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GCN : June and July 2016
[BrieFing] 10 GCN JUNE/JULY 2016 • GCN.COM With governments at all levels under pressure to increase transparency, what should IT managers consider when they choose an open-data platform? According to Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, research director of IDC’s global Smart Cities Strategies program, the key elements are cloud-based technology, a vendor that can help with strategic decisions, user-friendly interfaces and the ability to incorporate dynamic data. “It is important, given the data silos that exist in government, that the data can be accessed in the cloud,” Clarke told GCN. Cloud technology makes sharing data easier, accessible and affordable, she added, and workflows are more efficient when data can be posted from different systems and departments. A committed, experienced vendor can help agencies balance getting datasets online quickly and develop- ing a long-term approach that might include an inventory of existing data and a roadmap for releasing data over time. The process will vary depending on the open-data initiative’s overall strategy and the availability of employ- ees, their expertise, the intended use of the information and the scale of the initiative. “Many organizations seem to jump on the open-data bandwagon without taking some time to think strategically about the investment,” Clarke said. Agencies should also choose an in- terface that is user-friendly and easily searchable and provides visualizations of the data for external and internal users, according to Clarke. Public data should be posted in machine-readable formats with application programming interfaces so companies can easily ac- cess the data. To future-proof their solutions, agen- cies should look for platforms that can incorporate dynamic data from sensors, mo- bile applications, cam- eras and videos. Clarke said states and cities should find partners that can develop strategies for incorporating that kind of data when it becomes necessary. IDC recently released a report on the smart city open-data platform market. It identifies leading companies that offer “an innovative technology or a groundbreaking new business model.” The companies profiled include Junar, NuCivic, OpenDataSoft, Socrata, PlaceSpeak, GovDelivery and mySide- walk. Each company has less than $50 million in revenue and provides a product, service or business model with a specific use case relevant to government agencies. The vendors profiled also address what IDC calls “third platform” capa- bilities, such as robotics, the Internet of Things, cognitive systems, natural interfaces, 3D printing and next-gener- ation security. • Can USPS put blockchain to work? BY DEREK MAJOR Blockchain is a way of securing electronic transactions between parties without having to go through a third party such as a bank. Each step of the process is encrypted into the digital “chain,” and any alteration of a previous block effectively voids the entire record. The financial sector is keen on blockchain’s potential, and government agencies have also expressed curiosity. And now the U.S. Postal Service is looking into possible applications. USPS’ Office of Inspector General has released a report on blockchain’s potential in areas that range from financial services to supply chain, device and identity management. USPS already provides limited financial services such as international electronic money transfers. Incorporating blockchain into those processes would improve and expand the transfers, the report states. It also recommends that USPS create its own financial platform, dubbed Postcoin. The report states that USPS could facilitate the “fair, affordable and transparent use” of the technology and “help address many of the challenges that currently prevent individuals and businesses from taking advantage of [it].” For instance, USPS could create a digital identity system that allows users to know that their transaction partners are real. The agency could also use blockchain to identify packages faster. • BY AMANDA ZIADEH What to look for in an open-data platform “It is important, given the data silos that exist in government, that the data can be accessed in the cloud.” — RUTHBEA YESNER CLARKE 0716gcn_010-011.indd 10 6/2/16 10:25 AM
August and September 2016