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Missouri should use surplus to update state technology

In mid-December the information technology Agency serving the Virginia General Assembly was hit by a ransomware attack who hindered their legislative activities.

Even closer to home, the Capital Region Medical Center was recently victim of a cyber attack, which left the entire hospital β€œineffectiveβ€œFor more than two weeks.

Governor Mike Parson already has put forward a plan to spend $ 400 million on broadband for the state – but an even stronger emphasis on technology could be the game changer, which protects lawmakers and state agencies from the inevitability of a cyberattack while establishing Missouri as a leader among state governments.

Even with the windfall that our state government received during the pandemic – and the resulting infrastructure law that was passed at the federal level – this will be a difficult session to achieve. Not to mention something that has clearly been spared the legislature’s radar for some time, like technology updates. With Republicans in the Senate effectively split into two parties, Democrats in actual disarray, and a redistribution of votes made much more complicated with the departure of MP Justin Hill, it seems almost silly to ask.

But my argument here is very simple: There is no downside to using part of the surplus funds to modernize the technological infrastructure of our state government.

With cyberattacks getting worse and worse – real ones, not the kind a journalist does Right click to view the source code of a page – It is only a matter of time before the Missouri legislature is hit. Anyone who has ever worried about a Sunshine request will be really pissed off when someone walks in and can easily access all of their email without asking.

This is a bipartisan, non-controversial issue. Our state needs to be updated.

It’s not just about cybersecurity. Investing in our digital infrastructure could impact many other problems that have plagued Missouri for years or even decades. I’m sure elected St. Louis area officials would love to have sales taxes paid on all of those cars that drive around with makeshift license plates. That would be easier if the Treasury Department were given the means to significantly upgrade its computer systems.

Citizens and legislative officials would appreciate an update on the websites of the two legislative chambers. I know this because I was both and I struggled to run these sites that look like they were created in my elementary school days.

Technology updates can also have positive effects on infrastructure, agriculture, transportation, communications, and so many other aspects of Missourians’ daily lives that the state government influences.

When I researched this column, I typed “technology” into the law search bar on the house’s website. Nothing came. On the Senate website, I had to press cmd + F and type in … since there is no search bar. Still nothing. That means one of two things: either no tech-related bills have been submitted, or the search function on the government website is broken.

In either case, the problem needs to be addressed.

This piece originally appeared in January 9, 2022 edition the Missouri Times newspaper.