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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Agencies Are A Step Closer to Creating Their Own Siri

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

Federal agencies are a step closer to automating some of their common customer service processes using artificial intelligence.

The General Services Administration recently wrapped a pilot that walked federal agencies through the process of building chatbots and other intelligent personal assistants similar to Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa.

Graduates of that pilot have developed some basic prototypes--a single chatbot that lets users access Small Business Administration licenses, Internal Revenue Service tax credits, Forest Service park permits, and Health and Human Services Department benefits, for one. But prototypes weren't the point of the pilot, GSA's Emerging Citizen Technology Office lead Justin Herman told Nextgov--instead, it was to help agencies understand what they'd need before they can fully deploy intelligent personal assistants.

One finding, Herman said, was that agencies need to assess their cloud services, as chatbots and voice-controlled virtual assistants would need to pull information from the internet. Agencies also need to think about the way they structure the data the assistants might pull from, especially if that includes personally identifiable information from citizens, he said.

It's not yet clear where in each federal agency responsibility for creating intelligent personal assistants falls, Herman told Nextgov. Agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Labor Department completed the workshop and brought varying personnel, including public affairs officers, Python developers and innovation teams.

"No agency came at this pilot the same way," Herman said.

Herman's team, which has worked to help agencies adopt social media to better connect with citizens, has noticed new technology is generally initially relegated to a technology shop.

"Eventually, access to these services spreads down to the just the program level," Herman said, who explained he anticipates a similar pattern with intelligent personal assistants.

In the hackathon culminating the workshop, out of which agencies' prototypes emerged, federal employees worked alongside representatives from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle. In the future, depending on the platform, agencies might be able to develop their own assistants in house with little coding knowledge. A Labor Department team put together three Amazon Alexa skills with no prior experience, for instance. Others might need to contract out to technology companies directly.

GSA is planning a showcase to demonstrate how intelligent personal assistants could be used in government. In the meantime, Herman's team is collecting feedback from agencies about how the pilot helped them and what they need to be able to develop their own virtual assistants.

Though it's summer and the White House has recently undergone a transition, Herman said he was surprised at how representatives from some agencies are already cooking up new project ideas. Some are thinking beyond "how can we apply this to [getting] open data into services," he said, and instead considering combining chatbots with web forms and call centers using artificial intelligence.

View original post on NextGov.com

Top Events for Cybersecurity Month

October is Cybersecurity Month and many organizations have taken the call to use these 31 days to educate and collaborate on solutions for a more secure cyber world. With over 70 cybersecurity events posted for the month of October on GovEvents, we wanted to highlight some of our picks for must attend events this month.[Tweet "Check out the top #government focused events for #Cybersecurity month #GovEventsBlog"]

  • October 7: Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity at Work (webinar) - The National Association of Counties will hold a series of webinars throughout the month with this one focusing on how organizations can enhance their security practices with widely available training and educational resources.
  • October 13: Closing the Desktop Security Vulnerability (webinar) - The combination of connectivity and skill can increase the risk of malicious intrusion at the desktop. This event, featuring the director of the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP), will talk through NIAP's new requirements as well as the new Peripheral Sharing Switch Protection Profile (PSS PP 3.0).

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Creating an Ultimate Guide to Government

Mark KGovEvents gathers and aggregates the vast number of events geared toward the government community to create a unique and comprehensive source of intelligence. Mark Kagan has taken on an even more daunting task - collecting and synthesizing mountains of data on selected federal agencies to create unique market intelligence guides. With his company, Panoptes Intelligence, Mark is developing comprehensive guides to the "who, what, when, where, how and how much" of government agencies for government contractors. We recently sat down with Mark to learn about the guides and how they are being used in the marketplace.

 

GE: What is an Ultimate Guide?

MK: An Ultimate Guide pulls together and synthesizes almost ALL publicly available data about an agency and how it does business, with particular focus on its IT and acquisition and procurement.†[Tweet "The #UltimateGuide pulls together almost ALL publicly available data about an agency. #GovEventsBlog"] Continue reading

OPM to Agencies: You Decide Whether Or Not a Conference is Legit

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

Originally posted on www.govexec.com

The Office of Personnel Management has stopped its long-time practice of reviewing individual agency conferences to decide whether they qualify as employee training under the regulations.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said in a May 1 memorandum to the government's chief human capital officers that OPM would discontinue issuing such guidance and wanted "to make clear that agencies are responsible for their employees' training and development as provided by the statute and regulations, 5 U.S.C. chapter 41 and 5 CFR Part 410." Continue reading