Critics of the Diebold touch-screen voting machines turned their attention Wednesday from the machines themselves to the computers that will tally the final vote, saying the outcome is so easy to manipulate that even a monkey could do it.And they showed video of a monkey hacking the system to prove it.
December 18, 2003
PowerPoint: Tool for Obfuscation
If you are an information professional, you’ve likely already read your share of articles decry that Microsoft’s PowerPoint software makes you dumb. Now, PowerPoint is being blamed for the Columbia Space Shuttle accident. As much as I’m not a fan of the software, I’d say such a charge is going perhaps a tad too far. The problem isn’t PowerPoint, but that people are confusing its ability to deliver high-end information quickly and easily with some ability to deliver in-depth information as quickly and effectively. It pains me to think that government decision-makers would rely on information presented in PowerPoint slides, and PowerPoint slides alone, to guide the fate of nations, much less space craft.
December 04, 2003
Electronic Voting Directives
California, probably the most forward thinking state in terms of eVoting initiatives, are working out the kinks of their current system. The Seretary of State’s office has recently released an Report from their Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force.
Nothing especially earth shattering in the report, though the directive that all touch screen voting systems must include an accessible voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a step in the right direction, and should qualm many fears about the possibility for funny business with eVoting.
November 20, 2003
Internet pay phones
The first batch of outdoor Internet pay phones debuted in New York City earlier this week. The phones allow users to make voice calls at the usual rates, but also provides high speed internet access at 25 cents per minute. People can check email, visit websites, though pornography is blocked (it’d be interesting to learn what filtering method they use), and even send digital photos via the built in webcam for an additional charge.
What makes this news relevant here is that (although it wasn’t mentioned in the article) access to the City’s website is available for FREE through these terminals. There are hardly enough of these terminals to significantly bridge any digital divide. Imagine stopping into one of these phones to check traffic conditions, pay parking tickets immediately after receiving them, always be able to locate the nearest subway station, or any number of other services available on the City’s website.
June 16, 2003
An hour long discussion of
An hour long discussion of Natural language processing and FirstGov from the National Public Radio station at American University. Guests on the show include the CTO from the General Services Administration and the Vice President of the Council for Excellence in Government.
Haven’t gotten to listen to the whole thing yet (on dial-up from home, yes it is very 1998), but what I have heard of it is very interesting and definitely worth a listen. (via the resource shelf)
May 20, 2003
Promise of Open Source
I’ve seen a lot or talk about the use of open source software in the public sector. It sort of seems like a gimme to me – open source software is free or inexpensive, usually results in increased security, provides more extensibility, and avoids the market dominance issue by allowing government to do business without complete reliance on Microsoft.
Here is a good resource from Gartner research, which provides an overview of open source iniatiatives in the US and internationally, and provides many links to internal and external sources for more information.
April 29, 2003
It is staggering to hear,
It is staggering to hear, but US portal FirstGov does not currently use a Content Management System (CMS). Each page on the site is hand-coded, but not for much longer. the General Services Administration recently signed a half million dollar contract for use of Vignette’s CMS software.
To illustrate why a CMS is so important, here is a quote from M.J. Jameson, s GSA associate administrator:
“When the Columbia shuttle tragedy happened, we took 24 hours to get up what we needed to get up,” Jameson said. “If we had had this content management system, the people who do that for FirstGov could have done it from home within 20 minutes.”
Not only do CMSs save time and money, they allow the technically illititerate to update without calling in tech support, the dynamic generation of content, and easier changes to design/site architecture. I’m really shocked they would still be hand-coding.
The license is governmentwide, which is also pretty amazing. Any government agency that is still hand-coding is wasting money, and should be strongly encouraged to make the move to Vignette as soon as possible (not that I have any pull in that regard).
April 25, 2003
The UK is preparing to
The UK is preparing to enact nation-wide eVoting by 2006. Toward that goal, they’ll be offering 17 pilot eVoting schemes include Digital TV, wireless text messaging, touch-tome telephone, internet, and kiosks. All in all, the government will be testing more than 40 different voting methods, with the opportunity for 1.4 people to participate in the pilot programs for the upcomming May elections.