Government Technology News
Sun, 26 Mar 2017 05:22:39 +0200
Colorado Is Fifth State to Release RFP for a FirstNet Alternative
On March 22, the state of Michigan issued an RFP so that it could potentially opt out of a national public safety network contract with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) — an increasingly popular quest, as Michigan was the fourth state to do this. And just two days later, on March 24, Colorado joined this effort by issuing its own RFP.
BREAKING! @oitcolorado releases RFP for alternative public safety broadband network to @FirstNetGov Read about it https://t.co/5tpHrUL7Nc
— FirstNet Colorado (@FirstNetCO) March 24, 2017
“We want real creativity and innovation from potential bidders," Colorado Point of Contact Brian Shepherd said in a press release. "Colorado’s RFP approach is unique and we are excited for many segments of industry to review and thoughtfully consider responding. We believe the full benefit of this network lies not only in providing a solution for first responders, but in enabling a comprehensive statewide critical communications infrastructure that can support multiple services.”
The state has divided the RFP process into two phases. Responses will go through an initial selection process, and then bidding requirements will get more detailed.
Additionally, the RFP is seeking bids for two projects that applicants can either submit in tandem or separately. Bids are due by May 8 and the RFP documents can be found on the state procurement website, under RFP number 2017000243.
FirstNet's buildout could begin as early as June, as its legal battle with RFP bidder Rivada Mercury was recently settled in favor of the authority.
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 04:00:00 PDT
Study: Social Media Content Credibility Comes from Sharers, Not Creators
Fake news — it’s a term repeated to shut down criticism and weaken the blow of what otherwise might amount to administration-crippling revelations. But the phenomenon has done more than just warp public perceptions of good journalism — it has spread like a disease into the mainstream through social media and poisoned the proverbial well that many draw their daily news from.
In the old days, news-seekers picked up their favorite paper, not unlike their preferred brand of smokes, and digested what reporters had painstakingly chased down the day prior. As the Internet evolved, news websites sprang up offering a chance to consume their brand of news a little differently.
But then social media took root and allowed users to share anything and everything that crossed their meandering online paths. This unquestionably set the course for fake news to metastasize into the ugly malignance it is at this stage in the American experiment.
What’s more, the immediacy of sharing articles in social feeds and personal updates has prompted many readers to not even read what they pass along to one other. Instead they rely on questionably accurate headlines for their information.
But what makes online content credible? Researchers at the Media Insight Project — a collaboration between the American Press Institute (API), Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago — decided to find out, and they published their findings in a recent study.
What they found, API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel said, was that the sharer of the content weighed more heavily in the minds of viewers than its original source. If a Facebook friend is thought of as completely credible, the news they share, even if from a questionable original source, is more likely to be considered trustworthy.
The inverse is true of figures with a questionable track record of shares. “It was the sharer that drove how people perceived this,” Rosenstiel said.
Much of this is explained by what he called the “atomization” of news. Whereas people used to seek their information from single, reputable outlets, social media platforms have forever changed the delivery mechanism and mixed news with a host of other easily digestible content.
“In social media, that goes away. You’re inside Facebook, or you’re inside Twitter, or you’re inside Instagram, and the stories come at you one at a time," he said. “It’s not a surprise that the exchanger becomes really important. They, in effect, are the editors, the curators in the same way that when you are in a news domain it’s the news organization that is the decision-maker, the curator, the editor.”
Social media laid the groundwork for the explosion of fake news. Monitoring the types of content people consume has also made it easier for pop-up “news” organizations to distribute media with greater impact.
In this new environment, Rosenstiel argues that “content is not king, it’s actually distribution.”
When asked what the results of the study means for all of the government entities trying to effectively communicate with their constituents, Rosenstiel said building a positive, trust-based relationship with the audience is imperative.
“One of the lessons here is, it’s very important for you to create a community of people who follow you actively, not just say that they will get alerts from you, but who do so frequently and who you know are actually opening those alerts,” he said.
Two-way engagement becomes the essential component to building the trust that comes with timely and accurate content sharing, he explained. As trust and a following develop, Rosenstiel said the audience will ultimately become ambassadors for the content.
“That’s how you create the kind of vibrancy where they are not just going to follow you, but they are going to trust you and share your thing. It means that government that works has to be a government that is listening and interacting digitally with this community.”
Fri, 24 Mar 2017 02:55:00 PDT
Dallas Works Toward a 'Smart' Convention Center
Convention centers represent a massive investment on the part of the cities. With millions of square feet under roof, they are draw tens of thousands of users annually, driving economic activity and often shining a spotlight on downtown activities.
Most are also dumb as toast. Some convention center inventory dates back four or five decades, and while various waves of upgrades have improved their infrastructure, many still ride on a backbone of antiquated HVAC and telecommunications systems.
Executives at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas have a different vision. They say they are working toward a “smart” convention center, with the same kinds of tech-driven amenities and sustainability features being implemented by smart cities.
Dallas has good reason to be chasing smart upgrades: Convention centers are big business. San Diego’s facility claims a regional economic impact of $1.1 billion a year. New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center says it generates $170 million in taxes for city and state governments each year.
As a result, competition for convention center business is fierce. New York City just a spent a cool $1 billion to upgrade its facility.
“You always want to be the first and you want to provide your client with the latest and greatest,” said John Johnson, assistant director of Convention and Event Services for the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
To that end, the Dallas center has some $21 million in enhancements underway, many of which will serve to “smarten” up the facility, whose bones date back to 1957, though there have been multiple upgrades along the way.
At the core of the enhancements is a telecommunications upgrade to be carried out by Smart City Networks, a digital communications provider for convention centers and hospitality venues.
Smart City plans to replace existing wired and wireless networks with a high-density design that will accommodate 64,000 simultaneous users on the network and deliver 10-gigabit connectivity throughout the facility. AT&T has signed on to put in place a distributed antenna system to deliver cellular connectivity throughout the facility.
The robust connectivity could form the supporting infrastructure for a range of smart city type additions.
“By upgrading the wireless systems and the data, that gives them the connectivity to enable smart technologies, whether it is sensors for lighting or sensors for heating and air conditioning," said Mark Haley, president of Smart City Networks. "That’s all coming to convention centers, but we have to put in place this basic connectivity first.”
In fact those are exactly the kind of changes convention center officials have in mind. They say the telecommunications upgrades are just the start, and that a range of advanced capabilities will follow.
First up: navigation. The convention center is more than1 million square feet, and planners want to ensure visitors can find their way around.
“With more dense [wireless] coverage, we could introduce a way-finding app, something that could give you turn-by-turn directions to get to your meeting room, or it could get you to the closest food and beverage outlet in the building,” Johnson said. Officials plan to implement a mobility services engine to make this happen.
Upgrades also are slated to include a data analytics product to help users of the facility get a handle on key statistics around their events.
“How many people came to the show? What were the hot spots? What booths were most visited? What exhibits did not get a lot of traction? We’d like to help them at the macro level,” Johnson said.
The upgrades may include automation enhancements. Motion-triggered escalators are a possibility, as are controls that would turn of lights when rooms are not in use. The facility is already LEED-certified, but planners say they would like to go further. Low-flow plumbing fixtures are on the books, and they are considering improved automatic building controls for the HVAC.
Convention center officials say they aren’t eyeing smart upgrades simply for technology’s sake. Rather, all the new features are intended to enhance the customer experience as the convention center vies for its share of business against dozens of other cities.
The telecommunications upgrades offer a clear example of this connection between enhanced technology and customer service. Johnson points to the not uncommon experience of a convention center user launching a new app as part of its event. When that happens, an older wireless network will struggle to keep pace with demand.
“Now if I have a large company come in and there are going to be 10,000 users downloading an app on their cellphones at one time, the network can handle that,” he said. “That’s a big draw for our customers. It’s just a better experience.”
A number of cities around the nation have incorporated smart-city and sustainability related features into their latest enhancements. Columbus, Ohio, is undergoing a renovation that will earn its LEED certification and incorporate digital signage. The L.A. Convention Center got waterless urinals in a recent upgrade. In Orlando, Fla., convention center operators upgraded from analog to IP surveillance cameras.
Still, the sheer size and scale of a convention center can make it difficult to get a smart-style upgrade on the books. Operators may be hard pressed to justify what some may see as an added expense.
“They are all thinking along the lines of smart city, but with convention centers it ends up being a pretty significant investment in addition to their other capital and maintenance programs,” Hayley said. “They are looking at this, but they need to do it in measured ways.”
Mon, 24 Mar 3017 11:00:00 PDT
Three Revolutions Turning the Transportation World Upside-Down
Less than six months ago, 150 representatives from various organizations — including the California Governor’s Office; Austin, Texas; several University of California campuses; Google X; Uber and Lyft, among many others — gathered in Sacramento, Calif., to discuss the three revolutions taking place in transportation: sharing, electrification and automation.
The meeting, hosted by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) through its 3 Revolutions Policy Initiative, explored the key policies and strategies surrounding potential synergies among electrification, automation and vehicle sharing, and how best to guide those policies to serve the public interest.
Following the conference, the group conducted an informal survey that garnered 40 responses from policymakers, researchers and representatives from interest groups — most of whom agreed that fully driverless vehicles will make up more than 20 percent of cars on the road in less than 25 years. Perhaps most telling was the fact that the traditional auto manufacturers are not expected to spearhead this change; most agree it will be tech and transportation networking companies like Google, Uber andTesla.
“The three revolutions … have the potential to stimulate sweeping changes in passenger travel, overcome the resistance of incumbent industries, and provide a faster, scalable and more profitable path toward societal goals,” said UC Davis ITS Director Daniel Sperling in a framing document. “Unmanaged, some of these same innovations could exacerbate environmental quality, equity, and livability. ”
3 Revolutions Dream
3 Revolutions Nightmare
If policymakers and businesses effectively manage the transition to maximize cost savings and environmental benefits, these types of benefits may occur:
If government is unprepared for the revolutions and allows companies to rush gasoline-powered autonomous cars to market, then the following may occur:
Inexpensive on-demand robot cars and shared electric bicycles become widely available.
Only wealthiest people buy autonomous cars, enjoying their enhanced freedom, flexibility and productivity.
Ridesharing costs plunge as a result of matching of passengers and car size.
Conventional car owners experience worsening congestion as they compete with more intensively used, and often empty, autonomous cars waiting for their owners.
More productive multi-tasking while traveling and fewer wasted hours spent ferrying kids around or running errands.
Those without drivers' licenses, autonomous cars or smartphones continue to be marginalized as the divide widens between mobility haves and have-nots.
Less searching for parking and less space devoted to parking at homes, along curbs, and at parking lots and garages.
More urban sprawl as people opt for long commutes.
Better access to health care, retail services, education and work for the mobility-disadvantaged.
Air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions rise as vehicle usage increases.
Framing Document (PDF)
The 3 Revolutions serves as a convening group for a network of nearly 300 shareholders to identify trends and potential areas for improvement to harness the benefits of shared, autonomous and electric vehicles. The group also seeks to enhance public discourse on the three revolutions, and to connect researchers with policymakers.
In clarifying their positions and recommendations for regulations, the group released a set of policy briefs, described below, which were guest-authored by leading transportation policy experts.
“The authors of the policy briefs really start to ask some of the key questions: What do we see in terms of climate benefits associated with shared, electric, and eventually driverless vehicles? How will public transit and governments need to adapt in response to these three Revolutions? ” said ITS spokesperson Mollie D’Agostino in describing the briefs.
The challenges and recommendations in the briefs were broken down into five categories: climate, active travel (walking and biking), transit, equity and governance.
Another theme that emerged from the papers was the need for greater communication and coordination among industry, government and academia in order to avoid unintended negative consequences that could accompany the three revolutions.
While there is still time before 100 percent autonomous vehicle deployment on city streets, the group urges that the time for preparation is now — and planning for how people will move through multiple modes of transportation relies on an abundance of data.
Connected vehicles provide information about roadway conditions, surface congestion and vehicle accidents. Ridesharing and its ability to provide mobility to underserved populations can be used to understand how people are moving around. Despite an abundance of this data, there remains a challenge in accessing this information from transportation networking companies.
“We’re lucky because these revolutions speak toward the ability to have better and richer data sources,” said D’Agostino. “To be able to really analyze that data will require partnerships, and that is where we are.”
The group will hold a second meeting in April, this time open to the public. Members will discuss their latest analysis related to the convergence of these three transportation revolutions and what it means for mobility, sustainable communities, and the economy and environment.
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 04:30:00 PDT
Illinois Doubles Down on Cybersecurity Amid Contentious ERP Upgrade
On March 21, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner gathered with officials from the state’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) to roll out a cybersecurity road map.
The five-part strategy, developed in conjunction with the National Governors Association and National Association of State Chief Information Officers, is part of what officials see as the next leg in a journey to better protect state systems and constituent data.
State CIO Hardik Bhatt told Government Technology that the aggressive push to a more forward-looking strategy is based more on necessity than anything else. Early in his tenure, the CIO said high-level assessments identified what could only be described as “mind-boggling” deficiencies throughout the government.
“To be on the leading edge is, unfortunately for us, a requirement as opposed to being a nice-to-have, because we have not been on the leading edge for quite some time,” Bhatt said. “We have not utilized the last couple of decades in the right manner.”
Under the newly released strategy, DoIT will focus on protecting systems, reducing risk, strengthening cybersecurity capabilities, building an enterprise approach and extending efforts outward for holistic security.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Kirk Lonbom said the efforts to bring the 62 agencies, boards and commissions under the governor’s purview with a more unified policy and security structure has not been without its challenges.
“You can imagine trying to do that many mergers and acquisitions at the same time and the potential impact that you would have on security,” he said.
Since coming on board in August 2015, Lonbom said agencies have encrypted or eliminated around 5 billion pieces of personally identifiable information from various systems.
But the commitment to better defenses is only one part of the larger story. At the same time officials are trying to maneuver state infrastructure to more secure waters, the state comptroller is calling for a closer look at efforts to implement a comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
The ERP project, Bhatt explained, is a “key cornerstone” to the larger cybersecurity goal. According to the CIO, many of the 400 or so systems used to manage the state’s financial and human resource programs within state government are not only inefficient, but badly outdated.
“We have 400 systems that manage our finance, grants, do [human resources] and everything, and all of them access databases: Excel spreadsheets, mainframe systems and everything that you can think of ... We have to go through four systems to even buy a paperclip. It’s just a crazy way of doing business,” he explained.
“About 30 percent of these systems are so old, and dependent on much older technology, that we cannot even apply security patches,” Bhatt added.
Concern from Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office centers on the what spokesman Abdon Pallasch described as the need for greater transparency when it comes to paying for the work being done.
Most recently, Mendoza suspended $27 million in funds, including $21.6 million meant to pay a number of project consultants, pending a “review of the ERP program.”
“It’s really just an effort to get more answers as to what is going on with ERP,” Pallasch said.
In two press releases (1 and 2), Mendoza took issue with what she characterized as cuts to health-care programs to pay for IT projects, including the ERP.
Bhatt said in the 17 months since the five-year ERP project first launched, roughly 25 percent of the project has been completed. According to Bhatt, it is on time and on budget. Not only that, its completion will help put Illinois — a state with notoriously troubled finances — in a better financial position going forward.
“In general, we are losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars just because we don’t have our financial house technically in order,” he explained. “This is something I wish the state would have done 15 years ago. Then we would not be having this problem.”
Efforts on the CIO’s part to break the stalemate have only garnered one 30-minute call with Mendoza’s senior staff.
Controversy aside, Lonbom agrees that updating the financial systems would go a long way to improving the security stance of Illinois government. The inability to patch certain systems requires alternative measures and extra time and cost.
“It certainly is a problem,” the CISO said of the existing infrastructure. “Obviously, we put compensating controls in place to reduce our risk. Information security is really all about reducing risk to the enterprise and to our citizens, but I think enterprises across the country, especially governments, are facing this issue.”
Pallasch clarified that no one is questioning the need for a new financial backbone.
“What they are saying about old computers is absolutely true. A lot of these computers are from the 1970s. The comptroller absolutely supports the goal of modernizing the state’s computer system ….” he said. “We all should be able to go forward with a computer modernization, but it has to be done right. It can’t be done without accountability.”
While the future remains uncertain, Bhatt and Lonbom are looking forward to ironing out the details and moving forward with plans to secure the state’s technical infrastructure.
Thu, 23 Mar 2017 02:00:00 PDT