January Spectrum

ELECTION RESULTS ON YOUR PALM

RICHMOND, Va. -- Besides putting election results on its Web site, Virginias State Board of Elections made sure people who couldnt get to a TV or a PC but happened to have their PDA with them were in the know.

Provided that their PDAs were Palms, those who needed to know election results were able to download a Web-clipping-application file from the Virginia Information Providers Network (VIPNet) and from Palms Web site. The Web-clipping service will allow quick access to specially formatted summary reports for the various statewide races.

"Weve been looking at Palm delivery for the better part of five months now with respect to a couple of different services," said Rodney Willet, general manager of VIPNet. "Legislative tracking is actually the first service we thought about and that will be available for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. In the meantime, we were trying to think of services that would fit the widest spectrum of the public as possible, and election results immediately jumped to mind."

Virginia said it is among the first states in the country to make federal and statewide election-night returns available on wireless devices. Election results will be generated as often as new data is submitted, and election officials say that, as the percentage of precincts reporting increases, more detailed reports will be created. The reports will be reached from links on the Board of Elections main page, and will include locality reports divided into precincts, statewide reports separated into the 11 congressional districts and local ballot issue pages featuring both summary and detail information.

Willet said delivering election results to mobile devices was not as technically challenging as might first be guessed. "Its still HTML-based programming, and what youre basically doing is modifying the presentation to fit the space," he explained. "In this case, the space is the smaller display on a PDA, and election results lend themselves to this application."

NEW PROTOCOL PROMISES SMOOTH SAILING

A group of vendors, including a sort-of-well-known company based in Redmond, Wash., is pushing a new protocol for Web applications.

Its called SOAP (for simple object access protocol) and backers claim that it will allow applications to communicate with each other over the Internet. SOAP, as the Web Developers Virtual Library describes it, is a marriage of XML and HTTP to "invoke methods across networks and across platforms."

For governments, the greatest potential use is integrating government-purchasing systems with vendor distribution and ordering systems. Although orders can currently be placed online, the lack of integration between the two organizations systems means duplicate data entry -- something SOAP would eliminate since the information would flow from one system to another.

PKI: STILL A COUPLE OF YEARS AWAY

TRENTON, N.J. -- Theres no doubt that public key infrastructure (PKI) will come to government, though IT leaders say widespread adoption is still years away.

One obstacle to PKI deployment at all levels of government is who builds the PKI -- in-house staff or outside vendors, said Don Johnson, director of advanced technology research of New Jersey.

"Its a problem we faced when we initially started looking at PKI and how it might be able to solve issues for us in the Internet space," he said. "Being in a development shop, weve got 500 developers here that work for the state; theres a lot of people who would say, We could do those kind of controls. We have the ability to write that into applications and make them secure for people."

But both the scale of the Internet and how to establish identity in that vast space create complications for any agency considering building its own PKI, and New