Fed intranetworks

One thing you can count on in the next several years is fast growth in the on-line
exchange of data among federal, state and local government agencies.


We recently reported on a Social Security Administration project to swap data on line
with state agencies [GCN, Oct. 21, Page 12]. SSA has been trading data for years
with states. But it has done so in batch mode. Now it's updating the technical approach,
starting with Tennessee.


That's just one example. Now that "term limits" on welfare benefits, as well
as transfer of welfare block grants to states, are law, it seems clear that federal-state
real-time exchange of data in this area will increase. Just keeping track of recipients
who try to beat the benefits limits by moving from state to state will be a major on-line
challenge.


Similarly, in law enforcement, there's growing use of on-line data exchange between
federal authorities and local ones as when, for example, locally collected fingerprints
need to be checked immediately against the FBI's fingerprint database.


There are as many possibilities as there are agencies.


This growth in intergovernmental, on-line data exchange comes at a time when, on the
technical front, options are growing--as are opportunites for creativity.


At the recent GCN annual awards banquet in Washington, Informix Software Inc. CEO
Philip White described the "publish and subscribe" model in which a data user
can receive periodic updates to a given set of data, most likely via a Hypertext Transfer
Protocol browser on an intranet or the Internet.


Other models would use intelligent agents or simply search engines applied to selected
databases to allow exchange.


In fact, many IT professionals are recognizing that there's a need for an architecture
of networks of intranets to connect affiliated organizations, such as government agencies.
The scope of such a network would fall somewhere between that of the World Wide Web and a
private intranet. This type of network was described recently at conference of the
National Association of State Information Resource Executives by consultant Donald F.
Mazziotti, a former Pennsylvania secretary of commerce and Carter-era Transportation
Department appointee.


What these models have in common is greater flexibility and ease of use than most of
today's data access methods. The new models won't be right for every application. At SSA,
officials specifically don't want browsing because of privacy concerns. Still, as on-line
data exchange becomes more pervasive, the good news is that technical choices are
widening.



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