Theresa Szczurek, Ph.D., is a technology entrepreneur and chief information officer/executive director of the governor’s office of information technology. She can be reached at @TheresaSzczurek on Twitter.
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Information technology has never been more important. Consider how IT is helping us all function in this challenging time of COVID-19. The governor’s Office of Information Technology is not only helping state agencies and employees stay connected and use technology effectively, but we also are teaming up with our agency partners to help Colorado residents and businesses. Below are som
e examples of how technology is helping us get through these trying times together.
For Colorado residents
Assistance — Major IT applications are in great demand. Examples are Unemployment Insurance and the Colorado Benefits Management System (the system that powers Colorado PEAK), which provides food, cash, and medical assistance to those in need. Residents who have lost their jobs are applying for benefits at an all-time record rate. IT systems like these are seeing 10 times the maximum load they were designed to support. Now with the new Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Assistance program and the CARES Act, the systems were quickly upgraded and millions worth of claims were processed in less than a week since go-live.
myColorado — The myColorado mobile app provides residents with secure and convenient access to state services anytime, anywhere. The app’s Colorado Digital ID enables users to create a secure electronic version of their Colorado driver licenses or state identification cards on their smartphones for proof of identification, age, and address within Colorado. The app also allows all Coloradans to view COVID-19 information in one place. Residents who are facing hardship can use the app to access benefits on Colorado PEAK. Coloradans can also sign up to receive helpful COVID-19 text and email alerts within the myColorado app. Download myColorado from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Do You Have Symptoms? — Coloradans can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by reporting their symptoms. The Colorado Community COVID Symptom Tracker collects data so that COVID-19 can be tracked among people who may not be able to or need to get tested for the virus. It helps public health experts and policymakers to map and identify potential hotspots not captured by testing. And by filling out the symptom tracker, the system can connect people with resources that can help with any physical or behavioral health symptoms they may experience during this time.
Hotlines — The state’s objective is to route all COVID-19 public health questions through one trusted channel, and then connect callers to the appropriate experts for help. To quickly build up this capability, OIT has used virtual call centers and virtual automated agents. We’re also providing the technology to allow remote call center workers to receive office calls on their personal phones. The impact has been so great that the concept has spread quickly — first to specialized OIT service desks such as myColorado and next to many other departments.
Other Resources — Stay informed at covid.colorado.gov, which provides access to other important information and services including how people can join others in #DoingMyPartCO.
Stay Secure — Be vigilant and watch out for the many COVID-19 scammers who are phishing to steal personal information or trick people. Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, phone calls, texts or visits. Check out these tips that we have made available on our Cybersecurity Help webpage.
For Colorado businesses
Help — Get the latest in COVID-19 economic recovery resources at choosecolorado.com. Resources are available to support small businesses, nonprofits, freelancers and independent contractors.
Safer at the Office — Offices could begin opening with restrictions beginning May 4. Business operators can find recommendations for protecting their staff and customers at Safer at Home: Office-Based Business. Note: Local governments may have established other dates.
Telecommuting Is In — More than 80% of Colorado’s 33,000 state employees are working remotely (and many other Coloradans are telecommuting as well). IT is allowing them to do so. It requires the right equipment (a computer, internet access and a phone), sufficient data and voice capacity, secure access, help through self-service and remote technical support, online training, and a “tech kit” offering written instructions.
Virtual Connections — Using audio, web, and video conferencing, we’re staying connected virtually. Other means are internal organizational chats, texts, emails, and plain old phone calls. And to have fun with it, we have theme days where we wear hats, cool sunglasses, or school colors.
Recall Viktor Frankl’s quote from Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Have hope. You are not alone. Help is here for individuals, businesses, and telecommuters. Even as we move into the Safer at Home phase, stay at home as much as possible. Always wear a cloth facial covering when leaving home. Remember, you are resilient. You are strong. This too shall pass, and we will get through it together. Let’s be grateful for all we have and let’s stay connected. Choose to be optimistic.