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8/30/2012
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Top 15 Government IT Innovators For 2012

From mobile apps to testbeds on wheels, creative thinkers at government agencies are finding ways to better serve the public.




In government IT, "doing more with innovation" is the big opportunity. Beyond just cost cutting, government tech teams are coming up with creative ways to offer new and improved services to their internal users and to the public.

For the fourth year in a row, InformationWeek Government set out to identify the top technology innovators at all levels of U.S. government--federal, state, and local. The 15 profiled here were chosen by our editors as InformationWeek's 2012 Government Innovators. Their fresh approaches take many forms, from mobile applications that put government information into the hands of on-the-go citizens to new cloud services.

For example, technology deployed by the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) organization is hastening the screening process for pedestrians entering the U.S. from Mexico.

The lanes that guide people through the process have gates with interactive screens that provide instructions in English and Spanish, document readers, and biometric fingerprint scanners. The system, which prepares pedestrians in advance of interacting with a CBP officer, offers several advantages. Officers are ready with information on pedestrians before engaging with them, and they can take action if someone is deemed a threat.

Mobile officers with handheld devices can scan travel documents and run database queries to further expedite processing. The system has cut processing time by up to 34%, the CBP says.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage



If doctors, researchers, and pharmaceutical companies have access to business intelligence capabilities, shouldn't patients, too?

Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, has developed a decision-support tool that lets patients search clinical outcome information based on the experiences of other people with similar medical conditions who live in the same area.

The tool, called "outcomes-based prescribing," is based on model data from the Veterans Affairs electronic health records system. A crowdsourcing component lets patients get feedback on treatment outcomes from other patients.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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Following the release of sensitive documents on the WikiLeaks site, the State Department might have clamped down on diplomatic discourse. Instead, the agency got smarter about how it collaborates and shares information, introducing new capabilities under the banner of "e-diplomacy."

The agency's latest internal service is called Corridor, which it describes as a mix of Facebook and LinkedIn. The professional networking service lets State Department employees publish their credentials and find colleagues with common interests.

Other behind-the-firewall capabilities in State's e-diplomacy program include Diplopedia, an enterprise wiki, and [email protected], for blogging and online communities. Next, the department's Bureau of Information Resources Management is looking to develop a dashboard that will tie together its collaboration tools with internal and external information sources and enable comments and dialogue.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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At Goddard Space Flight Center, innovation rolled in on 18 wheels. The space center has developed a cloud environment inside a 40-foot shipping container that it's using as a testbed for virtualization, storage, and networking in support of its research.

NASA Goddard is learning valuable lessons about how to use and manage cloud services and developing best practices that can be applied more broadly. It has evaluated the open source cloud stacks OpenNebula, OpenStack, and Eucalyptus, and experimented with "cloud brokers," which are used to switch among cloud services.

In a study earlier this year, NASA Goddard's IT team determined that open source cloud platforms are ready to support the on-demand provisioning of virtual machines and, in some cases, high-performance computing. But they also found that cloud "elasticity" needs further development and that more experts are needed to optimize and operate cloud infrastructure.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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For years, server virtualization in Uncle Sam's data centers has been notoriously low. The Marine Corps has proved that such inefficiency doesn't have to be the status quo.

The Marines have eliminated 24 of 35 data centers and centralized enterprise IT services in one facility, which now runs at an impressive 75% virtualization level. The benefits include millions of dollars in savings over five years and better visibility into, and control over, its IT infrastructure. The Marine Corps is the first Department of Defense organization to insource IT operations on such a scale.

The centralization and optimization strategy has improved information sharing and increased tactical agility. Nothing could be more important when you consider that the IT environment supports Marines deployed around the world.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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Advanced research can't exist on high-performance computing alone. It needs big bandwidth, too.

The Department of Energy's Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI), operated under the auspices of the Energy Sciences Network, or ESnet, will bring 100-Gbps networking to more than 40 national laboratories and research centers. ANI went into operation last fall as a prototype, connecting supercomputer centers in California, Illinois, and Tennessee, and extending to gateways that serve hundreds of research networks.

The plan calls for ANI to become the next-generation national research network, ESnet5. How do scientists plan to use 10 times the bandwidth they're used to? One demo involved simulating the creation of the universe, as seen above.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


Embracing the new generation of mobile devices and applications is one of the biggest opportunities in government. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab was one of the first organizations to come up with a modern mobile strategy that served two key constituencies: its employees and the public.

It started with the iPhone. JPL prototyped iPhones for internal use, tested them, and worked with Apple to meet its requirements. That work paved the way for internal adoption of iPads and Android devices.

As those devices proliferated, JPL's mobile app team established an internal app portal, while making other mobile apps available for public consumption in the iTunes store, Android Market, and Windows Azure Marketplace. JPL's Space Images app alone has been downloaded nearly 1 million times.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

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IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

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Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


This is the year that the Internal Revenue Service, after more than 50 years of processing tax returns on a weekly schedule, began processing them daily.

The agency's Customer Account Data Engine 2 (CADE 2) system began operating in January, just in time for the 2012 tax-filing season. By early April, CADE 2 had processed more than 1.8 billion transactions and issued 83 million refunds totaling $229 billion. At the core of the system is a relational database that balanced "to the penny" with the agency's master file.

The IRS acted as its own system integrator on the four-year project. Taxpayers now receive refunds faster. And taxpayer information is updated more quickly, which translates into better customer service, including the handling of potential identity theft.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour




The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and U.S. intelligence agencies have started work on an enterprise IT strategy that promises vastly improved capabilities at significantly lower costs.

The five-year plan aims to replace IT silos with centrally managed platforms and services in areas such as desktops, servers, storage, and networks. Rather than outsource the work to a government contractor, ODNI has asked five intelligence agencies--the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Security Agency--to function as service providers to the 17 organizations that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

The strategy will use data tagging for fine-grained information access and cloud computing for more efficient data processing and storage. If IT centralization works as planned, the IC could shave 25% from its IT budget.

Credit: ODNI

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


The White House's IT Shared Services Strategy, introduced by federal CIO Steven VanRoekel in May, seeks to reduce duplicative IT systems and services by consolidating on shared platforms. The strategy is simple in concept but far-reaching in its implications.

Under the plan, the Federal CIO Council will create an online catalog of IT services that are approved for sharing across agencies. The services will be established by organizations designated as "managing partners," which are also responsible for maintaining contracts with agencies that consume the services. OMB wants federal IT teams to think "shared first" for new requirements.

With its heavy emphasis on commodity technologies, the Shared Services Strategy's innovations are more latent than realized. But a key goal is to free up funding for areas of government "where innovation is needed." If the strategy works, innovation should flourish.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has a lot of ground to cover--4,200 square miles, to be precise. Until recently, gathering data to support its far-flung operations happened piecemeal.

Earlier this year, it rolled out a data integration platform, called SDFusion, that pulls in data from a dozen databases, including FBI and Department of Motor Vehicles records, arrest warrants, and restraining orders. The system, based on Microsoft's BizTalk Server, provides data on any person who has had contact with the department and also draws on public records.

A mobile version of SDFusion extends those capabilities to data terminals in officers' cars, as well as to their smartphones and tablets.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


The city of Chicago's open government initiatives are notable in their own right, but even more so when combined with the efforts of county and state government. Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois are collaborating on a website that serves as a one-stop shop for government data from the region.

The site, at metrochicagodata.org, hosts more than 1,200 data sets in categories such as public safety, health, education, transportation, taxes, and property. Some of the most popular data sets on the site, which is hosted by Socrata, include the names and salaries of city employees in Chicago, a map of crimes in the city, and a guide to police stations.

Last fall, the three governments (along with the MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, Motorola, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning) held a contest, called Apps for Metro Chicago, to encourage developers to build apps that incorporate the data. The contest resulted in more than 50 new mobile and Web apps, including one that lets people rent out their parking spaces and another that locates recycling locations.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


It was inevitable that the open government phenomenon and the mobile device boom would converge, and San Francisco shows how that combination can lead to better public engagement.

The city is making government information and services available, streaming audio and video of legislative meetings, and extending its social media presence to the city's on-the-go citizenry.

It has created a framework for developing mobile apps that's device-agnostic--not surprising as both iOS developer Apple and Android developer Google are based in the area. The city has also established a device-neutral mobile center on its website, at sfgov.org/mobile.

The mobile technologies provide fast and easy access to municipal services such as a 311 customer service center at relatively low cost, according to city officials. They say the initiative is the first in a series that will "redefine" how people interact with local government.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


With 500,000 citizens, and their cars, squeezed within city boundaries of only 8 square miles, Santa Monica is taking steps to avoid a daily traffic snarl.

The city has deployed an Advanced Traffic Management System, including traffic signal controllers and cameras, to remotely monitor and manage traffic in real time. Ambulances and other public safety vehicles, equipped with transponders, automatically trigger green lights as they rush along major throughways. Buses will get those privileges next, to help them stay on schedule.

The city's parking lots are monitored, and opened or closed as necessary, while electronic signs show drivers the number of available spaces. A website, at parkingspacenow.smgov.net, shows parking availability at local lots.

Wi-Fi-equipped parking meters accept payments from credit cards and cellphones. And if drivers get a parking ticket, those can be paid via mobile device, too.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour


New York City agencies are getting improved IT security at lower cost in the form of a municipal "security cloud" that brings much-needed capabilities and increased threat awareness.

The city's Department of IT and Telecommunications struck a five-year enterprise license agreement with McAfee that goes beyond antivirus and firewall protection to include encryption, application white-listing, vulnerability management, change control, and mobile device management, implemented in the city's data centers, like the one pictured above. The deal will save the city an estimated $18 million compared with its previous costs. McAfee already manages security services for workstations and servers at 50 city agencies, giving the department, for the first time, visibility into the security status of most city agencies and access to threat analysis capabilities.

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

RECOMMENDED READING

Complete IW 500 coverage and resources

IW 500: Innovators and Rulebreakers

Top 10 Healthcare IT Innovators For 2012

IW 500: 20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2012)

20 Innovative IT Ideas To Steal (2011)

20 Great Ideas To Steal (2010)

Android Smartphones To Power NASA Satellites

USDA Expands Mobile Efforts

DARPA Seeks 'Plan X' Cyber Warfare Tools

NYPD, Microsoft Push Big Data Policing Into Spotlight

NASA Curiosity Visual Tour: Mars, Revealed

10 Handy Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam

Military Transformers: 20 Innovative Defense Technologies

U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour

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