The US Census Bureau plans to enter the digital age for the upcoming 2020 census, testing digital tools to make the process more efficient. As part of this modernization, Americans may have the option of filling out their census forms online and follow-up census takers may use their smartphones instead of paper forms to finish demographic counts. Tests of these methods will take place in Savannah, Georgia, and Maricopa County, Arizona. If successful, the changes could save taxpayers millions of dollars and provide instant data collection and analysis.
Illinois has adopted a unique plan to get its residents to invest for retirement through automatic enrollment in a state savings program for private-sector workers whose employer do not offer a 401(k) or similar plan. Beginning in 2017, the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program will require employers in business for at least two years and employing 25 or more workers to either offer their own retirement savings plan or automatically enroll employees in the newly created state plan (if the employee does not opt-out), with 3 percent of each paycheck deducted to fund the retirement account. The program may become a model for at least 17 other states currently advancing similar measures, especially as there is little taxpayer money on the line to fund it.
The city of Boston has unveiled an online map to give residents the ability to post comments and track the progress of development on city-owned parcels. The map, which can provide real-time information on 1,300 parcels across the city, is part of a larger goal to ensure public transparency as the city continues to redevelop. The website currently lists 87 active development projects, and each project entry includes renderings and descriptions, as well as the ability to post a comment.
Medicaid and other state health patients in Michigan are now able to access medical and health care information remotely thanks to a new app and portal developed by the Michigan Department of Community Health's Bureau of Medicaid Operations. The app, called myHealthButton, allows Medicaid recipients to look up eligible providers in their area, view their medical records, change health insurance information, and track behaviors such as diet and exercise. Over two million Michigan residents may benefit from the app.
New York State has outlined a $1 billion plan to bring broadband access to every New York resident by 2019. Under the New York Broadband Program, the state would invest $500 million to assist the private sector in upgrading its broadband infrastructure and distributing it to underserved areas and would encourage the private sector to match the state investment. The New York plan would quadruple the current proposed FCC minimum broadband download speed description of 25Mbps. The co-investment plan resembles a current partnership between the New Zealand government and private telecommunications companies.
Corrections officials in Allen County, Indiana, are looking to use cell phones in addition to ankle bracelets to track the location of released offenders and hopefully lower the recidivism rate. Under the state-funded pilot, “smart” phone devices that offenders carry will not only allow officials to better monitor offender whereabouts, but also allow them to communicate in real-time, helping to remind participants about meetings with probation officers, job interviews, and other activities. Officials note that if the pilot is successful in helping people stay out of jail, costs will be reduced for the county and cell-phone monitoring may become a permanent feature.