By GCN Staff

Pennsylvania moves licensee list sales online

Pennsylvania moves to automate licensee list sales

Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA), which licenses nearly 1 million professionals, will now offer online list sales of its licensees.

Last year, list sales generated close to $250,000 in revenue for the state, but the process of getting these lists to buyers was difficult. Lists had to be ordered by email and paid for in advance by check. Then the BPOA staff had to contact each purchaser to get preferred search criteria for a database query before emailing out the final list.

The new system allows list buyers to purchase a licensee list by filling out an online form. Once the payment process is complete, a receipt and a comma-delimited list are sent to buyer via email.

The state expects the online service to increase government transparency while saving taxpayer dollars.

"By allowing the public to order, pay for and generate lists online, staff costs will be kept to a minimum," said Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés. "This is all part of our goal of leveraging technology to provide better customer service and, in the process, realize cost savings. The goal is to be more efficient and user-friendly."

As part of the same wave of technology upgrades, Letters of Good Standing for any licensee can also be requested online.

Posted on Jul 20, 2015 at 2:22 PM0 comments

NIST drafts security building blocks

NIST drafts security building blocks

NIST has proposed two new building blocks to improve email security and to provide security services based on personal identity verification (PIV) credentials through mobile devices.

The building blocks cover cybersecurity implementations that apply to multiple industry sectors and will be incorporated into many of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence’s sector-specific use cases. Final versions of the building blocks result in NIST Cybersecurity Practice Guides (Special Publication series 1800), which describe the practical steps needed to implement a cybersecurity reference design.

The draft building block "Domain Name System-Based Security for Electronic Mail" proposes using the DNS-based Authentication of Named Entities (DANE) protocol to help prevent unauthorized parties from reading or modifying an organization's email or using it as a vector for malware.

The draft building block "Derived Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Credentials" proposes a way for mobile devices to use two-factor authentication without specialized card readers, which read the identity credentials embedded in on-card computer chips to ensure authorized access to computer systems or facilities. With derived credentials, mobile device users could get the same level of security with their mobile devices that desktop users get with card-reader access.

The comment period for each is open until Aug. 14, 2015.

Posted on Jul 07, 2015 at 1:00 PM0 comments

NASA, Microsoft team up for virtual assistance

NASA, Microsoft team up for virtual assistance

Although the explosion of the SpaceX rocket in late June grounded the NASA/Microsoft Sidekick project for the time being, the partners still hope to get the HoloLens augmented reality system to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station to give them Earth-bound expert assistance when and where they need it and reduce crew training requirements.

Sidekick works in two different ways, expert mode and procedure mode. Expert mode uses Skype to show an  operator on Earth what ISS crew members sees, allowing the earthbound expert to coach them through tasks with real-time guidance or  drawn annotations, rather than relying on written or voice instructions. Procedure mode uses holographic illustrations displayed on top of objects being used by the crew.

Sidekick will be used and evaluated in NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 expedition in July when a group of astronauts and engineers will spend two weeks living in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station.

The project is part of a bigger part of a larger NASA/Microsoft partnership to explore applications of holographic computing in space. Another program, known as OnSight, will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using the HoloLens technology.

Posted on Jul 06, 2015 at 10:38 AM0 comments

open source greenlighted for house

House gets green light for open source

The House of Representatives has officially jumped on the open source bandwagon. A June 25 announcement declared that U.S. representatives, committees and staff would be able to procure open source software, participate in open source software communities and contribute code developed with taxpayer dollars to open source repositories.

Uncertainty had hung over the question of whether open source software, communications and code contributions were permitted within Congress because of restrictions relating to soliciting gifts.  It has now been determined that — in general —members and staff in the House, when conducting official business, have a choice between using proprietary technology and open source solutions, according to the joint announcement by the OpenGov Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation and the Congressional Data Coalition.

Within Congress, support for open source software has been growing.  In the next few weeks, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) plan to launch a House Open Source Caucus. 

“We now have clear guidance on the use of open source software in the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).  Members of Congress and the open source community can work collaboratively to improve online access to the Congress and bring the institution more in line with other flexible, modern organizations that use open source solutions to realize cost-savings and greater efficiency.”

In October 2014, the OpenGov Foundation, Sunlight Foundation and Congressional Data Coalition jointly called for rules changes that would permit the use and publication of open source software by House offices. 

Posted on Jun 29, 2015 at 12:52 PM0 comments

Michigan GIS portal

Michigan opens GIS portal

Michigan has launched a geographic information systems open data website to let the GIS community search, preview and browse and download geospatial datasets or view them on Esri ArcGIS maps.

The site provides access to updated geospatial data on boundaries, geology, demographics, public health and other categories to help those in natural resources, public safety, environment, health and human services, transportation and tourism make more informed decisions.

The data  can be downloaded as Esri shapefiles, spreadsheets or KML files, as well as accessed via API.

“This new site is a key piece of our overall efforts to make information open and available to citizens,” said David Behen, director of Michigan’s Department of Technology Management and Budget. “Pulling it all together in one place will improve the overall experience for everyone.”

Posted on Jun 24, 2015 at 1:41 PM0 comments