Internaut: IT food for thought

Shawn P. McCarthy

In the past few weeks I've run across a handful of cool ideas that seem worth keeping an eye on.

I make no promise that any of these four will take off and become dominant players on the government computing landscape. But each might be considered an idea to watch in the coming months.

Public-sector value model: This is an idea currently being touted by Accenture Ltd. If shareholder value is something that can be quantitatively measured for corporations, then why can't public-sector value be assessed for governments and municipalities?

It's no secret that governments of all sizes are trying to do more with less, and they are using investments in IT to accomplish this. But how should they measure success?

The value model measures outputs. It can gauge things such as crime rates, citizen satisfaction, return on investment for new systems and more. It seems like an idea whose time has come.

The challenge will be finding a measurement standard that government offices can accept and plug into to assure that tax money is being well-spent. To find out more, visit Accenture.com and type 'public-sector value' in the search box.

Trusted information grids: The idea here is that homeland security efforts, particularly those handled by first responders, need systems built on Web services that let users sign on once to pull information from multiple sources.

Imagine the first emergency workers on a scene being able to log in and access hazardous materials databases, city maps showing public utilities, lists of available beds in area hospitals and more.

But the foundation of such system grids must be built on highly reliable applications and databases. Access would be over broadband wireless access networks'dubbed WiMax'or satellite uplinks.

For more information, check out the Homeland Security Department's National Communications System at www.ncs.gov. You should also keep an eye out for Oracle Corp. white papers about the trusted grid concept.

3-D image shape searches: What if you could search for a shape, such as a machine part or a historic artifact, the same way you now use an Internet search engine to look for Web pages?

Purdue University has developed such an interface. Make a rough sketch of the kind of object you seek, and the engine will try to match it with a real object. To check out this tool, go to www.gcn.com and enter 219 in the GCN.com/search box.

Right now the system only searches a limited number of drawings and images on a test system, but the idea could be expanded to include large-parts databases or historic artifacts.

An Internet run by the U.N.: A report from the Global Forum on Internet Governance recommends that the United Nations have a greater say in how the Internet is run.

The forum participants made some good points. For instance, some countries have been assigned way too few Internet addresses, and it's been difficult for some of their entrepreneurs to build businesses in a .com space dominated by North American addresses.

But how could the U.N., an organization that can't even enforce its own rulings, ever be expected to ride herd on the wild, wild Net? We probably don't have to worry, since participants couldn't propose any concrete solutions. But just to be on the safe side, check out the report by going to www.gcn.com and entering 220 in the GCN.com/search box.

Shawn P. McCarthy is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunity at IDC of Framingham, Mass. E-mail him at smccarthy@idc.com.

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