The Emerging Use of Blockchain in Government

Blockchain is a complex technology that aims to streamline repetitive, data-intensive tasks. It has become more than a hot buzzword in government IT circles, it is already being put into practice.

One way to think of blockchain is as a database that is jointly managed by a distributed set of participants. Adding data requires the "sign off" of everyone in the chain, verifying that the transaction is legitimate. Because of this interconnectedness, it is inherently secure. Every piece is linked to another, changing one piece will impact the rest of the chain (just like that one bulb going out on your Christmas lights) alerting all owners to an issue.

Government agencies are drawn to the security and transparency provided by blockchain to improve the efficiency and stability of processes requiring strict audit trails. NIST has provided guidance to help educate as well as encourage organizations to begin trying out blockchain approaches. Continue reading

Retooling Federal Workforce Skills

With the introduction of technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), mobile apps and more, the business functions of government are becoming more automated. While fears of machines taking over the world -- or at least our jobs -- are unfounded, the type of work government employees will be doing is changing dramatically. Additionally, there is a huge learning curve needed for employees to adopt these technologies to ensure they live up to their promise of greater efficiency and cost savings. The common denominator for managing all of this change? Training.

In a recent survey, 43 percent of Federal IT professional respondents said that one of the reasons their IT environments were not optimized to meet current demands was insufficient investment in training. Organizations need to take full advantage of budgeted education stipends to get holistic training for management and employees to ensure they get the most out of their technology investment. Investing more in training up front can save money down the road by avoiding the need to re-tool or even scrap systems to better fit the skill sets of the workforce. Continue reading

Department Spotlight: Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may be the newest cabinet-level department, but it is still facing the same modernization challenges felt across government. The agencies pulled under the DHS umbrella in 2002 came with legacy systems. While a good deal of integration and modernization happened while DHS was being formed, systems have to keep evolving to keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape and the technologies used to threaten the homeland.

Cybersecurity, as it relates to the protection of the national infrastructure and government systems, is a huge focus for DHS. In fact, The DHS Secretary recently said that nation-state adversaries "are at the highest levels since the Cold War, largely but not exclusively due to leveraging cyber to conduct espionage and influence operations and disrupt services." As part of their efforts to strengthen their cybersecurity posture, the Department is leading the Continuous Diagnostic Monitoring (CDM) efforts across government to provide capabilities and tools to identify cybersecurity risks on an ongoing basis, prioritize these risks based on potential impacts, and enable cybersecurity personnel to mitigate the most significant problems first.

With a broad mandate to support election security, DHS has been collaborating across the government to ensure the security of machines and records for national elections. New technologies such as Albert sensors, technology designed to detect suspicious IP addresses and malware signatures, will be in place in 90% or more of voting machines used in November. Continue reading

The Real Scoop on Virtual Events

With fall upon us and colder weather coming, our "hibernation" instinct kicks in and people start to stay in more. But even if you are ensconced in layers of blankets with a pumpkin latte in hand, you can still grow your professional knowledge base. Virtual events have been growing in popularity among event planners and attendees alike. In the government market specifically, over 60% of federal employees surveyed reported attending one or more webinars in the past year. 46% of government marketers surveyed are planning on investing in webinars in the coming year.

The allure of virtual events is cost and time savings. With no physical venue to rent and no need to travel, both planners and attendees save money as well as time. These virtual meetings run the spectrum from basic webinar-type presentations of power point slides, to interactive video demos, to fully immersive virtual worlds with online tradeshow booths that include the ability to chat with exhibitors. But no matter the format, all virtual events share a key challenge - how to engage and keep the attention of attendees who are in an environment full of distractions. Meeting this challenge requires commitments on the part of attendees and event planners. Continue reading

Acquiring Knowledge on Government Acquisition

For those of us in the government market, October is the time to break out the Happy New Year noisemakers and celebrate the new government fiscal year (GFY). Each August and September is a frantic race for agencies to spend their remaining budget, which poses opportunity but a lot of hard work for the vendors that want to earn some of this end-of-year shopping spree money. In recent years, the turning of the new fiscal year has also meant uncertainty. From shut downs to continuing resolutions, the switch from one year to the next has not been as smooth as flipping a calendar page.

A group of senators has come forth to raise concerns about this annual end-of-year frenzy. A recent report found that the last week of the fiscal year accounts for 12.3 percent of spending [on IT]. Numerous other reports over the years have found similar statistics. In 2017 this equated to $11 billion in the final week of the year -- almost five times more than the average weekly spending for that year. This spending happens because agencies are afraid if they do not use all the money they are allocated, their budgets will go down in the future. This group of senators, as well as others in government, are looking at options for reforming the system to eliminate the potential waste resulting from this fast spending. Continue reading