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12/11/2006
04:32 PM
Patricia Keefe
Patricia Keefe
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Washington Watch: IT On The Docket

This winter, you will want to be on the look out for a number of IT-oriented issues going bump in the dark corridors of Washington and, separately, in discussions with in industry consortiums. Several groups are agitating for changes that will affect IT - some for the better, and some for worse, but one way or another, all will require action on your part.

This winter, you will want to be on the look out for a number of IT-oriented issues going bump in the dark corridors of Washington and, separately, in discussions with in industry consortiums. Several groups are agitating for changes that will affect IT - some for the better, and some for worse, but one way or another, all will require action on your part.On the agenda are:

The continuing debate on net neutrality: See this months' Sound Off to read a good synopsis of the debate, and add in your two cents if so inclined.

The ever spiraling privacy conundrum:This is one issue that is just not going to go away - in fact, the ripple effect seems widen by the day. That's partially because the intersection between technology and many business plans and government policies, particularly where tracking behavior or products are concerned, keep tripping over privacy.

Most recently, the senate has passed anti-pretexting legislation designed to stop individuals and companies from lying, impersonating, or breaking into computerized accounts to obtain private phone records. The bill follows the scandal surrounding Hewlett-Parkard's use of pretexting as part of an internal leak investigation. At least 15 states already have laws prohibiting pretexting.

On the horizon, is a vendor-led initiative designed to replace what they say is an outdated network of state and federal laws, with a federal law that would, among other things, set standards for notifying consumers when personal data is collected and how it will be used. Not surprisingly some consumer advocates are cool to the effort, saying sufficient or better laws already exist. According to an AP report, the Electronic Privacy Information Center thinks consumers should be able to access the data collected on them in the same way that they can now access their credit reports.

We should see some action next year. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), takes over as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in January, and data security is on his agenda. Frank told the AP that he favors creating a task force of members from committees with oversight on privacy matters to work on the issue. No doubt they'll be collecting input from industries such as yours. Sarbanes Oxley reform?: Well, maybe. At least that's the goal of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who is looking at ways to ease the demands to ease the demands and cost of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. As are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a host of financial-sector heavyweights. Even Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, is working on a way to make Sar-Box audits more efficient and less costly - something many CIOs probably have a thing or two to say about. At least one commission is expected to issue some suggestions this month, so stay tuned. . Digitizing health records: Everyone is looking to cut health care costs - especially businesses. More and more technology is seen as the answer - but the idea of digitizing health records worries many patients. Many companies are going it on their own, trying to find a way through the electronic record thicket, but some are banding together to pitch solutions and best practices.

In November, an as yet unnamed national advisory panel was launched to study the safety and effectiveness of E-health records. The panel is being spearheaded and initially funded by Geisinger Health System. Other panelists include the Regienstrief Institute in Indiana, Kaiser Northwest Health Plan, representatives from academia, and other industry and philanthropic organizations. The goal is to provide information to identify patient risk areas and advise on how to mitigate the risks; a database of best practices is in the works.

Separately, a group of high-tech and vertical industry companies, including heavyweights intel and Wal-Mart have gotten together to build a multi-million dollar, online personal medical record service, called Dossia. The goals are to reduce medical errors, provide health advice and to eventually provide comparative information on suppliers. The group hopes the service will become part of the nation's health care infrastructure.

Both initiatives could produce some innovative ideas for grappling with this mirgraine, and will bear watching over the course of 2007.

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