda, have been asking similar questions about projects at CfSF, and working to establish a more human-centered orientation for their brigade. At CivicMakers, we have been teasing out a “co-discovery” process to “discover with, not for” and validate problem statements in direct partnership with the communities civic projects hope to serve, before proposing any solutions.

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State Controller Announces $59M Settlement for Failed Payroll System Modernization

California State Controller Betty Yee announced Thursday evening that her office has reached agreement with SAP Public Services, Inc., that resolves lawsuits over the 21st Century statewide payroll modernization project known as MyCalPays. Under the terms of the settlement, SAP will pay the State Controller’s Office $59 million in cash and also abandon its claims against the State Controller’s Office amounting to about $23 million. The settlement stipulates that the State Controller’s Office and SAP each do not admit any liability or fault concerning the claims and allegations made between them. The State Controller’s Office suspended the payroll project and terminated its $90 million contract with SAP in 2013 after a pilot demonstration was unsuccessful. The modernization began a decade ago under BearingPoint and continued in 2010 under SAP. The settlement avoids a civil court trial that was scheduled to being next week in Sacramento. The state conceivably could have recovered 1.5 times the contract amount, about $150 million, if it prevailed in court. Conversely, the state of California could have lost as much as $55 million if it lost.

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Gov. Brown, Legislature close in on budget deal

Capping three weeks of productive talks, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature’s top Democrats are close to reaching a deal on the framework of the next state budget that could be unveiled as early as Wednesday, two Capitol sources with knowledge of the agreement said. Brown last month released a revised $122.2 billion budget that had shrunk slightly compared with January due to a slowdown on Wall Street. Still, the governor and legislative leaders have scraped together enough cash to make several key investments in state-funded child care and welfare programs, the sources said. Under the agreement, the state will boost funding for child care and preschool programs by about half a billion dollars to cover the rising cost of workers’ salaries as the state’s new minimum wage law is phased in. The deal also repeals a provision of the CalWorks program for low-income mothers that prevents them from receiving extra cash aid when they give birth while enrolled.

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Red Hat Releases Updated Software Collections and Developer Toolset

Open source enterprise software developer Red Hat released Software Collections 2.2 last week, the latest version of its collection of open source Web development tools, dynamic languages, and databases. The new tools are designed to provide software developers with access to the company’s latest stable builds, even though a new version of its flagship enterprise operating system has yet to be released.
“Developers need the latest tools to build modern applications, particularly cloud-native applications, but the business at large requires a commitment to application stability that many of these tools simply do not have,” Jim Totton, vice president and general manager of Red Hat’s Platforms Business Unit, said in a statement.

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How To Make Communication a Priority At Your Agency

Working as a government communicator, there can be days when it feels like communications aren’t a priority. Sometimes it’s due to resource limitations; when the going gets tough, delivering core services will always take priority over communications or marketing. Other times it seems a strategic choice to avoid perceived risk that comes with a courting a higher profile. Most often though, I think it’s merely an ingrained habit, part of an organizational culture where we’ve learned to keep our heads down and get the work done without fanfare. It may seem remedial to some, but here’s a reminder for all government organizations: Communications should always be a priority.

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Sacramento, Calif., Outlines City-Funded Innovation Strategy

The city of Sacramento, Calif., will invest in local companies and start a grant program as part of a multimillion-dollar plan to bolster the community’s innovation economy, Mayor Kevin Johnson said Saturday morning. The city is going to invest $1 million in local companies this year, Johnson said. Selections will come from proposals submitted to a new mayoral tech council. The investments potentially could yield a profit for Sacramento that would be used to continually replenish the city’s $10 million Innovation Growth Fund, the mayor explained.

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California’s Vendor Performance Scorecard Moving Forward

A vendor performance evaluation system that has been in the works the past two years appears to be moving forward despite the departure of state CIO Carlos Ramos. California says the initiative, which some have called a “scorecard,” will be factored into future state IT procurements after a pilot occurs sometime in 2016. The Department of Technology is continuing to look for suitable IT projects to participate in the pilot. A story in Public CIO magazine reports that, as of March, the scorecard is proceeding as planned, according to Department of Technology spokesperson Teala Schaff. “The CPES pilot will include a diverse representation of new reportable IT projects in California; however, the state has not approved any new projects for procurement. Therefore, no projects have yet been identified to participate in the pilot phase, although our commencement is expected this year,” Schaff told Public CIO.

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