Spectrum: Government Technology Reports from the IT Horizon

A snapshot of national and international IT trends that may change your life and career.

by / January 13, 2008

At Your Fingertips
Some consumers can now pay for gas with the touch of a fingertip.

At select Chicagoland stations, Shell Oil Co. has adopted Pay By Touch technology at its pumps and inside convenience stores. The technology verifies personal identity using biometrics, the measurement of unique physical and behavioral characteristics. In this case, a finger scan is used to pay for a fuel purchase from an existing financial account of the driver's choice: a Shell Card, Shell MasterCard or eCheck - a direct debit from the user's checking account. - Shell.com

Scientists at Monsanto and deVGen identified an innovative and precise approach to protect crops against insects. The enabling technology, called RNA interference, is a biological mechanism found in nature that regulates gene expression. The technology is expected to provide farmers with a new "in-the-seed" option to protect crop yields, and it presents another tool to support agriculture's mission of meeting the world's growing food, feed and fuel demands. - DeVGen.com

Missing in Action
Britain's tax and customs service lost banking and personal data of 25 million people - nearly half the country's population - when two computer disks went missing in the mail in November 2007.

The disks were sent to a government audit office through an internal postal service and weren't tracked. They were missing for three weeks the loss was being reported. The disks contained details of more than 7 million families in Britain who claim a child benefit - the tax-free monthly payment available to everyone with children. The information on the disks included parents' and children's names, along with addresses, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and banking details. - International Herald Tribune

Soft Copy
More consumers are logging on to the online equivalents of printed publications for their reading material, according to the University of Southern California Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Future. While the ratio of printed material read hasn't dropped dramatically - from three-fourths to 70 percent over the last six years - the portion of it read online has risen to 23 percent from 19 percent in the last year.

Increased Mobility
More than 65 percent of the user base for mobile platforms is between 18 and 34 years old, according to a recent report from M:Metrics and AdMob.

On Demand
The State of the PMO 2007-2008 - the latest report from PM Solutions' Center for Business Practices' - reveals more organizations are implementing enterprisewide project management offices (PMOs). According to the report, 54 percent of respondents said they have an enterprisewide PMO in place, up significantly from 35 percent in 2006. In 2000, only 47 percent of respondents said they had implemented any kind of PMO at all.

Ignoring Security
The increasingly mobile nature of the work force is creating new security challenges for IT staffs, according to research from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Sixty percent of the 1,070 organizations surveyed said security issues related to the use of handheld devices for data access and transfer increased significantly or increased somewhat over the past 12 months.

Nearly 80 percent of the organizations allow data access by remote or mobile employees, but just 32 percent of organizations said they have implemented any security awareness training for these workers. Just 10 percent plan to implement such training in the next 12 months.

PC Reliability
The RESCUECOM Computer Reliability Report tallied a "reliability score" for each PC vendor based on the calculated difference between overall U.S. market share over a three-year period and the percentage of calls requesting service received by RESCUECOM's call center.

Higher scores indicate that fewer calls for service were received for the specific computer vendor versus expected levels based upon market share estimates. The top five vendors, according to the second-annual report, are:

1.      Apple (score: 357)

2.      Lenovo/IBM (score: 236)

3.      Hewlett-Packard (score: 126)

4.      Gateway (score: 103)

5.      Dell (score: 94)

Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.