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Information Overload? Not For Most Americans

By Nextgov Staff // December 8, 2014

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

Despite our always-on society, most Americans in fact don’t feel overwhelmed by information but instead say various technologies make them better informed and help them learn new things.

Pew Research Center’s new survey, released Dec. 8, reveals that a large majority -- close to 90 percent -- of the 1,006 respondents say the Internet and cellphones have made it easier for them to learn new things. Only 13 percent say the Internet and cellphones have little impact on their ability to learn new things.

Well-to-do households are more likely to say technology has an impact on their learning ability. Nearly 60 percent of Internet users in households with incomes of $75,000 or more say the Internet and cellphones have improved their ability to learn “a lot.” In households with incomes below $30,000, that number drops to 44 percent.

Despite a common refrain that technology makes it harder for us to unplug, more than 70 percent say they enjoy having so much information. Only roughly one-fourth said having all that information is overwhelming.

So, basically: Americans like having myriad information choices and “don’t feel particularly oppressed by the growing flows of material” into our lives, said Lee ...

Infographic: NASA's Next Rocket

By Caitlin Fairchild // November 21, 2014

The barrel for the engine section of NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System.
The barrel for the engine section of NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System. // NASA

The era of the Space Shuttle is over, and NASA now is paving the way for the Space Launch System to take astronauts farther than before.

Currently in construction at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the SLS will stand 322 feet tall and weigh 70 metric tons. Meanwhile, NASA centers in Langley, Virginia, and Huntsville, Alabama, are conducting testing on the booster separation system and the Orion capsule, respectively. 

The Orion spacecraft will launch Dec. 4 for a test flight to provide data to prepare Orion for future missions aboard the SLS.

White House Challenge: Make Our First 3-D Printed Christmas Ornament

By Rebecca Carroll // October 30, 2014

The White House Christmas tree is seen in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.
The White House Christmas tree is seen in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. // Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A White House competition for the best 3-D printed holiday ornaments launched Thursday. And it’s not even Halloween.

Apparently there are currently no 3-D printed ornaments in the White House collection, so yours could be the first.

You don’t need your own 3-D printer. Just send in your design (try Tinkercad if you don’t have a better way) in the next week and a half, and the White House will take care of actually 3-D printing a selection of the winners.

The ornaments will be displayed at the White House through the holidays. They’ll also be featured at the Smithsonian’s 3-D data site 3d.si.edu. A few will join the political history division of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

“With the democratization of tools and technologies like 3-D printing, individuals have more opportunities to take their ideas and turn them into reality,” Stephanie Santoso, an adviser at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a blog post Thursday.

The contest is part of a larger White House effort to get innovative Americans to make things. 3-D printers create objects designed in computer programs by pouring substances in ...

Getting Health Info to Low-Income Cellphone Users

By Rebecca Carroll // October 17, 2014

alexmillos/Shutterstock.com

The digital divide is shrinking, but that alone isn’t enough to help underserved populations, according to a blog post on the federal website for health data.

“We have so many apps and gadgets to make our lives more efficient and convenient, yet products and solutions designed with and for vulnerable populations are in short supply, suggesting the existence of an innovation gap,” Allyn Moushey, the Department of Health and Human Services' Idea Lab policy adviser, wrote in the item posted Friday.

Eighty-four percent of adults earning less than $30,000 a year have cellphones, and 47 percent use smartphones, Moushey said, citing the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

Fifty-nine percent of older Americans go online, and 61 percent over 80 years old own cellphones, Moushey said. Telemedicine and e-health researchers last month reported that 89 percent of the homeless veterans they surveyed had a mobile phone, and 76 percent used the Internet, she said.

“Unfortunately, this growing trend of mobile and other technology adoption by the populations served by HHS is not being matched by innovative ideas and solutions designed to meet their specific needs,” she said, noting that a quick search of the word ...

A New Way to Find Federal Contracting Information

By Rebecca Carroll // October 15, 2014

koya979/Shutterstock.com

When I started writing up a post about a new alternative to FedBizOpps -- the intimidatingly clumsy government website for contracting notices -- I actually got distracted by it.

The new site was created by GovTribe, a four-man team of former federal contractors that aims to make it easier to track “projects, competitors, agencies, contracting officers and much more.”

(These are the guys who brought us a popular but infuriating list of “annoying” Department of Homeland Security contracting officers and a ranking of agencies whose contract awards are most often protested.)

When I first looked at their new tool -- a Web-based version of the iOS app they released earlier this year that runs on the API they also released  -- I noticed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for Ebola workers.

This is when I got distracted.

From the request for information, it looked like CDC might be expanding its airport Ebola screening program. So I asked CDC about this, sending along the GovTribe link. The agency spokeswoman initially did not recognize it as a government document until I sent her the FBO version as well.

Then on the GovTribe site, I tried a keyword search for Ebola and saw all ...