Discovery and innovation in government IT: The 2016 dig IT Award winners
There were 36 finalists for GCN's 2016 dig IT Awards, all of them having done outstanding work in open data, cybersecurity, mobile or one of the other categories. At the Oct. 13 dig IT Awards gala, however, six projects -- spanning federal agencies, state and county governments and one multi-government association -- stood out as exceptional examples of discovery and innovation in government IT.
As National Institutes of Standards and Technology Fellow Ron Ross, one of the dig IT Award judges, noted at the gala, "all of the difficult and challenging problems we face today will be solved by innovation." So the winners in each category were selected partly for their use of technology, but largely for the creativity with which it was applied to a critical government mission.
In the category of Big Data, Analytics and Visualization, the New Jersey State Parole Board was honored for its real-time automated parole data replication efforts.
A central function of parole is to supervise parolees and ensure they become long-term law-abiding members of society. Yet that oversight relies mainly on self-reporting by the parolees themselves. New Jersey now has an automated system to share data in real time -- ensuring that police officers are aware of parole status at the time of an encounter and that parole officers will know an incident took place. And because the data goes into the National Crime Information Center's Supervised Release File, the information is also available to law enforcement agencies nationwide.
In the Cloud and Infrastructure category, the Ark-Tex Council of Governments won for showing how resiliency can be built into systems by combining very different communication networks. The Regional Emergency Number System Deployment project addresses the risk that a disaster might knock out the 911 network itself, just when emergency service calls are needed most. This consortium of 10 counties in northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas incorporated satellite broadband technology as a backup communications path that seamlessly steps in if the terrestrial network goes down.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency took top honors in the Cybersecurity category. FEMA made an aggressive six-month push to improve security and cyber hygiene, bringing industry-leading security standards to 76 high-value agency systems. The standardized Personal Identity Validation and Single Sign-On Enablement architecture now provides a common user experience and much-improved agencywide monitoring across systems that span FEMA data centers, non-FEMA hosting facilities and a range of cloud environments.
In the Mobile category, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Aero App Electronic Flight Bag took top honors. This tablet-based tool now provides more than 25,000 pilots with a cloud-backed, constantly updated suite of maps, route plans, geo-referenced approach plates and other resources to make flying safer. Developed by NGA to support military and first-responder aviators, the Aero App Electronic Flight Bag is used by the Defense Department, Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and others.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was honored in the Robotics, Automation and Unmanned Systems category for its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. ALIAS is a modular "sense and avoid" solution, still in the early development stages, that uses cameras and passive ranging features to detect approaching aircraft and automatically determine the best avoidance strategy. As the skies grow more crowded with both manned and unmanned aircraft, this technology could automate lower-level flight maintenance tasks that now require pilots' constant vigilance.
And in the category of Open Data, the Office of Information Technology for Prince George's County, Md., took the top award for its Open Prince George's County initiative. A display layer for the centralized data warehouse that connects various county CRM applications and case management tools, OpenPGC provides real-time insights into everything from how the approved operating budget is being spent to how long customer service representatives are taking to answer and resolve 311 service requests. It's the linchpin for county efforts to drive more data-driven decisions in each of its branches, agencies and departments.
These winners "created something extraordinary," said AT&T Global Public Sector Solutions President Kay Kapoor, who also spoke at the Oct. 13 gala. She stressed, however, that the six top projects -- and indeed the full slate of finalists -- "represent only a small sample of the amazing work being done in the public sector."
To learn more about all of this year's 2016 dig IT Award finalists, please click here.
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.
Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.