Three rural telecommunications infrastructure projects in Arkansas, Iowa and New Mexico will get loans from USDA to improve broadband service.
Southwest Arkansas Telephone will receive a $25 million loan to upgrade portions of a fiber network and convert the remaining portions of a copper system to fiber in order to improve service for subscribers.
Mescalero Apache Telecom in New Mexico will receive a $5.4 million loan to upgrade portions of its system and provide fiber service to approximately 50 percent of its territory.
Minburn Communications in Iowa has been chosen to receive a $4.7 million loan to upgrade its copper network to fiber and to provide subscribers with voice, broadband and video service.
"These telecommunications providers will deliver enhanced broadband services to help attract and grow businesses, as well as to improve educational and health care services," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Time and again, studies show that affordable broadband offers increased economic opportunities in rural areas, which is why Rural Development is committed to delivering high-speed internet service to these communities."
The funding announcement coincides with news that President Obama signed a new Presidential Memorandum to create the Broadband Opportunity Council. Co-chaired by Secretary Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the panel will be focused on increasing broadband investment and adoption. Since 2009, USDA investments in broadband include more than 500 projects for a total investment of $5.88 billion.
Posted on Mar 23, 2015 at 12:49 PM0 comments
In an effort to better serve citizens seeking geospatial information, Minnesota is consolidating state agency GIS information in the Minnesota Geospatial Commons, a collaborative site for users and publishers of geospatial data, maps, services and applications.
The site consolidates several state agency geospatial sites, including the DNR Data Deli, MetroGIS DataFinder and MnGeo GeoGateway. Before the Geospatial Commons, people seeking geospatial information were left to guess where to find the information they needed. Now they can search by keywords and tags, by agency, file format or category, such as climatology, transportation or boundaries. Users can also follow resources and publishers to get notifications of the latest updates via email.
The robust data distribution site can be used by both traditional and non-traditional geospatial data users who need data for a project, services for an application, or other resources primarily used with GIS software. While web maps and web services can be viewed by non-GIS users, most of the resources in the Commons are in GIS formats and are intended to be used with GIS software.
“We are excited to see this site open for business,” said Dan Ross, chief geospatial information officer, MnGeo. “Having a single point of access for Minnesota’s public geospatial information is an idea we have talked about for many years, and now it is here. This is a great site for those who have geospatial information to share, and for those who need this data.”
The site is administered by the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office, a program of MN.IT Services.
Posted on Mar 19, 2015 at 9:48 AM0 comments
Miami-Dade County Animal Services has partnered with Finding Rover, a free mobile app that helps pet owners find their lost dogs using facial recognition technology.
Finding Rover maintains a database of dog facial images from registered app users, so when a lost dog’s picture is uploaded, the software compares that image with those in the database.
The app uses eight facial markers, far fewer than the 128 points on the human facial recognition program, to make the identification. It then locates the user via the phone’s GPS and starts searching for dogs that match the image of the lost dog in the area, said John Polimeno, the founder of Finding Rover.
Because Miami-Dade County’s Animal Services database of dogs is now integrated into the Finding Rover mobile app, users who have previously registered their pets can then search for found dogs at the shelter.
Polimeno said he worked with University of Utah for a year to develop the app, which uses facial recognition technology adapted from the fields of machine learning and computer vision. The Pet Match algorithm that researchers developed for the program detects key discriminating features in a dog’s face, such as the shape and position of the eyes, distinctive stripes or spots and the color of the fur, according to a report from the university.
“Additional information provided for the dogs, such as size, gender, breed and location, can be used prior to the facial recognition to narrow the collection of lost dogs Pet Match will consider for ranking,” said Steve Callahan, a software design engineer at the university’s Software Development Center.
Polimeno said more than 300 shelters have expressed interest in using the app, which is also in use in shelters in Houston and San Diego.
Posted on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:13 AM0 comments
In pursuit of its open government goals, the Department of Health and Human Services is expanding access to financial data and to the results of its funded scientific research, HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr said in a blog post.
Although HHS has made over 1,800 datasets accessible to the public through healthdata.gov, Corr said the department’s goal now is, “to maximize the value of HHS information by ensuring that our stakeholders have access to the fullest spectrum of health and human service data in formats that are readily consumable and lend themselves to meaningful re-use.”
To that end, HHS released plans for making the results of government-funded research freely available to the public. This will include making peer-reviewed publications stemming from HHS funded scientific research freely available, as well as the underlying data supporting these publications.
Full-text articles will be available through the PubMed Central repository, and metadata about these articles, including supplemental information, will also be made freely available to the public. The efforts will expand HHS’s holdings to new fields such as public health research, emergency preparedness and comparative effectiveness, Corr said, creating more opportunities for insights that can improve health care.
Additionally, the department is leading a two-year pilot that will test the application of data standards to grantee reporting and will explore the benefits of standardized financial reporting.
That way, “consumers can follow the complete life cycle of federal spending – from appropriations to the disbursements of grants, contracts and administrative spending,” Corr said.
Although HHS is committed to releasing heath data, “creating openness and transparency at HHS is not a sprint but a marathon,” Corr said.
Posted on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:00 PM0 comments
The city of Philadelphia released procurement-related datasets that will let citizens more closely mind the public’s business.
The data, from the city’s contracts for supplies, equipment, non-professional services and public works services, will be made available through the city’s open data website.
Members of the public will now be able to view procurement data summarized and contextualized, according to types of contract information. Summaries of the datasets will breakdown dollars by vendor and contract type as well as list the top 20 largest contracts and soon to expire contracts.
A “frequently asked questions” section will also help guide interested citizens who wish to better understand the data they are viewing and download the information into either a spreadsheet or CSV format.
The open data website, hosted by GitHub, will be updated on a quarterly basis. The city ultimately envisions integrating all datasets into one file, which will let the public search all city contracts in one place.
The data transparency project was initiated by city’s Procurement Department, Chief Integrity Officer and Office of Innovation and Technology.
“Prior to this release, important data on procurement contracts, including which company was the lowest bidder for a project, was not accessible online,” said Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter. “I am proud to say that the public can now find information on all city contracts in a simple, searchable format.”
Posted on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:14 AM0 comments