Saturday, March 29, 2014

Some states are taking the Digital out of Digital Governemnt

Recently the New York Times ran an article entitled Deadline Near, Health Signups Show Disparity.  It highlighted the point that was previously discussed in class, which was that individual states largely determined consumers experience when signing up for Affordable Care Act, not 

The article points out that Texas residents believe the Affordable Care Act is banned in their state because the online insurance marketplace is such a mess.  We saw similar results in class where we showed that although all users start out their search on, each state has their own website where the consumer sings up on their states marketplace. 

This mismanagement of synchronizations between the government’s and the respective state sights cannot be blamed on the federal government.  No reasonable person would expect that the government should have complete oversight of each states marketplace. Furthermore, it would place too much of a burden on the government to manage and dictate how each state runs their respective online marketplace.

Not coincidentally, politics seems to be one of the driving forces of states with robust websites versus states who are lacking enrollments.  Rhode Island and Colorado have gone as far as creating “pop-up” stores with the mission of increase signups in a specific region where enrollment was lagging. 

This is alarming; in this day and age where the reach of the internet can reach millions within seconds, states still choose to market a service the same as a 4 year old would selling lemonade at her lemonade stand.  Why wouldn't these states put up notifications on their respective website, run stories on the news, or hold a press conference where governors or mayors are lacking enrollment? The states are clearly not living up to Digital Government!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is it Project Success or Project Management Success?

When Sudsy and I began preparing for our implementation case, we were both intrigued by the concept that there is a difference between project success and project management success.  As we read through the assigned Yardley article, we were presented with some ideas neither of us had really thought about -- at least not from that lens.

I did not reference the Yardley article directly here, because it seemed to have some copyright issues.  Thus I searched for a publicly-available document that contained similar ideas to reference.  I found a document written by two professors from universities in Malaysia seeming to address the same topic and coming from a similar perspective.

As Sudsy and I discussed the case, we became aware of how we, ourselves, have fallen into the trap of thinking these two concepts, project success and project management success, are one and the same.  They are frequently used interchangeably and often are perceived as the same idea.  Yet, one is so much larger than the other and success in one does not command success in the other.

While the "project" refers to the cradle to grave (or conception to closedown according to the article) timeline of an endeavor, which realistically can span decades, we unwittingly assume success only happens during the "project management," which occurs in the the three stages (of the six) that related to the planning, production, and handover.  Success can occur in these three stages, and yet the project overall can still fail.

We talked, within the case and then in light of personal/work experience, of examples where superb (and successful) project management took place on a project that ended up being an utter failure, due to factors completely outside of project management.  Then we had other instances where there was sorrowful project management in terms of cost, scope, and time, but when it was finally done, it was a huge success -- fully embraced by the stakeholders and user group.

It struck us how truly disconnected project success could be from the management of that project in that successful project management does not automatically mean the project itself will be a success.  It also amazed us, as we thought through the examples, how deplorable project management could still result in a successful project - it just has to get to the point of completion, depending on how desperately the project is needed.

I had really always thought of these as one and the same, and had used them interchangeably in my everyday work life.  I know better now!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Affordable Care Act Costs Exceed Benefits…or Do They?

The American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, reported that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has regulatory costs that exceeds benefits by 2.5 times.  According to the research, ACA annualized costs are $6.8 billion compared to annualized benefits falling short at $2.6 billion. 

The costs were mainly explained through an increase in mandated regulatory paperwork burdens.  Other sections of the research address issues with small business owners and attempt to relate the ACA to the stagnant national unemployment rate.  The research article fails to explain the $2.6 billion of benefits.  The article also avoids discussion of the controversial web site

Benefits in government policy are difficult to identify because most address intangible aspects of a citizen's life.  Can anyone truly monetize the benefit of the ACA? 

Most Americans would probably agree that a national health care solution would benefit the country in the long run, but few would agree on the mechanics by which to implement the plan.  Are there other issues in American health care that could be regulated to address the rising costs?

Wide Digital Divide in Afghanistan

Despite progress and development in ICT sector in the last 10 years, only 8% of population (2,400,000 people) has access to Internet in Afghanistan. Although Internet price has dropped from $5000/mb/month in 2002 to $67 in 2014, the number of Internet users has been increasing very slowly. This indicates that Afghanistan lags far behind other countries in the region in terms of digital divide. Digital divide is very wide among the population.
Source: MCIT

Income level, cultural differences, literacy, and gender are among main factors of digital divide in the country.

Income: with $1100 GNI per capita and 36% of the population living under poverty line, 35% unemployment rate, Afghanistan has a very weak and unstable economy.
Only a small number of people can afford to pay for Internet and other required tools, computer and smart phone. For example, 3G services are available to 75% of population, only 3,00,000 people out of 20 million mobile users have subscribed for 3G services.

Cultural/religion: for some strict religious people using Internet is something not supported by religion as they think it will attract people towards religiously forbidden practices. Even in some provinces, in remote areas, people are reluctant and refrain seeing TV, thinking is not allowed by religion because it broadcasts music or dancing and women without Hijab. All these refer to how different people interpret the religion differently.

Literacy: Only 28% of the population can read and write. This means 78% of the population cannot read and write and it is a very wide gap in terms of digital divide.

Gender:  Traditionally women has rarely control and decision making authority over family economy. A vast majority of women are housewife and are not employed so they have no purchasing power to buy smart phone and computers. In addition literacy rate among women is 12%. With this situation the divide is very obvious among men and women. The situation is changing rapidly among school age girls as they compose 46% of pupils across the country.

While aforementioned dividing factors continue to exist, narrowing digital divide would not be an easy reachable target. Government along with private sector will be able to narrow it down through socio-economic development initiatives and efforts.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Free Textbooks in the Future

University of Maryland is exploring ways to bring the cost of textbooks to zero with ‘open-source’ electronic books. I just came across an article regarding a new strategy to reduce college textbook costs to zero and I was immediately interested.

These books are not like the electronic versions of textbooks sold by publishers. In fact, open-source  text books comprise of materials collected from various sources and are not protected by copyright. They are designed to be interactive, with links to source material and multimedia elements. This sounds like an idea, which can save the students a huge amount of money although, will come with a price to textbook publishers and campus bookstores. However, with the rapid digitization in education system, I think it’s inevitable. Although the implementation of this requires a lot of time, energy and money.

College textbooks are a huge strain on students as well as their families. The costs have been rising every year and, students are always looking for cheaper books from amazon and previous students. There are also those who avoid buying textbooks because they cannot afford them. This sometimes results in lower performance at school than their actual potential.

Publishing companies are also known to drive up costs by adding CD-ROMS to the books. Most of the times, they’re actually useless. Newer edition to the textbooks makes previous books obsolete and difficult to sell. Thanks to the rapidly enhancing technology, this system might be changed in the future.

Are Robot Soldiers a Possibility?

     We have all seen the movies where man builds robots in order to perform mundane daily tasks and eventually someone has the bright idea that these robots could be given weapons and used for military applications.  At which point, they then take over the world and practically eradicate the human race.     
     Currently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is attempting to develop robots that can do mundane activities like driving cars and using tools.  They want these robots to have free range of motion, being able to handle different terrains and activities.  The hopes are that these robots can be used in disaster relief activities.  But according to this Article, if a robot that can use a shovel it can certainly use a machine gun.  Will this research eventually lead to the robotic soldier?  Whether it is remote controlled or has an artificial intelligence that could be programmed does not matter, what does matter the fact that war could be fought with little human risk on the side that has the robots.  Is that good or bad?  Risk makes war a last resort (theoretically), but if that risk was minimized how easy would it be to go to war?  How easy would it be to pull the trigger or program the trigger to be pulled?

     According to another article, Google has acquired a couple of robotic companies that do research for DARPA and are going to refuse the government funding.  Google feels that there is a stigma associated with working with the military and robots, but mostly believes that the real money on robots will be made in the private sector. 
     Does Google believe that there is more to the DARPA robotic research than having robots perform mundane activities?  It could possibly be a reason behind their refusal of government funds, but the monetary factor seems more plausible.  The robots of the type described in the above articles are still years away from a reality.  The public and private sectors who conduct this research will need to understand what breakthroughs in robotic technology will mean to the world and the implications. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mobile Technology Creates a Win-Win

Mobile Technology Creates a Win-Win

            A special report on Enterprise Mobility in the Public CIO journal highlighted some of the benefits local and state governments can gain by leveraging technology.  Along with this, the article hints at a resource that few governments are taking advantage of that possesses a win-win for all parties involved. 

Virtually all governments across America are facing similar situations with shrinking budgets, but also the same ability to leverage technology, yet few governments have sought new ways to capture the power that most devices offer.  An area where mobile technology is being exploited for its benefits is the area of emergency preparedness.  Unlike most, the county of Pierce, Washington uses mobile devices to conduct damage assessments of buildings and infrastructures after natural disasters.  In the past, damage assessments were collected via paper, which led to input errors as due to human mistake.  Now, field operators can immediately upload the data to the emergency operations center. 
Pierce County also partners with the University of Washington to increase its efficiency while lowering its costs had they contracted out this service.  Working together, these two institutions developed a program where university students collaborate with Pierce county IT professionals to develop applications during their internship.  The students are exposed to real life experience along with coaching and other mentorship opportunities.  Additionally the students report that this opportunity sets them apart from others who have never received this experience.  This partnership gives the city the reach back capability of the students along with free labor.  Similar to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center case we recently discussed in class, the University also serves as a pool or bench for future employment. 
The city of Anaheim California is taking a different approach of the advantages that mobile technology.  They have developed an app that allows residents to report graffiti or non-emergency suspicious activity using their phones camera and GPS tagging capabilities. 

Though these two example are completely different, it shows that governments can indeed use mobile devices for various uses.  Cities can take advantage of the academic institutions where mobile technology is studied in order to govern more effectively. 
There are countless other ways that governments can take advantage of this field.  Does anyone have any other examples?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Technology being used to search for missing plane.

As I watch the world try to figure out where this missing Malaysian plane has gone, I always thought there was enough technology that they would know exactly where it went.  I have so much to learn as I listen to the confusion and watch as no one seems to know where it went.  The clues seem to be slow to be uncovered but I also see some progress.  I know there is a lot of technology being engaged but most is probably classified or unknown to most of the public because we normally have no interest in those "out of sight, out of mind" technologies. 

While listening to CNN and scanning the internet for more information, I was intrigued to see how civilian technology is being engaged to aid in the search.  The article highlights how the use of commercial satellite imagery is being utilized to aid in the search.  This is not even the first time this type of technology has been employed to aid in a disaster. As people search the individual pieces of imagery, anything they find that may be identified as wreckage is passed onto an expert for additional review.  Although this is a massive area that needs to be search, the searching is being done by citizens from around the world.  The resources that can be brought to bear on this search can help to eliminate areas where no wreckage can be found and allows search crews to work on other areas.

I'm sure this event will lead to advances in the ability to track aircraft before and after tragedy.  Another article posted mentioned the push to increase the battery life of the the transponder from 30 days to 90 days.  But who would have thought that all of the advances in technology, all the satellites floating in the sky tracking, and all the countries watch all the other countries that the world cannot find one plan over week after it disappeared.  

The article goes on to mention how this type of technology has been used in the past to include Somalia and the Philippines.  


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

E-Government in Afghanistan

E-Government development needs a strong vision and leadership support at the political and policy levels of government. Such kind of vision and leadership was missing in Afghanistan till very recently. Only in 2011, Ministry of communication & Information Technology (MCIT) has developed an E-Government Strategy  which outlines key priorities of e-government for a five year period.. Afghan president has recently told that the paper-based system shall be replaced by E-government services. E-government has been included in the Presidential Election debate. Three leading presidential candidates  have included e-government as part of their priorities to foster effective and timely public services t and reduced corruption using ICT.
I do believe that, given the current situation in Afghanistan, substitution of paper system with E-Services cannot be a feasible option. For several years we need to have both paper based and E-services in parallel, as one complement the other.
Based on the vision, the government has planned a number of e-government initiatives as described below:
National Data Repository Center: Ministry of Communication & Information Technology has created a data repository center for storage of data related to e-government programs.