4 Tips on Finding a Balance Between Sharing Data and Protecting Data

We are all familiar — in concept if not in practical experience — with encryption protocols that we use everyday to protect our sensitive personal information along the internet’s pathways. We are also familiar with how necessary it has become in today’s world to share our personal information with various organizations, with financial institutions, and with many government agencies (Social Security, state and federal taxes, just to name two). To get ahead in this digital, data intense world we live in, it is clear that finding a balance between sharing data and protecting data is vital. Well, we just happen to have four tips on ways to accomplish just that.

Open Data = Sensitive Data. It is an unwritten “rule” that local governments often find that open data equals sensitive data. In addition, the “law of unintended consequences” often comes into play when  data set expansion allows hackers to mine data already in the public space until they eventually identify individuals. Cybersecurity experts know this as the mosaic effect, which often weakens long-established best efforts at data protection.

Tension between sharing data and protecting data. It is safe to say that there is a natural tension between sharing data and protecting data. Open government proponents want to see more sharing of information. The popular move toward smart cities means the big data publicly available to government entities as well as various business organizations will skyrocket. The problem is not the release of sensitive data to the public. Rather, it is the potential for hackers to mine information already out in the public domain. It is the potential for hackers to take advantage of information the government or other organization did not need for its project and should avoid storing it in the first place.

Four ideas for IT officers. The following are the suggestions for finding the balance between sharing and protection.

  • Find the level of risk that government officials and the public can tolerate. Start with the understanding that zero tolerance is not possible. Before creating any data sharing program, do due diligence in a risk-benefit analysis. That is identifying the possible vulnerabilities, potential threats, and how likely the threats will happen. To do this, developers must know who will use the data, who will benefit from the data, and how those individuals will use the data.
  • Privacy, Privacy, Privacy. That means privacy is a major concern during all phases of the data’s life. It’s important for data collection, maintenance, release, and removal when no longer relevant.  For practical purposes, remaining cognizant of privacy means not collecting sensitive information that is not relevant to the project and could result in a vulnerability.
  • Privacy framework. Local governments are on their own for the privacy framework because the federal government and most states have few guidelines. Researchers say cities should develop their own frameworks with their own privacy standards and consistent procedures.
  • Keep Public Informed. Whenever cities decide to release data, researchers say that the public should know how the government developed the data, how it benefits the city, and what precautions they took with regard to the data in order to protect sensitive information. The watchword is transparency. Part of transparency means developing access to information as well assigning and maintaining responsibility for the results and creating ways to assess benefits and risks.

Harvard researchers developed the “Open Data Privacy Playbook” with suggestions for local governments on how to find the right balance between sharing and protecting data.  It is well worth a read as is the Citylab.com article entitled “A Playbook for How Cities Should Share and Protect Data” which was the inspiration for this post.

5 Reasons Why Governments Should Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Science fiction has long painted artificial intelligence as the destroyer of worlds, the inevitable takeover that will doom the entire species. Although some of the dangers of artificial intelligence are real, if not dramatically overstated, there are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the ongoing collaboration between humans and cutting-edge AI. The upside is particularly apparent as governments begin to use artificial intelligence to untangle the frequently messy knot of bureaucracy, often with limited resources. Here are five reasons why governments should embrace artificial intelligence instead of running from it.

1. Predicting the (short-term) future

For the longer term, artificial intelligence will be able to give us more accurate predictions than humans can calculate manually, although that’s not where we stand to immediately benefit from the predicting capabilities of artificial intelligence. One arm of the U.S. government that is already moving forward quickly in this field is with health monitors for soldiers, which can provide a commander or physician with health updates in real-time. This type of information could be an absolute game-changer for combat and special forces units, allowing an expedited diagnosis and health predictions for wounded soldiers that could be the difference between life and death. Meanwhile, the Department of Energy is also pushing forward with its own usage of artificial intelligence, particularly while trying to maximize the benefits of solar power. Collaborating with IBM, the Department of Energy continues to work on a SunShot Initiative that will utilize artificial intelligence to calculate weather conditions and maximize solar output, with the goal being to dramatically lower the overall cost of solar electricity in the coming decades. Thanks to a wide range of potential applications, being able to predict the short-term could become an invaluable part of a healthy and functioning government.

2. Efficiency

A critique that is habitually thrown at governments in general is a lack of efficiency, as government agencies both small and large regularly have trouble keeping up with the daunting level of information to process. One example of where governments are deeply inefficient is with information call centers, which effectively turn well-trained employees into switchboard operators for basic operations that could easily be handled with artificial intelligence. With the recent advances in communication between humans and bots, as well as growing familiarity among users, a bulk of the volume at call centers could be handled by AI while skilled employees would be able to focus on other priorities that cannot be solved through artificial intelligence at this time. Artificial intelligence can not only improve efficiency and cut backlogs for various government programs, including emergency informational systems, but help ensure that you can talk to the right human for the job, if necessary.

3. Safety and reliability

Call centers are certainly not the only places where governments can rapidly improve current processes either, as electrical and transportation grids continue to bring about escalating challenges that can be eased by the advantages of AI. As transportation automatizes, correctly implementing artificial intelligence is predicted to be absolutely critical in creating a safe and reliable transportation system deep into the 21st century. Although automatizing transportation systems also comes with security concerns that will need to be dealt with, safe travel in a quickly changing world will become a much more realistic possibility if governments can get ahead of the curve on artificial intelligence.

4. A crucial supplement to rapid transformation

With the baby boomer generation beginning to retire and create vacancies, understanding and working with the benefits of intelligent automation could be crucial in filling the fairly large gap in skilled workers that continues to widen. An area where governments can specifically benefit from intelligent automation is with continually changing regulations, which can often leave an agency overwhelmed while attempting to comply. Without a major shift in the infrastructure of an agency, correct use of intelligent automation can sift through large volumes of information and provide an extremely quick analysis of a specific sector, allowing an agency to stay up-to-date with shifting dynamics despite limited resources.

5. Learning from the private sector

An unusual advantage that the public sector has is that it’s actually not on the forefront of AI discovery, as the private sector is already seeing exponential growth in artificial intelligence investments. For governments, this is actually a great development, as public officials can study the pros and cons of private artificial intelligence implementation and come up with a middle and long-term plan that better suits the needs of an agency. While the road to artificial intelligence will certainly contain many pitfalls, governments are in a perfect position to implement technologies only after they are nearing perfection.

How to Create a Successful Social Media Policy for Government

sSocial

Millions of people communicate with each other through social media every day. Private citizens and businesses use social media platforms to share their news, photos, videos, advertisements and links.

If social media works so well in connecting people and businesses, won’t it do the same for governments? Absolutely. Governments are now finding that social media is opening new channels of communication with their local constituents. Not only can they get messages and announcements out faster and to a larger number of people, they can receive feedback easier too. People can voice their opinions, make suggestions and comment on their government faster and easier than ever before.

Using social media platforms is a great way for governments and citizens to engage with a wider, more diverse audience but it doesn’t come without risk. Of course all forms of communication carry some risks but it’s even more important to be cautious when using electronic devices and social media platforms. That’s why governments must create a successful a social media policy, a necessary tool to minimize the risks involved and ensure proper use of these great platforms.

What is a social media policy? 

The first step that governments must take before using social media is to develop a social media policy that assures responsible and effective use of social media by employees.

Through a study of existing policies, the Center for Technology in Government put together a guide to creating social media policies to help governments in the development process.

The results of their study showed that there are 8 core elements to a social media policy. They include employee access, account management, acceptable use, employee conduct, content, security, legal issues and citizen conduct.

Government agencies use social media policies to define their official position regarding use of social media by employees by describing what constitutes acceptable use and the correct process for accessing social media sites.

Why is having a social media policy important for governments?

Typically, government employees engage in three types social media use: agency use, professional use and personal use. The problem is that there tends to be an overlapping of these three types of usage. In other words, employees may spend time on personal or business social media sites while at work, on a government computer, or do official government work on a personal computer while at home. While the boundaries between the three types of use may seem straightforward when explained in writing, in practice they are not. Therefore, they are difficult to regulate without an official policy in place.

How do governments create a social media policy?

In order for a government to create a successful social media policy they should use those 8 core elements as their guidelines when drawing it up. Each of the elements covers a necessary section of the policy:

  • employee access defines whether or not employees are allowed to access social media sites while at work, as well as the official procedures for gaining access
  • account management determines the procedures for the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the social media sites used by the government concerned
  • acceptable use gives guidelines as to how employees are to use social media tools at work and includes time limitations, purpose of use and acceptable equipment (personal or government-owned computers, for example)
  • employee conduct defines the expected conduct while on social media sites and what constitutes a violation as well as what the consequences are
  • content explains the procedures and responsibilities for posting content, creation of the content and editorial requirements for the content
  • security procedures that are necessary for government data and infrastructure
  • legal issues to include legal considerations and requirements
  • citizen conduct describes managing citizen posted content

As an additional reference, The Institute for Local Government’s website has a very helpful list of links for sample social media policies that are sure to give more insight into how to create a successful social media policy for a government.

5 Best Places to Find Government Technology News Online

The Internet is full of information, especially when it comes to government and technology news. Sifting through the myriad of sources online can be a cumbersome act, and to top it off you might not even be reading information from quality sources. The Internet makes the sharing of information rapid and easy, but the flip-side is that the Internet also makes the sharing of misinformation just as rapid and easy. For those who are interested or concerned with government technology this post will explore the five best online sources of government technology news and tell you a little bit about them.

State Tech Magazine

State Tech Magazine is a valuable resource for IT workers and leaders at the state and local levels of government. The website and publication thoroughly explore the issues IT professionals face when implementing or evaluating a solution for government applications. State Tech is published by CDW, which, for those who do not know, is a multi-brand technology solutions provider that has over thirty years of technology industry experience and provides solutions for governments, schools, healthcare organizations, and businesses in the United States and the United Kingdom. Their website and blog are constantly being updated with videos and the latest industry information as well as providing quality and relevant tips to make IT professionals jobs and lives easier.

GCN

GCN is an interesting resource. Their website has a deep section entitled State and Local that explores and shares stories on all of the latest technology implementations and services that local and state governments are using to better serve the communities that they represent. There are also resources and articles on a lot of other technology related topics such as cyber security. GCN also offers technology assessments, case studies, and recommendations to IT managers in the public sector.

Gov Tech

Government Technology is a thorough source of information regarding all things technology as it applies to the public sector. The website is constantly being updated with the latest technology news regarding everything from the speed of Pennsylvania’s broadband system to the coverage of San Diego’s deployment of multi-sensor pods. Government Technology is also published in magazine form and they do offer online PDF versions of their magazine for those who would prefer to get an electronic version of the publication. The website also has a full list of upcoming events and webinars that interested parties or people may be able to take part in.

FCW

This resource is different from the ones previously mentioned in that it focuses solely on the federal government and the technology issues that they are concerned with. They aim to provide federal technology executives with strategies, ideas, and information that will allow these professionals to navigate the complex and ever-changing world of federal business. They focus on current policy, pending legislation, the power players, and the technology that drives and is at the center of all the issues the federal government faces today. FCW provides their readers with stunning photographs, insider information, and gripping profiles.

Nextgov

The final resource on our list is also dedicated to federal technology. Nextgov employs award-winning journalists and a large community spread across the nation of contributing experts to provide an around-the-clock resource on technology and government. They strive not only to be a valuable resource for federal technology decision makers but also to be a leader in the national discussion about how technology is changing the way that the government serves and protects the people that they represent. Nextgov is concerned with exploring the latest technological innovations and the potential impact they will have on our government.

The Best 5 Ways to Become a Smarter City

You’re going to see a lot of advice in the media explaining how cities may become smart cities. Well, we thought it helpful to gather 5 ways to become a smarter city. Read on to discover our favorites, the best five tips that you will see all year.

The City of Mississauga has been very active in the smart city movement: Wi-Fi Blanket, Public transit, public outreach, IoT

1. Collaborate with other cities and industries

The Internet of Things (IOT) demands that cities and private industries share information and technology instead of hoarding it. Lessons learned in one locality may well find value in another location. The cities who share information and technology will get ahead in 2017 and the ones who don’t will find themselves stymied and behind the technology 8 ball. The world is on the brink of a new and exciting technological age. Those who do not join the shared movement will do so at their peril.

2. Eliminate silos

On a company level, information sharing must start within. Companies must eliminate silos, departmental sets of data files or databases that do not reside within the company-wide data administration. Silos prevent critical information from dissemination to all departments. So it is with cities. There is a cost detriment to doing projects piece-meal. Such projects may also face dangerous results if crucial information is not passed along to all departments. Multiple departments must have access to the hardware, software, and tools to create multi-purpose platforms. An example is IOT sensors in the streets that “hear” reports of gun play and “see” criminal activity. To enable police and emergency assistance, IOT must share such information with other departments that have the strategic and operational capability to render aid.

3. Migrate to the Cloud

Cloud computing is an overarching theme relevant to developing smart cities. Many cities today see the value in Cloud computing and in buying as-a-service offerings but their legacy procurement policies and regulations often stand in the way. In 2017, cities must find their way to take advantage of their technicians’ desire to migrate to the Cloud if they are to become smart cities. They must begin by addressing the policy and regulatory changes they need to adopt before they can join the 21st century in the Cloud.

4. Machine Learning

No, it’s not something that’s coming only in the future. Machine learning is already here. We have Amazon’s Alexa, the household personal assistant, who can act on our verbal commands to either search the internet for information we need or to run other household devices. We have refrigerators that can tell us what items we need to order. We have smart phones that learn where we like to shop and what movie theaters we visit most. Machine learning moves now toward machine-to-machine learning (M2M). M2M learning describes technology that allows networked devices to exchange information with each other and to perform the required actions using the technology without any interference or assistance from humans. For example, the rise of IOT has put new technology in the hands of cities in the form of high-tech sensors that can collect information and store it. The next step is for the IOT to pass that information along to city departments in the effort to make citizens safer, healthier, and to help cities spot problems before they occur.

5. Leverage Big Data

Smart buildings and street sensors collect an astounding amount of information. The smart city’s challenge is to leverage all that data into new ways to make city services more efficient. That means not only collecting the data, but analyzing it to reveal insights into areas of city services in order to improve the way the city meets the needs of the people. It also means passing those insights along to the city departments that need it most and that can use the information to increase efficiencies and safety initiatives for its citizens. And that brings us back again to the idea that smart cities must collaborate with those industries creating new M2M devices to give them the information they need to create the IOT of the future.

To read more about the smart city movement, read the WallStreetJournal.com’s article entitled “The Rise of the Smart City.”

10 Gov’t Tech Blogs You’ll Want to Follow

No one wants to look like a “newbie,” so here are a few tips on 10 gov’t tech blogs you must subscribe to so you can keep up to date on all the latest news and developments in the technology field in the public sector.

Lohrmann on Cybersecurity & Infrastructure. With almost 234,000 visitors in the last 90 days, this popular website sports three blogs. One is an opinion blog. The second blog is “govgirl” which discusses innovations in social media in the government setting.

The third blog, “Lohrmann on Cybersecurity & Infrastructure” attacks various topics ranging from IOT and the smart grid to the security risk of moving government data to the cloud.

Emerging Tech. The “emerging tech” blog covers emerging technologies across government in topics addressing the defense sector and intelligence, rumors, research and development strides, and IT morsels. The latest blog is all about AI.

Dr. Chaos. Aami Lakhani, a senior security strategist, writes a blog under the pen name, Dr. Chaos. The topics revolve around cyber security issues in the social media millieu, such as smart homes, encrypting the web, and the 10 most common web security vulnerabilities.

Cisco Government Blog. Cisco has several blogs for various industries. Its blog for government touches upon topics such as cybersecurity in the public sector and how police departments harness new technology and cities become smart cities.

Federal Blueprint Blog. Blue Coat Systems, Inc. publishes a blog called the Federal Blueprint Blog whose team of three experts write a weekly blog about cybersecurity in the federal workplace. Articles present information on the post-OPM data breach, migration to the cloud, Shadow IT, encrypted traffic management, expanding on threat intelligence, and more.

Blue Coat also produces its own blog called, appropriately enough, The Company Blog, which delves into topics at least once a month but often more than once in a month. The topics range from the life cycle of a data breach, to information on the Black Hat security conference, to paying attention to security issues when adopting Office 365.

Govloop. Govloop is an on-line community with more than 250,000 members made up of government employees, industry experts, and partners. Members of the community write the blog in featured blog entries. They share their ideas and their desire for a better public sector. Blog topics sweep wide from using open source software in a government setting, to best practices, and expectations when moving from private to public sector.

FedScoop. This site has taken the community approach but in a different way than Govloop. FedScoop is the federal government’s community platform for education and collaboration. FedScoop talks to government leaders from the White House to federal agencies, from academia to the tech firms. They get together to discuss the ways they see that technology can help improve government.

GovInfoSecurity. The topics on this site all revolve around information security. There are six blogs to choose from, depending on your interest at the moment: The Public Eye (privacy); The Fraud Blog; Safe & Sound (healthcare information security); Euro Security Watch (security trends across Europe); The Experts’ View (industry experts); and Industry Insights.

The Hill Blog. To find out about what is happening on Capital Hill, you will want to read The Hill. In addition to articles on legislation and politics, The Hill also has a blog. Just as an example of the kind of post you will find on The Hill blog, you may want to read the blog exploring a timely discussion of modern technology’s application in the public sector, “Securing Government Infrastructure with Biometrics.”

VirtualBlocks. This site is for all you hardcore techies out there. Topics cover backing up data, networking storage, and converged infrastructure. It’s a good reference site for IT leaders in the public sector even if it covers more than federal issues.

To learn about 50 blogs in the federal arena, read fedtechmagazine.com’s article entitled “50 Must-Read Federal IT Blogs 2015” which was the inspiration for this article.