By GCN Staff

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

NIST draft standard details approximate matching

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s draft publication SP 800-168, Approximate Matching: Definition and Terminology, provides a description of approximate matching and includes requirements and considerations for testing. 

Approximate matching is a technique designed to identify similarities between two digital artifacts or arbitrary byte sequences such as a file.

A similarity between two artifacts is determined by a particular approximate matching algorithm. One process the technology uses to find these similarities is resemblance. In this method, two similarly sized objects are compared and searched for common traits. For example, successive versions of a piece of code are likely to share many similarities.

A second way approximate matching measures similarities is containment. This method examines two different sized objects and determines whether the smaller one is inside the larger one, such as a file and a whole-disk image.

This technology is very useful for security monitoring and forensic analysis by filtering data.  It provides a result from a range of outcomes [0, 1], which are interpreted as a level of similarity. The reliability of a result is assessed by the robustness of the algorithm, its precision, and whether the algorithm includes security properties designed to prevent attacks, as the manipulation of the matching technique.

A public comment period on Special Publication 800-168 begins on Jan. 27, 2014, and runs through March 21, 2014.  Comments can be sent to match@nist.gov with “Comments on SP 800-168” on the subject line.

Posted on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:38 AM1 comments

'Innovation lab' puts Air Force brain power on DOD-wide issues

As difficult fiscal times have senior Defense Department officials struggling with balancing budget cuts, sequestration, furloughs and force-shaping initiatives, the Air Force Technical Applications Center is offering some creative solutions of its own. AFTAC commander Col. Chris Worley assembled a team of technicians and scientists in an innovation lab that spends 10 percent of its time finding creative solutions for Air Force problems.

One of the lab’s achievements involves the use of 3-D printers, which can help equip the center’s overseas detachments with essential materials. The printers have allowed machine repairs faster and cheaper by reducing the supply chain. They have eliminated the need to place an order for a part and paying to have it shipped.

In a second success story, AFTAC's machine shop personnel teamed with fellow seismologists and computer technicians to systemize requirements for short-period seismometers. The project will allow the center to limit its dependence on outside vendors by modernizing the equipment in its own shop. 

The innovation lab has saved the center $1 million so far. Worley said he wants AFTAC link up with the Air Force Research Lab in the future to help advance mission capabilities.  

Posted on Jan 30, 2014 at 9:14 AM0 comments

PwC OK'd as certified third-party assessment organization for FedRAMP

PwC US has been accredited under the terms of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program to act as a Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO) for cloud providers offering secure services to federal agencies.

FedRAMP is the governmentwide program that offers a standard approach for conducting security assessments of cloud service providers who want to provide services to federal agencies.

Receiving 3PAO accreditation permits PwC to assess the security features of cloud service providers who plan to work with the federal government. Cloud service providers in turn are required to a use a FedRAMP-approved 3PAO to assess they meet the program’s requirements.

FedRAMP helps accelerate the adoption of secure cloud services and the consistent uses of secure practices, which in turn might reduce the time it takes for agencies to adopt cloud services, according to the firm.

Posted on Jan 24, 2014 at 8:13 AM0 comments

Patent search engines aim to open innovations to the world

The search for patent information is like finding a needle in a haystack — make that a million haystacks. Inventors have to scour the globe to identify evidence or “prior art” of their ideas to ensure their work is original, a real innovation, before it can be protected with a patent. Recently, two tools have been developed to help innovators speed their patent research.

Richard Jefferson, a scientist and intellectual property reformer and the Queensland University of Technology, last month officially launched, “the Lens,” an open search engine that points to patent information for inventions in 100 million documents in 90 countries. 

The Lens is an effort at “innovation cartography,” says Jefferson, which he describes as “mapping the problem-solving landscape so that anyone can navigate their way through the teachings, the minefields, the partnerships and the pitfalls present in the patent system, to fast-track real innovation on a safer and more level playing field."

The Lens already hosts several tools for analysis and exploration of the patent literature, including graphical representations of search results to advanced bioinformatics tools. In 2014 developers will be working to create forms of the Lens that can allow all annotations, commentary and sharing to be behind firewalls for those who need it, without forsaking the open and inclusive cyberinfrastructure, the organization said on its website.

In an interview with Scientific American, Jefferson, a direct descendent of U.S. patent system founder President Thomas Jefferson, says the U.S. patent system is “in dire straights,” the victim in part of companies that have “become incredibly skilled in hiding the ball in intentionally opaque patents.”

The purpose of the Lens, he says, is to “render so much clarity that we have the tools for looking at policy and figuring out how to change it.”

The launch of the Lens follows an announcement in July 2013 that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had launched its own Global Patent Search Network. Teresa Stanek Rea, the Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property said the office hoped the network would, “make patent research easier and more comprehensive by providing streamlined search capability to multiple international patent collections.”

In launching its network the PTO also announced it had worked with the Chinese government to make Chinese patent documentation searchable via the PTO website. 

Users can search documents, including published documents and granted patents, recorded from 2008 to 2011. The records are available in in English machine translations, which PTO acknowledged could sometimes generate awkward wording, but “provided an excellent way to determine the gist of the information in a foreign patent.”

In the announcement, Rea also said the PTO patent search network is the first patent project to use cloud technology, which would allow the agency to respond to the needs of the public and examiners faster.

Posted on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:56 AM0 comments