‘$22m COVID testing bill’ for unvaccinated feds, UK government aids digital inclusion drive, Canada expands volunteer programme: policy and delivery round-up

By on 10/02/2022 | Updated on 11/02/2022

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of all the news you need to know but might have missed

$22m COVID testing bill for unvaccinated federal employees, Biden administration warns

It could cost the US federal government as much as $22m a month to pay for extra testing of employees while its COVID-19 vaccine mandate is paused, the Biden administration recently told a federal court. 

Around 2% of federal employees are unvaccinated, but according to the Biden administration, they will face extra costs in testing the tens of thousands of employees.

According to court submissions reported by Government Executive, the increased need for COVID-19 testing would cost between $1.4 million and $2.7 million for the 1% of the workforce that requires them, but these costs will likely grow as newly hired federal employees are similarly no longer subject to a mandate The government typically hires more than 20,000 new employees per month. The costs are on top of those agencies will incur to test employees who are unvaccinated but were seeking an exemption to the mandate.

Canadian government calls for expansion of opportunities for young volunteers

A call for proposals was launched this week to expand the Canadian government’s volunteer service opportunities programme for young people.

The launch aims to create more than 23,000 opportunities through the Canada Service Corps, which promotes civic engagement among young people aged 15 to 30 through access to meaningful volunteer service opportunities/

Marci len, Canada’s minister for women and gender equality and youth, launched the call for proposals, which prioritises organisations represented by indigenous and underprivileged populations.

“Throughout the pandemic, young people have stepped up in countless ways and have been agents of change within their communities. We can help even more youth turn their passion into leadership,” len said.

I encourage organisations to come forward and play a role in giving young people opportunities to succeed and thrive.”

According to the CSC’s definition, ‘underserved youth’ is defined as a “visible minority [or] racialised population, LGBTQ2 people, persons with disabilities, people from Official Language Minority Communities (OLMC), youth living in rural or remote areas, and youth from lower-income households”.

US government urged to strengthen cybersecurity at senate hearing

Experts at a US senate committee hearing this week said the federal government must do more to prevent cybersecurity weaknesses, citing open-source software thought to contain serious vulnerabilities.

Log4j, a logging tool, contains a critical vulnerability known as ‘Log4shell’. If this flaw isn’t regularly fixed, attackers are able hack systems, steal passwords and data, and spike networks with malicious software. A free-to-use piece of code, Log4j is generally maintained by volunteers.

Testimonies at the hearing came from members of the Apache Software Foundation, the non-profit behind Log4j, as well as technology firm Cisco Systems, cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks, and think tank The Atlantic Council.

All said federal resources should be used to support the open-source community. They also praised the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC), an initiative created to help the US defend against cyber incidents coherently across state, local, tribal, territorial, federal and private organisations.

Senators meanwhile sought to understand the nature of open-source software and how the federal government could improve cybersecurity around it going forward. Challenges identified included the overreliance on volunteer forces to update Log4j. According to The Washington Post, around 36,000 cyber positions remain unfilled at local, state and federal levels.

UK government helps promote digital inclusion in Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa

The UK government’s Digital Access Programme (DAP) and the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) are teaming up to catalyse investment in digital inclusion in Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

The DAP is designed and funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and was set up in collaboration with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department (DCMS). Investment in affordable internet connectivity is expected to come from each network’s respective stakeholder relationships.

Martha Suarez, DSA’s president, said of the project: “This…will help increase spectrum availability for affordable connectivity for those that are still underserved or unserved. No one should be left behind in a digital world.”

She added: “For many communities, connectivity and access to the internet remains the fundamental hurdle, either because of lack of coverage or because the existing solutions are too expensive. Every moment they remain unconnected, the digital divide grows bigger.”

The DSA also said it intends to create further chances for public and private stakeholders to speak to regulators and spectrum authorities about capacity building and technologies that enable “large scale affordable connectivity and share best practices”.

US government departments seek clean energy to meet emissions targets

The US defence department (DOD) and the General Services Administration (GSA) have sought information from the private sector as they explore ways to procure clean energy as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonise the power sector by 2035.

In a Request for Information (RFI), the two agencies said they seek “to obtain market information and capabilities for planning purposes from vendors and other interested parties in supplying carbon pollution-free electricity to the United States government”.

The RFI follows an executive order signed by president Biden in December, which directs the government to “lead by example in order to achieve a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050”.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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