Weekly Round-up – September 14, 2012

Gadi Ben-Yehuda

  • Using the Internet to Raise Money for Cities. A few weeks ago, I wrote about “kickstarter for civic projects.” One site that’s doing that, Citizinvestor, is off the ground, with five entries from three cities, including four petitions and only one project. Will it gain momentum?
  • Using Data to Earn Money for Entrepreneurs. Alex Howard wrote a great article for Slate’s Future Tense series, “Here Comes the Data Economy.” The piece begins, “We’re living in the exabyte age, where the actions of billions of humans using the Web and their mobile devices are creating massive amounts of big data to collect, store, analyze, and put to work.” Which leads us to:
  • Using Data to Analyze Sentiment, the Better to Allocate Money. Emily Badger, writing for the Atlantic, outlines how cities are using sentiment analysis to understand how residents really feel about their municipality, and thus deliver services that residents really want..

Dan Chenok

John Kamensky

  • GSA Praised. Not a phrase seen much lately, but Federal News Radio headlines a congressional hearing “GSA Praised for Steps to Reform Culture, Organization.” Noting that “acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini’s strategy to centralize the IT and human resources functions and reduce contracting fees” brought praise from the committee and the agency’s Inspector General.
  • Career Civil Servants Honored. The Partnership for Public Service honors a select handful of civil servants for their dedication and contributions. Relatedly, Government Executive poignantly highlights a civil servant who paid the ultimate price for his service: Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
  • Commemorating 9-11. The Government Accountability Office commemorated the 11th anniversary of 9-11 with a pair of reports: one on the progress and challenges of aviation security and another on anthrax.
  • Avatars vs. Civil Servants? An intriguing Government Computer News article puts a new twist on virtual government. It writes that TSA is exploring the use of multi-lingual “courteous” avatars to help guide passengers through the screening procedure. This raises all sorts of questions? Will the avatars be treated as contractors? Can they unionize? How will they be rated? Do they count against DHS’s FTE ceiling?

Michael Keegan

VA’s Blue Button now at 1 million users, aims at 100 million soon
Two years ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Blue Button project started with the idea that VA could improve veterans’ health outcomes by giving them something they’d been clamoring for: easy access to their own health records that had theretofore been locked up in VA’s data systems and visible only to health care providers. But VA says more than 1 million users have now signed up for Blue Button, which now extends far beyond the walls of VA. The Defense Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have adopted VA’s personal health record (PHR) framework, as have several of the large insurance companies that serve civilian federal employees. Last month, in its first round of Presidential Innovation Fellowships, the Obama Administration brought aboard three technologists who want to help nationalize Blue Button, one of only five projects the White House settled on. Peter Levin, VA’s chief technology officer, said the nation as a whole has been looking for a robust PHR system for a long time. But he contends VA was a logical place to start the effort.

GSA to centralize oversight of IT, HR after top-to-bottom review
The General Services Administration is taking dramatic action to centralize and add more oversight to technology and human resources functions across the agency. Dan Tangherlini, GSA’s acting administrator, will tell the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday that his three-part, five- month review of the agency found opportunities for better performance and efficiencies, according to his testimony obtained exclusively by Federal News Radio. GSA Inspector General Brian Miller also is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee.

Administration amps up strategic sourcing push
Noting that agencies have been slow to adopt strategic sourcing approaches, representatives of the Barack Obama administration are subtly increasing the pressure. Speaking at the Coalition for Government Procurement on Sept. 11, Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Joe Jordan emphasized the value of the technique, which involves combining orders from multiple agencies in order to get bigger volume discounts from vendors.

White House draft cyber order promotes voluntary critical infrastructure protections
The White House so far has failed to get a bill passed by both houses of Congress to improve the cybersecurity of the nation’s critical infrastructure, so it wants to take an alternative approach. The administration has created a draft executive order detailing how, within its authority, it would improve the information assurance of the nation’s critical infrastructure, such as the power grid and financial industries.

The Business of Government Radio Show: Governing to Win Series: John Morton

Federal News Radio 1500-AM
Mondays at 11 a.m., Wednesdays at 12 p.m.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations.

John Morton was unanimously confirmed as the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the U.S. Senate on May 12, 2009. ICE is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government.

Broadcast Schedule: The show airs Monday, September 17, at 11 a.m., and Wednesday, September 19, at noon, on Federal News Radio 1500AM WFED

If you can’t wait, though, you can listen to (or download) this week’s program and all our previous interviews at businessofgovernment.org and by searching our audio archives.

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