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Unlocking Government Data Poised to Create Whole New Industries -- And Make Washington Work Better

By Robert A. Runge // September 3, 2014

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

Robert A. Runge serves on the board of directors at Socrata, a cloud software company focused on freeing access to public sector data.

Let’s start with the obvious -- government data is unique in the world of data.

The data that’s garnered the most attention over the past generation -- a generation, by the way, that has witnessed the revolution of information technology -- has obsessively focused on running, managing, automating and organizing enterprises in an effort to wring out every last drop of business transaction and process efficiency.

We’ve also seen scientific data in the spotlight, especially in the realm of database management and, more recently, big data.

But government data is completely different.

Why?

Because it’s about running society -- not a business unit or a scientific research inquiry.

And given this vast social context, I believe we need an operating system for government data that will unlock this long-sequestered information and open it to the public -- to citizens, communities and companies all over the world.

This is the driving force behind today’s open data movement.

Open Data Bridging the Chasm from Old World to New

In the end, the net result will be startling, because open ...

Federal Network Security: 4 Easy Steps to Get the Basics Right

By Greg Kushto // September 2, 2014

asharkyu/Shutterstock.com

Greg Kushto is director of the security practice at Force 3.

In federal IT, it’s easy to want to focus on protecting your organization from the next big security threat, whether it’s the Heartbleed flaw, advanced persistent threats or even the next Edward Snowden. Every time there is a major public incident like these, it seems everyone’s focus goes toward preventing it from happening again.

And that’s a good thing.

But these types of attacks are sophisticated, complex and require a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to prevent and protect against. With so many resources focused on these types of attacks, are we leaving our networks vulnerable to all of the other threats out there?

In other words, when it comes to securing our federal networks, are we getting the basics right?

The Pareto Paradox

You might be familiar with the saying that “80 percent of your sales comes from 20 percent of your customers.” Often referred to as the 80/20 rule, it’s based on a paradox called the Pareto principle, which basically states that for a given event, 80 percent of the outcome stems from 20 percent of the effort.

But ...

Video: FBI Files Join the 21st Century

By Caitlin Fairchild // August 25, 2014

The paper filing system files at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The paper filing system files at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. // FBI

The FBI filing system has finally gotten an upgrade. 

The bureau released a video detailing the switch to the Next Generation Identification system to digitally house among other things, 30 million records and 83 million fingerprint cards.

“It makes those records immediately accessible to law enforcement across the country,” said Penny Harker, who runs the Biometric Services Unit at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services. “It’s a great benefit to them not having a delay simply because we were still storing files in a manual format.”

The FBI's old filing method, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS, used fingerprint cards stored in rows and rows of filing cabinets, requiring fingerprint specialists who acted as "runners" to find the correct card. 

Story continues below video. 

Donna Ray who has managed the FBI files since 1974 called it the end of an era.

"The old identification division, that's what built the bureau," Ray said. "But I'm very excited about the direction we're going in."

The effort to digitize files has been going on for several years, with 8.8 million files converted in the last two years.

However, some privacy groups are concerned about ...

Video: NASA's Flying Labs

By Caitlin Fairchild // August 13, 2014

NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory soars over the Sierra Nevadas and the Owens Valley near Lone Pine, Calif.
NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory soars over the Sierra Nevadas and the Owens Valley near Lone Pine, Calif. // NASA

When you think of a laboratory, large buildings or underground lairs with lots of beakers and equipment might come to mind.

But NASA has taken the standard laboratory and made it airborne. The agency's fleet of flying labs will jet off to locations around the globe to study a variety of things, including tropical storms and hurricanes, melting polar ice sheets in Antarctica, and how ecosystems respond to climate change.

One mission to study pollution closer to the ground will focus on Denver, Colorado. The area experiences unhealthy levels of ozone in the summer, so the goal is to better understand surface condition where people live and breathe so future satellites can better measure air quality.

Watch the video below to see more of these lofty labs:  

Nextgov Prime 2014 Agenda Unveiled

By Camille Tuutti // July 17, 2014

What does government look like in the future? And how can technology transform the business of government? Nextgov Prime intends to answer those questions, gathering more than 1,000 federal IT influencers tasked with designing the government of 2020.

Announced yesterday, the 2014 Nextgov Prime agenda spans across two days between Sept. 8-9 and will help federal managers address pressing challenges in six impact areas:

  • Working Smarter. More Productive. More Public Engagement. Leveraging Technology to Make Change Real
  • Moving Fast. Adapting with Speed. Implementing What Works. Advancing Procurement at the Pace of Technological Change
  • Finding Great People. Organizing Teams. Unleashing Creativity. Developing the Workforce of the Future
  • Security in a Machine Era. Electronic Privacy and Civil Liberties. Managing Risks. Enhancing Security While Protecting Privacy
  • Transformational Public Services. Exponential Change. Empowering the Public. The Art of the Possible
  • Internet Everywhere. Citizen-Focused Services. Greater Responsiveness to the Public. Managing Data and Providing Services in a Mobile World

We’ll soon be announcing keynote speakers and session highlights, so stay tuned for updates.