Gov 2.0 Roundup: Week of February 25, 2011

The Veterans Administration takes steps toward an open source approach for patient records management, city government officials in Florida devise a unique way to protect the city’s IT infrastructure from hurricanes, TileMap offers government agencies a cost-effective custom mapping solution, and the Army studies the benefits of smartphones in the field, all in this week’s version of the Gov 2.0 Roundup.

—Last week, the Veteran’s Administration kicked off a project that is aimed at making its patient records management system more modern, a move that is likely to have positive implications for public and private healthcare systems. The VA is taking a phased approach to move its current Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (or VistA) to an open source platform. founder and VA consultant Craig Newmark says the move is a “really big deal, novel in government, which might also improve the health record systems we all use. This could become the basis of a jointly developed health records platform.

—Talk about making the most of what you have! When hurricanes threatened the City Hall in Alamonte Springs, Florida, government officials looked around for a hurricane-proof structure in which to relocate the city’s IT infrastructure. And they found it—within the 8-inch thick concrete walls of one of the city’s decommissioned water tanks. After a very busy hurricane season in 2004, city government officials mapped out a multi-year plan that included retrofitting the structure and equipping it with full electrical and networking capabilities. Referred to as “The Dome”, the once-abandoned water tank now houses the city’s server room/data center, administrative offices, and a few IT staffers.

—Creating custom maps—versus customizing a Google Map with annotations or locations—can be an expensive and time-consuming process for businesses and government agencies. However, with the launch of a recent open source map making app, custom map making just got a little easier and more affordable. Called TileMill, this open source map design studio allows web developers to quickly and easily create custom maps and geospatial web services. TileMill requires only minimal programming capabilities in order to use it, yet still offers a robust feature set. The software is anticipated to help agencies meet open government initiative guidelines, as it will allow agencies and vendors to more easily display data in a way that the public can understand.

—The next Army-issued piece of equipment that some soldiers may be taking into the field just might be a smartphone. According to the Army’s Capabilities Integration Center’s Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, what started out as a plan to deliver education and training materials via smartphones quickly showed opportunities for operational uses. While Vane said that the idea of a smartphone for every soldier is not something the service was “ready to commit to,” he didn’t completely rule it out, saying that the outcomes of pilot programs currently in progress would ultimately guide decisions.

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