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"Reaching out to Delaware through IT"

The 2006 Delaware Technology Conference

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The Media Desk

[NOTE: Originally produced for the Desk's Day Job's newsletter. thank you- Dr. Leftover ]
A short Photo Page

      The title to this article was the overall theme of the Conference. It was the early morning Keynote address and the message behind the after lunch speaker. There were booths with something along that idea being displayed and several of the attendees from various school districts and other agencies had questions about how to do just that.
      That wasn't the message at the heart of the conference. Not really.
      The central idea on parade this year was more subtle than that. It was almost subliminal, if not actually insidious.
      It came down to a couple of long words that carried a whole truckload of meaning with them: Information Integration.

      The Keynote speaker, Ms Kimberly Nelson from Microsoft, said it without saying it.
      She began her career in the administration of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection information technology division. Part of her mission was to totally rebuild the way the agency handled information. 'Silo-ing' was part of the old world and cannot be tolerated in the new one. Later in her career she carried this thinking to the Federal Level ('the dark side' as she put it) and later still to her current position at MS where she is involved with government solutions.
      Ms Nelson's two primary examples sang loudly about "Information Integration" without using the words themselves. Both West Lothian, Scotland and the State of South Carolina have integrated at least some of their government services to where, at least in the Scottish example, a child's Social Worker can instantly see reports from their school, from their health care provider, maybe even notes from summer camp or a run-in with law enforcement, if the social worker has reasonable need, without filling out a week's worth of paperwork. In South Carolina they are working toward cross jurisdictional data analysis through the SC Budget and Control Board to allow one state agency to see another agency's information where before that was either impossible or banned by statute. Such sharing can greatly improve public services, but can also raise privacy concerns. It all depends on how and why it is done. And, of course given today's world, data security has to be a part of the picture as well.

      The underlying theme was also at the center of the address by the lunchtime speaker.
      Mister Lawrence Knapfo was the one that both put the training wheels on, and then later took them off of, New York City's Citizen Service Center, the 3-1-1 project.
      Before Mayor Bloomberg's initiative to design and implement a centralized call center for all non-emergency city (and state and federal) information. A citizen had to make umpteen phone calls to a dozen different agencies and departments covering hours and even days just to find the right office to talk to about whatever they wanted or needed. From potholes and vermin to permits and when the bus comes. Any Non-Emergency City service can be accessed through the central 3-1-1 call center.
      One of the things Mr. Bloomberg wanted was that he required a live person to answer every phone call instead of letting technology do the work for them in an endless cycle of 'push one for streets push two for buildings' recordings and machine-speak. And the Mayor wanted those calls answered by that real person quickly. Quickly being five rings or so... thirty seconds. Something unheard of in city government before.
      Through electronic ticketing initial calls can be tracked from the origination of the citizen's call to the final resolution. Be that a pothole being filled or whatever was needed.
      And this is where our term 'information integration' again rears its head. And Mr. Knapfo actually said it at least once. Every City Agency, every one, and several State and even Federal offices had to cooperate as well, with getting their policies and procedures, databases, call centers and director's egos to play nicely together.
      The Call Center crossed all jurisdictions and authorities. One call may involve multiple departments, a partial resolution from one may trigger action from another to continue the process. And it was all being tracked, and questions asked, and updates needed all the way to the Mayor's Operations Office and higher... much higher... the data on numbers of calls, resolutions, problems and all the rest is published on the City web site for the World, and the city's newspapers, to see.
      The mission was simple, provide better, faster, more cost effective services to the city's citizens, visitors and employees. And do so twenty four hours a day, every day of the year in 'the city that never sleeps'.
      The results were magnificent. Non-Emergency calls to the city's 9-1-1 call centers dropped dramatically. Overall citizen satisfaction with the city's government improved. Chronic problems with corruption diminished. Even local businesses used the center to sort through the maze of regulations and licensing they faced.
      Now as the center takes forty five thousand calls a day it is held up for a model of how things like this should be done.

      Ahhh, but we have gotten ahead of ourselves here.
      First things first. Coffee and bagels and fruit plates as the vendors get set up.
      The fifty vendors ranged across the entire spectrum of technology. Wireless outfits were parked next to software consultants who were across the aisle from the US Army's Joint Incident Site Communications Capability for the Delaware National Guard.
      Far from the old 'squawk box' radio most usually seen in John Wayne movies, the JISCC is real gee-whiz stuff that works. It allows the unit to roll to the site of any sort of emergency and be in full range communications with another unit or civilian resources that are a block away or half a world away, as needed, within an hour or so of being deployed.
      And if you were early enough you could have watched a vendor from a local ISP put their banner up with duct tape.
      Yes. A tech house using that most un-technical of tools at the leading tech show in the state. There is something ironic and almost poetic about that.

      The break out sessions covered an even wider array of topics and interests. You could sit and listen to a speaker go into some detail on the finer points of 'Spatially Enabling Services-Oriented Architecture' if you were so inclined. Or perhaps a panel discussion on two competing points of view of managing technology staff? Maybe you are more into trying to think like a search engine to improve your ranking or wanting to know the latest and greatest of some particular software.
      And in the sessions, one of the things that came up was that systems that used to be proprietary must be able to both reach out to other systems and accept incoming data or queries from other systems. Often this is done across the Web, but as security becomes more and more of an issue, direct secure connections are becoming more prevalent.

      Later the hotel put out an array of healthy snacks to keep the attendees at their best. Grilled asparagus and squash shared a large platter with raw vegetables and fresh fruit.
      Well, OK.
      And to wash it down there was a good selection of canned carbonated beverages loaded with sugar and caffeine.
      Ahh, much better.
      While munching you could stop by the information table for... what? Is it a support group, networking and socializing circle, professional guild? Well, whatever it is, it's here. They have a Delaware Chapter that is based in the Wilmington area and are looking to move into the state capitol.
      The people from the Association of Information Technology Professionals were as friendly and interesting as they could be. And since they weren't selling a hot swappable rack dense server with 500 gigabyte hard drives and hot swappable redundant cooling fans, they were a welcome break.

      Back to the conference.

      As this writer is somewhat involved in the world of online security and the war on scams and spams, it sat in on the Security presentation by Ms Elayne Starkey, the Chief Security Officer for Delaware's Department of Technology and Information, the state-side sponsor of the Conference.
      Even here Cross Platform applications come under scrutiny as outside criminal elements prowl for easy targets and internal threats ranging from carelessness to outright malice come into play.
      Outsourcing data for processing may be all the rage to save money, but if the outside enterprise, that is in say, India or Byelorussia doesn't operate with the same level of security and access control your business does, what sort of risk are you taking?
      The criminals may be playing musical ISP's for their actions and law enforcement may still be one step behind them, but the gap is narrowing.
      The FBI and Interpol have made arrests. People have gone to jail for high tech crimes. Private businesses as well as government entities have ramped up their response to the challenge and have put real money into security measures and hired 'the best and brightest' they can to work in their IT Security divisions.
      The good guys are also using education as a way of combating the bad guys. A computer that is turned off for the weekend cannot be used to send out several billion spam messages even if it is infected by a 'bot' program. If you want to leave your machine on, but have it totally secure from intrusion from the internet, unplug the network connection- Instant Security!
      Educating line staff and users (and citizens) will, in the end, be the most effective tool against most types of high tech crime. Of course there are dedicated and determined criminals out there who will sit at their keyboards and work diligently to hack into a bank's computer and only sophisticated software and flashy hardware will stop them. But teaching the public on how to avoid phishing scams will stop 'soft target' crime like fraud and identity theft.
      Network security can be addressed with technology too. Not just by deploying machines like the tool we'll look at in a second, but by locking the local network down to the point that nobody would use it by choice. You simply block everything not directly and immediately business related and things that are allowed are tracked, encrypted and strong password (if not biometrically) protected, then once used, the files are 'shredded'. That wouldn't be a joy to use in any sense of the word.

      One of the flashier of the hardware solutions to work in a well rounded security plan is from one of the vendor's at the show. Ambiron Trust Wave has a new gadget called the IP Angel. While there may be all sorts of jokes made about sending angels to do the devil's work, the goal is fairly noble nonetheless. The Angel learns as it goes about its job of Intrusion Prevention. Acting with and just inside of the firewall, the IP Angel recognizes authorized and desirable traffic trying to get into the network and lets it in, it also can recognize hostile traffic and block it. Then when the bad guys change their tactic, it adapts and blocks that as well. When ATW develops a profile of a new type of attack the Angel downloads and implements it. All Automatically and essentially hands-off.
      Which is really cool to techie types.

      Which brings us to something else the keynote speaker said and was hammered home by various displays and booths throughout the day.
      Deploying technology for its own sake has fallen out of favor and can be seriously counter productive as well as expensive.
      The 3-1-1 solution in New York could have been addressed with an AVR (automated voice response) system, but that would have simply re-enforced what many in the city thought about their government going in- that those that ran the city were trying to distance themselves from those that lived there.
      This is where we add two more words to the actual theme of the conference.
      Business Intelligence and Information Integration.

      Yeah it's a motto for one of the vendors. But it is something that operates in the real world as well.
      Technology has matured to the point where it has to earn its keep or even eventually pay for itself.
      If you are going to deploy VoIP just so you can say you did, fine. But when the buzzards come home to roost and somebody auditing costs of the operation begins to ask questions about why your total communications expenditures have gone UP and you can't explain it, well, don't say we didn't warn you.
      Yes deploying the Angel and related security measures will never pay for themselves directly, but NOT using them and ending up with a major security breach and pictures of your home office on the front page of the paper may cost more.
      Which is where the Business Intelligence part comes in, "Yes, you CAN, but Should You?"
      Well, to find out... you could start by looking over the information in the booths from the various vendors, then go sit in one of the classroom sessions and listen to an expert or two, then go back to the booth and ask some questions, and maybe talk to the other vendor two rows over and ....
      But now you'll have to wait until next year to do it.

the Photo Page

Links Below.

All outside links will open in new page

Delaware Technology Conference's web site

Sheraton Hotel, Dover through The New York City 311 information page. The site for the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Delaware and Thank You for your service to the country. The home of the IP Angel.

Delaware Dept. of Technology and Information DTI

The Desk article covering the: 2005 Tech Conference

The Desk's Tech Page
(note: the graphic may be the best part!)

And the Media Desk's part in the War on Scams and Spams

[NOTE: Thanks to (in no particular order): The Sheraton Hotel, Dover. The Delaware Technology Conference Committee and staff (this means you Charles). Ms Starkey and The Delaware Department of Technology and Information. Mr. David from ATW. The Association of Information Technology Professionals. And the other assorted vendors and participants in the Conference. ]

[NOTE: The Desk Site Is NOT affiliated with any of the outside links listed above and said author DOES NOT SPEAK for either DTI or the State of Delaware, or for that matter, anybody else. Everything expressed is from the Desk and nobody and nothing else. Mention of a vendor or technology is NOT to be taken as an endorsement of the Desk by the Vendor or vise versa.

This article IS NOT being placed into the public domain at this time. Author retains all ownership and other rights, including right of approval for further publication, pending the outcome of several meetings with "bosses".Thank you ]

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