GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / April 27, 2005
"Scented" Stationery
Prison officials in North Dakota are using a new scanner to detect drugs being smuggled into the state penitentiary through the mail. The machine can detect drugs, such as LSD, that are soaked into stationery and sent to prisoners as letters. -- USA Today

IRS Sells Castle Online
The IRS used simulcasting technology to invite bidders from around the world to place bids on Colorado's historic Redstone Castle in mid-March. The castle and its treasured antiques, carriage house and out buildings sit on approximately 150 acres of real estate.

The IRS conducted its first Internet auction of seized personal property in December 2004, selling approximately $9 million of seized diamonds. Internet bidders contributed to more than 45 percent of the sales.

Redstone Castle was built at the turn of the 20th century along the Crystal River about 20 miles west of Aspen by coal and steel baron John Cleveland Osgood. The IRS teamed with Alliance Commerce, which developed BidLive in partnership with EG&G Technical Services, for the simulcast Internet auction. -- Alliance Commerce

North Dakota Hold 'Em
North Dakota Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) introduced a bill in the state's current legislative session to authorize state licensing and regulation of Internet poker sites.

No U.S. state licenses Internet poker sites, and according to a group of industry officials and experts, it could be a huge financial boon to the state if it were first to take the plunge. -- The Bismarck Tribune

Mobilizing Forces
California for Democracy is planning a high-tech campaign targeting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's big ballot initiatives to strip lawmakers of the ability to draw political districts; cap the amount the state pays into employee pensions; adopt a new spending cap; change how teachers are paid; and extend the time it takes for teachers to obtain tenure.

The group said it's mobilizing to counter a series of TV ads in early March that urged voters to seek out signature-gatherers and sign up in support of the governor's ballot initiatives.

Volunteers from California for Democracy said they plan to use the Web and mobile technology to keep roughly 9,000 supporters abreast of the whereabouts of signature-gatherers for the ballot initiatives. Volunteers will then head to those locations to distribute leaflets denouncing the planned special election for the ballot initiatives, which opponents said will cost as much as $70 million. -- San Francisco Chronicle

Off the MATRIX
The Michigan State Police will drop out of a controversial data-collecting system that shares and collects personal information between participating states, agency officials said in mid-March.

Michigan's departure leaves just four states in the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) project. The small number of participating states diminished the project's value, said the state police.

When Michigan joined the pilot in December 2003, it was one of 13 participating states, and the network represented about half of the nation's population and half of reported crime. -- The Detroit News

Network Wiretaps Prove Costly
A Dutch ISP, XS4ALL, is suing the Dutch government over costs to make its network ready for law enforcement wiretaps. The company said it invested about half a million euros since late 2001 to comply with requirements for lawful interception, a significant percentage of its net profit.

XS4ALL said the costs should be reimbursed, since these investments are made purely in the general interest of law enforcement and do not benefit providers in any way. The Dutch government only reimburses the administrative costs of executing a specific wiretap order, not the investments in the purchase and maintenance of the equipment. -- XS4ALL

Got SpIM?
Seventeen million Americans who use services like America Online and Yahoo Instant Messenger, and Microsoft's MSN Messenger have received unsolicited commercial messages through the services at least once, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Digital Technology Takes Off
Cities are increasing their use of Web-based applications to enhance citizen involvement and improve response times for a variety of constituent services, according to the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Center for Digital Government. The survey of 183 city mayors, managers and CIOs found the following:

  • Seventy-five percent of cities use electronic forms to speed their building processes, often as part of a larger strategy to promote continued and sustainable economic development.
  • Seventy-seven percent publish requests for bids online.
  • Almost 50 percent provide a variety of e-forms for tax, licensing, animal services and park reservations.
  • More cities offer online payment options for services; 40 percent offering utility bill payment, 35 percent for parks and recreations services, and 36 percent for paying parking tickets and traffic citations.
  • Forty-four percent accept job applications online.
    Shane Peterson Associate Editor
    Jessica Jones Managing Editor