Stung by employee excesses at a Las Vegas conference last year, the General Services Administration is taking steps through online education to prevent a recurrence by its workers and those of other agencies as well.
GSA has announced a series of travel training courses with the assistance of D.C.-based Blackboard aimed at teaching federal workers how to behave while on travel status, reported Government Executive.
The agency is using the “big mistake we had in the last year,” when conference attendees ran up a government bill of more than $800,000, to help all federal workers learn behavior standards away from the office, Lauren Concklin, a GSA marketing analyst, was quoted as saying.
The goal of the virtual training is to reduce travel excesses – such as the activities by Secret Service agents in a Cartegena, Colombia, hotel last spring – and help agencies realize efficiencies and savings.
Among the courses GSA is offering is a basic primer on travel regulations that covers such topics as transportation, per diem and miscellaneous expense allowances. Another course will provide instruction in how to plan, coordinate and execute conferences in accordance with, among others, the Federal Travel Regulation, Executive Directives and the Government Accountability Office.
The GSA program will include a new tracking feature so that completed courses automatically will be updated into an employee’s personal file, Concklin said.
The first course was scheduled to begin in January with others to follow in February.
Posted on Jan 30, 2013 at 7:43 AM0 comments
The Transportation Security Agency is looking to search and analyze large streams of data from multiple sources as part of its investigations. TSA has awarded a contract to Nuix Inc., a company with a data processing engine it claims is capable of sifting through “a virtually unlimited quantity of unstructured data” at speeds comparable to common Internet search.
The big data company said its “server-based and mobile investigations software” was chosen by a branch of TSA’s Information Assurance & Cyber Security Division, which crunches “digital evidence” for the agency’s Inspections, Federal Air Marshals and Chief Counsel’s offices, among others.
The system would be used for rapid analysis of large amounts of data during investigations and electronic discovery operations. TSA wanted a system that could process more than 1.5T per day on a single server and 500G per day on a mobile workstation.
It also needed to search and analyze Microsoft SharePoint data, network file shares and all common forensic image formats.
“Federal, state and local agencies are clearly facing big data challenges — they have a huge backlog of time-sensitive cases and need a scalable technology that works fast enough to help them catch up,” Peter Morse, who heads Nuix’s public sector division, said in a release.
The Nuix contract was awarded as TSA is pursuing other technologies to beef up its analytics war chest. In January, it posted a call for market research for the “possible expansion of expedited aviation physical screening initiatives.”
In the research solicitation, TSA said it was “particularly interested in techniques … to use non-governmental data elements to generate an assessment of the risk to the aviation transportation system that may be posed by a specific individual, and to communicate the identity of persons who have successfully passed this risk based assessment" to TSA.
Requirements of the system include gathering the information necessary to prescreen “potentially large numbers of potential enrollees and safeguarding the personal information from loss or disclosure,” according to the research request.
Posted on Jan 24, 2013 at 12:18 PM0 comments
California, always in the forefront of avant-garde health fads, has a new San Francisco treat, this one aided by hometown tech company Yelp, a provider of online reviews and directories.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee last week announced a partnership with Yelp to link the city's restaurant health score data with the Yelp restaurant review website, according to GovTech.
Yelp and tech teams from San Francisco and New York created the Local Inspector Value-Entry Specification (LIVES) software for city health departments and other inspection officials to upload health inspection scores to the Yelp database.
The process has started with some San Francisco restaurants’ health inspection scores available online, with health scores for the rest of the city’s restaurants expected to be posted within the next couple of weeks, said Jay Nath, the city's chief innovation officer, in an announcement from the city. Data from New York City is expected to be added in coming weeks and Philadelphia and other cities could follow, he said.
“By making often hard-to-find government information more widely available to innovative companies like Yelp, we can make government more transparent and improve public health outcomes for our residents through the power of technology,” Lee said in a prepared statement. The mayor also chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors Technology and Innovation Task Force.
Lee and Yelp want the restaurant health ratings system eventually to become part of the LIVES nationwide open data standard that will be open to all cities on a voluntary basis.
Posted on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:40 AM0 comments
Campus IT departments might be considered the vanguard of enterprise computing. Each new year brings students with more devices that need to connect to a network already supporting university administration, faculty, researchers and a heavy Netflix habit.
As CTOs look for new products, tools, applications and equipment in 2013, here are six trends to watch, according to higher-ed IT leaders interviewed by Campus Technology.
1. Big data beyond the basics. Big data will help institutions build model student profiles that can be used to target for admission those students most likely to be successful.
2. Faster course corrections. Universities will use big data to assess course feedback and quickly make curricula changes.
3. Pressure from BYOD. As students bring an ever increasing number and variety of wireless devices to campus, Wi-Fi networks, tools and support will quickly evolve to meet increased demand.
4. Platform-independent computing gains ground. IT departments will soon support all devices and platforms. Look for virtual desktop environments will allow students run any software, regardless of location or device.
5. Mobile apps are a go. Moving away from broadcast publishing, more schools will develop mobile apps that let users access only the information they need.
6. Growth of educational social media. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ will be integrated into the curriculum for the real-time, real-world collaboration they enable.
Posted on Jan 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM0 comments
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking products and expertise to support and demonstrate secure platforms for the exchange of electronic health information.
The notice in the Federal Register marks the initial step for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in the Secure Exchange of Electronic Health Information project. The NCCoE is a public/private collaboration for accelerating the widespread adoption of integrated cybersecurity tools and technologies.
The goal of the demonstration project is to provide a secure, usable and comprehensive security platform that would help health care providers exchange electronic health information.
The secure exchange of health information across devices and networks can be especially challenging for smaller health care providers, NIST said in its announcement. A great number of small, medium and large health care providers may not have the sufficient security infrastructure or expertise to respond to multiple client devices and the variety of health data exchange standards, NIST said.
Following successful demonstrations, NIST will publish a description of the security platform so that other organizations can develop products to meet the program's objectives.
Posted on Jan 16, 2013 at 1:05 PM0 comments