Pulse


Pulse

By GCN Staff


Lessons learned from NARA's social intranet

The Internal Collaboration Network is the social intranet platform that the National Archives and Records Administration uses to foster communication across the organization’s facilities and help build relationships among employees. 

With 40 facilities across the country, NARA often has people doing the same job in different locations. ICN allows them to connect more easily. The network also captures the ideas and knowledge that are frequently lost from the organization when people retire. 

Kelly Osborn, a NARA Web developer and the community manager for ICN, spoke to the Federal Communicators Network last month about the process of creating the network. 

The top takeaways:

  • NARA asked agency managers who were critical of the network to be among ICN’s first users. This tactic allowed managers to see how communication would actually work, as opposed to how they expected it to work.
  • Horizontal communication, rather than a top-down flow, enables a more effective spread of ideas.
  • The bell curve of early adoption shows that employee interest grows as people explore the network.
  • Ten percent of participants are power users who comment and use the network frequently. About one-third of employees use it once a week, and two-thirds have logged in within the past six months.

Posted on Feb 07, 2014 at 8:03 AM0 comments


Calculator helps evaluate the cost of going rugged

Editor's note: This article was updated to correct the name of the research group VDC.

Some government workers need rugged devices because their work takes them into dusty or humid conditions where traditional devices can easily be damaged. For other workers, the choice may not be as obvious. IT managers must weigh a number of factors when deciding whether to invest in a more expensive rugged tablet or stick with a consumer-grade device for their employees. 

Two technology companies have developed a calculator designed to determine whether moving to rugged tablets would be beneficial for them – or not.

Rugged tablet manufacturer Xplore Technologies Corp. and research group VDC partnered to create the “Total Cost of Ownership Calculator,” an application to help IT departments determine the true cost of replacing consumer electronics with rugged devices. 

The calculator factors in soft costs, which may affect the overall replacement price, including IT support, failure rates and minutes of lost productivity. Hard costs, such as software, peripherals, accessories, services and warranties, are also factored in. The calculator suggests an average cost if the user is unsure of a particular charge. 

According to industry averages, rugged tablets have more expensive hard costs, but their annual failure rate is much lower (4 to 18 percent), say the companies. 

And when they do fail, rugged tablets do not need to be replaced nearly as often (20 percent) as nonrugged tablets (45 percent) do when they fail, the firms said. 

After filling out the information, the calculator develops a long-term cost analysis and an estimate of annual savings the switch can bring. The tool is free to use and can be found on Xplore’s website.

Posted on Feb 05, 2014 at 8:41 AM0 comments


Data destruction tools debut to toughen enterprise defense

When it comes to sensitive information, destroying data and computers is almost as important as keeping the information on them safe. And the need for reliable data destruction services is growing steadily with the rise of interest in information security and environmentally friendly recycling. 

Code42, recently announced new secure delete capabilities for its CrashPlan enterprise endpoint backup. The software now features triple-pass data sanitization and secure delete capabilities while complying with federal standards, including Department of Defense 5220.22M data sanitization provisions, the company said. This process makes it impossible for deleted archives to be recovered through forensics or file system utilities — and eliminates the need for a separate, third-party application for that purpose, according to a company statement.

Some federal agencies, such as the Air Force and the National Security Agency use the WipeDrive program from WhiteCanyon to do the job. That technology uses DOD-approved wipe patterns to overwrite data multiple times and make it impossible to recover.

Otherwise, there are a variety of methods and tools available for data destruction. The memory on a hard drive can be erased using a high-powered magnetic process called degaussing. Drives can be overwritten or wiped, and computer components can be crushed into recyclable glass without a trace of data left behind.

And then there’s always brute force: Editors at the British newspaper The Guardian are seen in newly released video footage destroying the hard drives used to store the top-secret NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden. They demolished the computers using angle-grinders and drills to destroy the internal components, as the British intelligence agency GCHQ closely watched. 

Most physical destruction of hard disks is performed by companies with specialized shredding equipment.

Posted on Feb 04, 2014 at 11:44 AM2 comments


CMS picks EHR systems for next health IT test

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services picked health IT workhorses McKesson and Meditech to supply electronic health record systems that will be used to test whether doctors and hospitals qualify for federal IT subsidies under the administration’s “meaningful use” program.

“Meaningful use” was designed to set up the building blocks of a national health information network by offering doctors and hospitals financial incentives to start the process of digitizing their practices and linking electronically to other providers.  

In the first stage of the program, providers were required to incorporate some of the basic functions of a health IT network, including using electronic prescribing as well as computerized provider order entry, an electronic system for ordering lab work and other services. 

Hospitals were also required to be able to provide patients an electronic copy of their health records. 

The McKesson and Meditech EHR systems figure in the next, more advanced set of meaningful use requirements. In meeting stage two requirements over the next two years, health care providers must put EHRs through their paces in clinical settings. 

Among the applications that clinics and health care practices will be required to demonstrate is the ability to conduct multiple electronic exchanges of a care document with a recipient using an EHR from a different vendor. Alternately, a provider must be able to exchange a health record with the CMS-designated test EHR from McKesson and Meditech.

CMS, together with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, chose the McKesson and Meditech systems as initial test EHRs , but is soliciting others “in the EHR technology developer community,” to also be a part of the test program, according to Healthcare IT News.

EHR vendors faced a tough set of challenges as the second stage requirements kicked in last fall, leading to a slow start, according to the report. That makes sense, considering that when compared to the first-stage meaningful use requirements, tech developers were “navigating a higher bar and increased complexity,” Alisa Ray, the executive director of the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, was quoted as saying.

Posted on Feb 04, 2014 at 12:33 PM1 comments


Report: Government website satisfaction drops

Americans’ satisfaction with federal government services dropped 3.4 percent in 2013, according to this year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Citizens gave the government a score of 66.1 on a 100-point scale, reversing two consecutive years of gains.

The decline is thought to be largely due to frustration caused by navigating government websites such as Healthcare.gov. The negative impact of the site’s launch has reverberated at the department level, according to ACSI< as Health and Human Services overall dropped 4 percent to 66. But government website satisfaction overall dropped from 74 to 72 in 2013 indicating that users have found websites more difficult to navigate and less reliable across the board.

The results point to government’s challenge in delivering satisfactory service while keeping up with consumers’ overall online demands. Websites have become citizens’  most popular method of interaction with government, with 35 percent of all users of federal services accessing information via the Internet. This percentage makes up more than telephone and agency visits combined.

The report found a few bright spots for online government, though, including high satisfaction with electronic tax filing with the IRS.  Electronic filing scored 75 in 2013, compared to paper filing at 55. The gap of 20 or more points has remained in place for over a decade.

The report was  based on a broad survey of 70,000 people designed to benchmark satisfaction with companies and services and websites.

Through interviews conducted via email and telephone, 1,448 random users were asked to evaluate their recent experiences with federal government services.

Posted on Feb 03, 2014 at 10:08 AM0 comments