January Spectrum

January Spectrum

by / January 15, 2001 0
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 Jersey opted to buy a PKI from a vendor.

Though PKI hasnt hit mainstream, its something that agencies will have to confront in the future, said Johnson, noting the work that the federal government has been doing with its bridge certificate authority and the E-Sign law will make PKI more palatable to government agencies.

Ultimately, the decision for government agencies will boil down to buying a PKI or building a PKI, he said.

Despite the fact that e-government services are being offered without a full-fledged PKI in place, Johnson said a PKI will help create seamless government because it can help create personalization for constituents.

"PKI gives your constituents an identity on the Web," he said. "We see an enterprise-wide PKI solution as an ability to start breaking down those walls."

WIRELESS IN A BOX

HAMILTON, N.J. -- The townships council voted recently to sign a deal that will bring wireless Internet access and data services to town at a minimal impact to city streets.

Hamiltons deal comes on the heels of similar contracts signed by Ewing, Princeton Borough and Princeton Township with Metricom, a Silicon Valley
communications company. Wireless could be the solution to the problem of stimulating ubiquitous Internet access and data services that jurisdictions face as they attempt to make these services available to residents.

Hamilton officials are happy because the company doesnt need to tear into city streets to lay cable; between 170 and 175 shoebox-sized transmitters will be affixed to utility poles and streetlights scattered throughout the city. The company claims it can deliver transmission speeds up to 128Kbps.

As the fight for limited space under city streets to lay cable becomes more competitive, jurisdictions are looking for ways to get high-speed data services without cramming more cables into conduits, conduits that soon wont have room to spare.

Another problem with laying cable is the hassles that trenching forces on residents. Earlier this year, the mayor of Washington, D.C., went so far as to institute a moratorium on laying cable under city streets.

Under the terms of the deal, Hamilton will receive 10 free subscriptions to Metricoms services, and the company will pay the town either $2,000 per year, or five percent of the fees that the company earns from subscriptions in the town, whichever is higher.

Company officials said they have deployed their wireless system in approximately 400 municipalities.

KNOW THY SOFTWARE LICENSES

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- City officials got a little shock courtesy of a letter they received in September from Microsoft. The company asked city officials to put together a list of all Microsoft software -- including operating systems, desktop software, client access licenses for servers and server software -- being used by the city and informed city officials that Microsoft wanted to inspect the citys software licenses and proof of ownership.

"We got a one-page form letter asking for an inventory of all our Microsoft software," said David Sullivan, the citys CIO. "It was a pretty unassuming letter but it will require an awful lot of work to comply with it."

Sullivan said the company told city staff that various types of volume-license users are being audited and the city was randomly picked for an audit. "As far as we can tell, theres no effort to target Virginia Beach particularly, local government particularly or Virginia particularly. Theyre just performing a high level of auditing."

Since last year, the company has been busily busting resellers all over the country -- including the New England states, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York -- for selling counterfeit software.

Sullivan said local governments can prepare themselves for such an unplanned event. First, know what you have. Second, governments may want to consider centralizing software purchases to get a handle on which agency is purchasing what.

"One of the things that policy drove home is that the only way of being able to comply with these licensing terms and their requests for inventories is for some sort of centralized control of the assets," he said, adding that gathering proof-of-purchase documentation has been the citys most difficult task.

Third, know what your license says. "I would encourage people to go back and read your software licenses and understand what some of the terms of those licenses are," Sullivan advised. he Government

DOT-COM GROWTH STYMIED IN SAN FRANCISCO

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dot-coms in the Bay Area heard the death knell ring in November for their dreams of expanding in desirable neighborhoods.

The passage of anti-growth measures specifically targeted at the rapid growth of Internet-related businesses is catching on in California cities. Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Mateo and Menlo Park have all adopted similar measures to the one considered by San Francisco voters, Proposition L.

Proposition L was spawned by a public hue and cry over the rapid growth of dot-com businesses in San Francisco, especially in the Mission and South of Market districts.

Supporters of the proposition claim that dot-com creep has displaced traditional merchants, artists, nonprofit groups and poor residents who cant afford housing due to skyrocketing rents caused by demand for space; demand fueled by "live/work" loopholes in city code that have been exploited by developers.

At press time, Proposition L was close to defeat, with 50.3 percent opposed and 49.7 per cent in favor -- a difference of only 1,500 votes.

A competing measure, Proposition K, was backed by Mayor Willie Brown and a consortium of other supporters. Voters unequivocally expressed their displeasure with that proposition -- 60.8 percent voted against it, while only 39.2 percent voted for it.

Critics say Proposition L will be bad for the citys economic development because it will drive businesses out of the city.

San Mateo put in place a temporary provision that states offices of any type, including Internet- related offices, cannot go into the downtown area on the ground floor, said Mary Gallagher, chief of planning of San Mateo.

"Our law and both the K and L propositions in San Francisco did the same thing; clarified that Internet-related space is office space in case there were any questions as to what use category that space falls under," Gallagher said. "The reason theres a question is because zoning codes didnt anticipate the Internet at all."

PRIVACY PROJECT GAINS MOMENTUM

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Privacy on the Internet will be a hot item in this years Congress, and more than 30 technology and content companies, privacy advocates and related organizations gathered in November to test and demonstrate implementations of the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P), the World Wide Web Consortiums (W3C) Web privacy technology.

Novembers public interoperability session provided an opportunity for companies to unveil new P3P protoypes, to test them with other P3P services and to educate Web content and service providers about the platform.

The P3P is designed to help Web users know how the sites they visit use their personal information. While some companies have made efforts to publicly disclose the privacy policies of their Web sites, consumer advocates have argued that the policies are often difficult to find and understand.

For the public to completely embrace e-commerce, the ability to know quickly and with confidence whether a company engages in information-sharing practices that meet or conflict with their wishes is critical to building trust in conducting transactions on the Web.

The P3P enables anyone with a Web site to translate their privacy practices into XML-based P3P statements that can be retrieved automatically and easily interpreted by a P3P-enabled browser.

Backers of the platform hope that P3P-enabled services will enhance user control by putting privacy policies where users can find them and presenting policies in an easily understood form. This should help Internet users make informed decisions based on those policies.

For e-commerce services and other Web sites, supporters claim the P3P can offer productive and non-invasive browsing experiences for customers without leaving them guessing about the sites privacy policies.

NIXING CREDIT CARD TRANSACTION FEES

WAKEFIELD, Mass. -- While governments of all levels are making the transition to e-government, paying the government electronically is another issue.

State, county and local governments have made it possible for residents to renew vehicle registrations online, sign up for vanity license plates online, purchase hunting and fishing licenses online and renew professional licenses online.

The rub is paying for some of those services. Residents can use their credit cards, of course, but that means that whatever transaction is being initiated will cost extra because of the transaction fees associated with using credit cards.

The fee varies from state to state and increases as the dollar amount of the transaction gets bigger, something that doesnt always make residents happy. Isnt e-government supposed to make things easier and less expensive for constituents?

According to a recent Gartner Group report, the electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) industry is taking shape, with three main models of electronic bill distribution -- electronic bill consolidation, total bill consolidation and biller direct.

As these other systems mature and get easier to use on the Internet, that could spell good news for governments, said Avivah Litan, a Gartner Group research director.

"Today, credit cards are the easiest way to make payments over the Internet; the easiest way to enroll and authenticate a customer and to accept a payment overnight," Litan said. "There are advances being made on behalf of bill payment, person-to-person payments and business-to-business payments. Also, Internet merchants are looking for less costly ways to execute payments. All those pressures add up to good news for governments, because these methods will become easier to use."

The research company had identified the biller direct model, in which consumers view and pay bills directly on a billers Web site, as the most popular method for EBPP. In the second model, the total bill consolidation model, consumers are presented with electronic images of their bills through a user interface.

The third model, the electronic bill consolidator model, consists of consolidators who work behind the scenes to gather electronic bills and offers bill-presentment services through other firms that interface directly with consumers

NEW DEMOCRATS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT CONGRESSIONAL GAINS

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With neither Republicans nor Democrats emerging with a clear majority in Congress, New Democratic candidates are optimistic that the lack of a strong mandate for either side will spur bipartisan efforts to pass a range of tech-related legislation.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., a New Democrat incumbent candidate who won handily over GOP challenger Chris Vance, said most of the tech-related bills that actually got passed this session -- including digital signatures, the China trade bill, the increase in H-1B visas and bankruptcy reform -- were those on which both sides were able to set aside partisan differences.

"Theres a lot of sentiment on both sides of the aisle to move a little away from the partisan rancor thats dominated us for the last few cycles," Smith said. "I think on a number of issues there is room to work across the aisle, and I think well see even more of that in the next session."

Smith credited the New Democratic Network (NDN) with turning the tide on the H-1B visa bill, saying the NDNs efforts were key to gaining the support of House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, Mo., and House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif.

"Thats a very good example of how the New Dems can play the inside game successfully and win," Smith said.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., said the most important issues for New Democrats next session will include extending tax credits for research and development, bridging the so-called "Digital Divide," and protecting consumer privacy on the Internet, three issues essentially swept under the rug by both parties in the 106th Congress. -- Newsbytes


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