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GCN : January and February 2017
[BrieFing] To help state and local governments improve their approach to legacy systems, the General Services Admin- istration’s 18F group has published resources and a guidebook based on what the agency learned from Cali- fornia’s and Mississippi’s upgrades to their child welfare systems. The tools provide practical information on modular contracting, agile software development and human-centered design. For the overhaul of its Child Welfare Services/Case Management System, California used 18F’s agile blanket purchase agreement to set up a pool of agile development vendors that had demonstrated their ability to use the California Health and Human Services Agency’s application program- ming interface to access data, meet user needs and produce user-centered software. Similarly, Mississippi officials worked with 18F to screen vendors by asking them to build a prototype based on a user story and a dataset. Modular procurement involves awarding a series of small contracts for different parts of a system rather than issuing a single lengthy, complex solicitation. As a result, agencies can get components into production faster and have multiple opportunities to ensure that the final system will meet end users’ needs. 18F’s modular contracting resources include links to a number of real-world examples, presentations, the U.S. Digi- tal Service’s playbook, white papers and case studies. The collection also provides sample requests for propos- als, prototype challenges and vendor evaluations used in 18F’s projects with state agencies. The guidebook offers additional information about modular contract- ing and also covers agile software development, open-source software, commercial off-the-shelf solutions and commonly asked questions. Ultimately, 18F officials said they hope the tools will help governments approach the replacement of legacy systems as a series of interconnected pieces or modules rather than a single monolithic project. The resources are available in 18F’s repository at https://github.com/18F. • Real-world resources for legacy system upgrades BY AMANDA ZIADEH 6 GCN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 • GCN.COM A group of university-based research- ers analyzed a crowdsourced policy- making process in Palo Alto, Calif., to determine the effectiveness of a web application they built and discover the extent to which citizens’ input ultimately shaped policymaking. Civic CrowdAnalytics automates the analysis of unstructured crowd- sourced data using natural language processing and machine learning. It is based on application programming interfaces from Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s big-data tool Haven OnDemand. In their report, “Civic Crowd- Analytics: Making Sense of Crowd- sourced Civic Input with Big Data Tools,” researchers wrote that “the findings show that the impact of citi- zens’ voices depends on the volume and the tone of their demands. A higher demand with a stronger tone results in more policy changes.” Furthermore, researchers found that the tool could quickly mine a large dataset, but the time and effort involved in training the algorithm and its relatively low accuracy rate (80 percent) offset the speed gains. “But the larger the dataset, the more meaningful it is to train the algorithm in the beginning,” the re- searchers wrote. “Furthermore, once the algorithm is trained, it can ana- lyze several datasets about similar topics with improved performance.” Methods for analyzing crowd- sourced data would also be im- proved if users “share their data and results online, so that other cities and actors could use the already trained algorithm for similar topics,” the researchers concluded. • Analyzing crowdsourced data BY KATHLEEN HICKEY The Transportation Department is sharing the lessons and innovations it has gleaned from its Smart City Chal- lenge in the form of a summary re- port and an online dataset of the seven finalists’ submissions. In response to its call for ideas from midsize cities for an integrated, smart transportation system, the agency received submissions from 78 cities with ideas on improving ride sharing, incorporating autonomous vehicles, increasing the use of electric vehicles, and advancing data gathering, storage and analysis. Of those submissions, 53 included plans on how to add sensors to infra- structure and vehicles so they could share information. Kansas City, Mo., officials, for example, plan to publicly share data on travel flows, traffic crash- es, energy use and air pollution. • Tapping into the best smart city ideas BY MATT LEONARD 0217gcn_005-007.indd 6 2/1/17 10:09 AM
October and November 2016