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FCW : August 15, 2016
he said. A more centralized approach “is not the way it exists for water.” At TWDB, integrating water data can be complex. The board collects three sets of water data: water loss audits, water use surveys and water conservation reports. TWDB undertook a major project to integrate that data two years ago. “Even though we are on the same floor, it took a significant amount of time for staff to come together to meld these three programs,” Kluge said. “We didn’t push them all into one database. Instead, we developed ways to reduce duplication and develop standardiza- tion. That took a significant amount of coordination.” Kluge described how his agency approached the integration effort: “We hired employees and used regu- lar employees within the agency to develop the screens and the data tables and the coding. We already had an online water use survey, and we had an existing water loss audit. The project required tweaking those and transferring data, rather than melding them all into one online application.” A single application might not have served the diversity of the data, he added. “Different programs have different targets,” he said. “The idea of squish- ing all these programs into one online application when you have three dif- ferent targets set for the program didn’t make sense. We ended up keep- ing existing applications and devel- oped coding from the water use sur- vey and pushed it into the water loss audit.” Single database in Nevada Nevada already has a single database for water-use information, but popu- lating it will take a couple years, said Adam Sullivan, chief of the hydrolo- gy section at the Nevada Division of Water Resources. “One step is entering existing his- toric data, which just takes staff time,” he added. “More interestingly, water users throughout the state can now log on and enter their totalizing meter readings. The challenge on our end is data QA/QC and making sure that the database functions correctly in gen- erating summary reports.” Another hurdle is maintaining all the data in a common format, he said. The work plan the state devel- oped for USGS proposes supporting an employee “dedicated to water-use data QA/QC and timely reporting, and to improve the functionality of the pumpage database to meet the needs of data contributors and users, par- ticularly with the USGS Nevada Water Science Center,” Sullivan said. The state spent part of its $26,000 federal allocation to hire a contractor for software development. HOW IT WORKS Finding next-gen IT talent BY CHASE GUNTER As technology increasingly transforms government, the public sector faces the growing challenge of filling more and more IT positions from a limited pool of qualified specialists. Moreover, agencies must compete with the private sector, which often hires faster and can offer better salaries. To grow the talent pool and expose young people to government work early in their careers, Karen Evans founded the U.S. Cyber Challenge in 2010. As a 28-year government employee who held the federal CIO job before it came with that title, Evans had firsthand insights into the govern- ment’s needs. Potential participants in the competitions — who must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old — are recruited through outreach to universities and state government agen- cies, social media pushes, and word of mouth from past participants. The best candidates are invited to attend multiday camps. In the years since USCC’s inception, more than 1,200 students have participated in roughly 25 events at colleges and universities nationwide. Applicants must pass a graded exercise that takes both accuracy and speed into account. They are limited to three chances to take the test. However, because they are identified by their email addresses, some applicants use multiple accounts to try and try again. “We don’t publicize it on the website, but that doesn’t bug us,” said Katie Hanson, USCC’s communications coordinator. “We want [applicants] to be able to figure out what they messed up because that’s real life.... And it shows that they’re interested.” Once they are chosen, participants receive four days of intensive instruction and must work on their own and in groups. During the event itself, the competition and experience of being surrounded by skilled peers serve as motivation to bring out the best in the participants, Hanson said. “What’s great is there’s a lot of hands- on work, too,” she added. “That’s the one thing I hear over and over.... In classes in schools, kids are saying, ‘We’re being given definitions, but it’s not hands-on’ like it is at the camps.” So after giving participants hands- on training and an impressive line on a résumé, the question remains: Can the gov- ernment compete with the compensation advantages the private sector has in luring these talented techies? “They can always make more money,” Hanson said. “But a lot of these people are doing it as patriots, and they’re more inter- ested in doing it for that reason than the pay in the private market.” n 18 August 15, 2016 FCW.COM 0815fcw_014-024.indd 18 7/27/16 8:37 AM
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August 30, 2016