Getting on the (Block) Chain Gang

We've been watching the use of blockchain growing in the government space as agencies look for ways to more efficiently and securely share their data. A Congressional Resolution was introduced to tout the promise of blockchain saying that, "blockchain has incredible potential that must be nurtured through support for research and development and a thoughtful and innovation-friendly regulatory approach." Following this encouragement from congress, it seems like each day there is a new application of the technology being tried and evaluated.

We've gathered a couple applications that we found interesting to help illustrate what blockchain is and what it can do.

  • Supply Chain - The Navy is looking to use blockchain to track aviation parts throughout their lifecycles, helping them better manage their supply chain. Similarly, the FDA is looking at how blockchain can better track the chain of custody of prescription drugs. In a related application, blockchain is also being considered as a solution for better tracking digital evidence in criminal cases.
  • Managing Public Records - State and local organizations are using blockchain to digitally distribute records, including marriage certificates, property titles, and business registrations.
  • Voting - Blockchain is being tested as a way to make it easier for service members and overseas citizens to vote. Last fall, 144 West Virginia voters living abroad were able to vote through their mobile phones via an app. Identities were confirmed by scanning a valid U.S. ID along with a selfie. Once the identity was confirmed, voters made their selections based on the ballot they would have used at their local precinct. Voters were then given a unique ID or hash that, once the vote was cast, allowed them to write on to the blockchain. Each submission was encrypted to the blockchain ledger, which gave election clerks the ability to conduct post-election audits.
  • Public Health - Blockchain can also speed the delivery of information as it relates to public health crises. The Food and Drug Administration is looking at how to use blockchain to share health care data securely and effectively in real time when epidemics like the swine flu threaten the health of the nation.

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A Look Back at 2018

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As we complete another trip around the sun, we took some time to look back at the past year and do some thinking about what's to come in 2019. Market Connections helped with this reflection when they released their 2018 Federal Media and Marketing Study with a focus on confidence in news sources. Federal news media and associations were among the most trusted sources of content for federal buyers both in terms of written information and events. Additionally, the study found that participation in events and webinars has remained very steady over the past several years. This finding was echoed in our own survey conducted late last year. Events have proven to be a staple for marketers and attendees alike.

2018 saw us celebrating our own place as a staple in the events community. We celebrated eight years of providing an online, one-stop-shop for the public sector and supporting industry. Users are able to find the events that aid in their professional development, their organization's mission, and their business goals. Continue reading

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

Putting the IT in Your Next Doctor VisIT

National Health IT Week was designed to raise awareness of the role IT plays in healthcare and to move forward the use of IT solutions that make a difference in the quality of patient care. The field of Health IT has evolved greatly from using technology to help with administrative functions and patient records. Today, Health IT is at the bedside with telemedicine consults, IoT medical devices, patient education, and more. Additionally, the health market is looking to emerging technologies like blockchain to help with chain of custody of records and controlled substances. IT is also playing a huge role in public health by using data analytics to spot patterns and trends in everything from flu outbreaks to opioid abuse.

With all of these opportunities for IT to become part of the delivery of healthcare there are of course huge security concerns. Publicity around breeches and ransomware incidents have put the industry on high alert to be proactive in their security and responsive to public concern about the security of private health data. Continue reading

A Bitcoin for Your Thoughts: Demystifying Blockchain

Blockchain is a new way to structure data for greater sharing and security. Its algorithm and distributed data structure were initially designed to manage online currency (like bitcoin) in a way that does not need a central administrator to distribute it among people. This removed the need for a middleman (like a bank) to authenticate that what was being transferred was real currency. Instead, this authentication happens because all of the nodes on a peer-to-peer network connected to the block (the asset, money, or data) have to "approve" its transfer to a new party (a good image of this process is found here).

Blockchain essentially provides an online ledger book. The records (or blocks) are individually secured using cryptography that links them to one another and gives each block its own timestamp and provides data about that particular transaction (who it went to). Looking at the ledger you can see where data started and where it went. Through cryptography and the intricate linkages, the blocks (the original asset) cannot be tampered with. This traceability and security has gotten the attention of the government as a way to better protect sensitive data and transactions. Agencies are investigating how to use it to speed procurement, secure employee records, and better enable electronic health records.[Tweet "The traceability & security of blockchain tech has gotten the attention of the Government. #GovEventsBlog"] Continue reading