News

ARCHIVES

Why Agencies Must Take a 'Security First' Approach in 2016

By Dave Egts // January 26, 2016

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

Dave Egts is chief technologist in Red Hat's U.S. public sector. 

While cybersecurity has always been a hot-button issue for the government, certain events from last year promise that, in 2016, security concerns have the potential to skyrocket beyond anything we’ve seen before.

The questions, of course, are what is being done – and what else can be done?

In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management data breach moved security from a front-of-mind topic mainly for chief information security officers and security professionals to a front-of-mind issue for millions of government employees, contractors and their families.

Indeed, this time it was personal, not just a faceless attack on a government server. The OPM breach made it clear that security breaches can put individuals – not just agencies – at risk.

As the scope of the OPM breach became clear, the government moved to take action. In fact, we have already started to see changes in the government’s approach to cybersecurity, and those changes are impressive.

As Tony Scott, U.S. chief information officer, wrote on the White House blog, the Office of Management and Budget launched a 30-day Cybersecurity Sprint, building on the administration’s “whole-of-government” strategy, to assess...

Don’t Ask for Permission to Use Agile. Just Start Doing It.

By Robert Read // January 25, 2016

graja/Shutterstock.com

Robert L. Read is a computer scientist, author, consultant and inventor, currently attempting to meld the Maker movement, open source and hardware invention into a movement for invention in the public interest called public invention. He was a Presidential Innovation Fellow in 2013 and co-­founded 18F and 18F Consulting. Twitter: @RobertLeeRead

Government program managers who want to pass on to the taxpayers the benefits of agile software development face some challenges that stem from noble intentions to avoid waste, fraud and abuse or the accusation thereof:

● To avoid waste, government workers tend to be very risk­ averse. This tends to favor “big design up front," which ironically leads to much greater risk.

● Government workers tend not to invite the customers to see the sausage being made, but wait until the silver platter is ready. All too often, that means the customer never gets to eat at all.

● To avoid the appearance of impartiality, governments workers tend to avoid informal interaction with their customers. These attitudes are specifically opposed to the agile manifesto.

Government workers are under some pressure to do the wrong thing. Such as:

● To value processes over individuals to be able to justify choices;

● To value comprehensive...

Can Government Outpace the Private Sector in Innovation?

By Kevin Merritt // January 21, 2016

Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

Kevin Merritt is the founder and CEO of Socrata. The University of Washington believes that nurturing boundless innovation and creativity empowers students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners to create a world of good. Through the Innovation Imperative, the UW is creating inclusive solutions to society’s grand challenges. This article is one in a series commissioned by CoMotion, the UW’s innovation hub.

Governments around the world are facing significant political turmoil and enormous economic stress as they struggle with an alarming and unprecedented array of public-policy crises.

Whether it’s water scarcity in Brazil, the rural electricity shortfall in India, the financial meltdown in Russia or income inequality and social unrest between law enforcement and minority communities in the U.S., public sector leaders often seem overmatched and overwhelmed at a time when solutions and answers are needed.

To make matters worse, government officials are being challenged by citizen, business, media and employee stakeholders to address critical issues in areas ranging from operations to public safety to governance to voting. The repercussions from these issues – which include transparency, accountability, budgeting, spending, regulation, citizen engagement and performance – have steadily eroded confidence in public institutions and public officials.

The consequences of...

US Government Is Making It Possible to Dump Identifiers Tracking Contracts

By Joshua New // January 21, 2016

Nonwarit/Shutterstock.com

Joshua New is a policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation.

In 2015, the federal government spent nearly half of a trillion dollars on contracts with private companies—$436,668,103,830, to be exact. Members of the public are free to drill down into this data and track funding going to specific businesses, thanks to a series of policies designed to increase government transparency and accountability by treating information about government spending as open data—machine readable, timely and freely available online.

However, federal contracting policy requires the use of a specific proprietary data standard to keep track of entities receiving federal funds.

Known as the Data Universal Numbering System, or DUNS, the current standard was developed by business information reporting company Dun & Bradstreet. And therein lies a problem: Not only is the use of a proprietary standard antithetical to the principle of an open and transparent government, as it limits the usability and accessibility of the data, but the government has already recognized that requiring the use of DUNS grants Dun & Bradstreet a monopoly on data that uses DUNS numbers, reducing competition and increasing costs.

Fortunately, the General Services Administration, the Defense Department and NASA have recently...

Will Government Agencies Embrace Innovation Driven by Mobile?

By Lori Feller // January 19, 2016

LDprod/Shutterstock.com

Lori Feller is partner and U.S. public sector Apple partnership leader at IBM.

Major trends in federal and public sector IT will continue to be heavily influenced by cloud, agile and security. But what about mobile?  

Beyond "bring your own device" policies and telecommuting, will public sector organizations embrace the innovation driven by mobile -- specifically enterprise class apps that can transform the nature of how jobs are performed and improve the way services are delivered to citizens?  

Apps are increasingly becoming an essential tool for government employees in their daily roles and for helping citizens interact with their government. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of smartphone users look up government services or information on their devices.

Government-created or supported mobile apps offer a wide range of opportunities for delivering services ranging from finding parking spaces and paying for them to engaging citizens in co-producing services, or reporting potholes and damaged streetlights. Creative ways of using mobile apps for government continue to multiply.

Consumer apps capitalize on our desire to make life easier using a piece of technology most of us already carry everywhere -- our mobile devices. When we apply this same thinking to enterprise apps, we work toward...