Governor Signs New California Booster Seat Law October 4th

Governor Brown just signed a brand-new booster seat law that becomes effective January 1, 2012. Existing law requires a child under 6 years of age who weighs less than 60 pounds to be secured in a rear seat in a child passenger restraint system that meets specified federal standards, but allows the child to ride in the front seat if properly secured in a child passenger restraint system that meets specified federal standards, underspecified circumstances, including riding in taxis among, and if all rear seats are already occupied by children under 12 years of age.

This new bill prohibits a parent, legal guardian, or driver from transporting on a highway in a motor vehicle, any child under 8 years old without securing that child in an appropriate child passenger restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. The new bill imposes fines and penalties for violations… Continue reading on Examiner.com

New York City Completes Major 911 System Overhaul

New York City officials announced last week the completion of a major 911 system overhaul — the first major communications integration within the “cellphone era,” according to city officials.

For the first time in New York City’s history, officials said, the 911 emergency call takers from the NYC police and fire departments and the Emergency Medical Dispatch services are now all located on the same floor of the Public Safety Answering Center in Brooklyn and are operating on the same technology.

The system is capable of handling 50,000 calls per hour — more than nine times the peak hourly call volume that took place on 9/11 and more than 40 times than the average daily call volume. New York City receives more than 11 million 911 calls each year… Read the complete and original post at www.GovTech.com

Working: Days can be endless when you are an independent contractor

Rina Shah says she loves being able to chart her own course and set her own goals, and doesn’t mind working long hours, often seven days a week. She’s been on that work-every -day approach since February, when she founded her political consulting firm Rilax Strategies.

Jaclyn Schiff just started full-time freelancing as a journalist and social media consultant in May. She hopes to pare her schedule of 60-plus hours a week, though she likes the latitude of working into the night. “As daylight goes and things get dark, I get more creative,” she said… To read more about independent contractors and freelancers go to http://www.washingtonpost.com

President Obama’s message on Iraq

This post was found at http://barackobama.tumblr.com/ 

Early this morning, the last of our troops left Iraq.

As we honor and reflect on the sacrifices that millions of men and women made for this war, I wanted to make sure you heard the news.

Bringing this war to a responsible end was a cause that sparked many Americans to get involved in the political process for the first time. Today’s outcome is a reminder that we all have a stake in our country’s future, and a say in the direction we choose.

Thank you.

Barack

GovBytes: Should Government Regulate Employees' Personal Social Media Use?

Posted by Alicia Mazzara

Government employees know that they have to be careful about what they say when blogging, Tweeting, or posting on Facebook in an official capacity. But what about on your own time? According to Government Technology, officials in Kent County, Delaware recently tried to bar employees from posting negative comments about their job on social media websites. The catch is that this policy doesn’t just cover working hours: it limits what employees can post online, even when they’re not at work

Social Media Usage Becoming a Free Speech Question for Governments

The county’s Levy Court — the equivalent of a county council — has an existing rule that bars employees from using government equipment for personal social media activity at work. But a recent proposal would extend that ban to include activity during non-work times, specifically as it relates to commentary that disparages co-workers or reflects unfavorably toward the county government.

Local media in Kent County are up in arms over the matter.

“You can’t criticize county government decisions on your own time?” questioned a May 6 editorial on delawareonline.com. “This is a proposal that requires considerable rethinking. Kent County should stick with workplace rules.”

The outcry has been strong enough that officials have tabled the policy for the moment. However, this raises bigger questions about the intersection between private/public life, social media, and free speech. Is venting about a bad day at work on a personal Twitter account any different from saying those same remarks to some friends at happy hour? I suspect that agencies are more worried about disparaging online remarks because they may reach more people, and once it’s out there, there’s a permanent record of it. In addition to limiting employee free speech, this policy also seems incredibly difficult to enforce. Posting that your boss sucks is definitely a violation, but what about complaining that the copier is jammed again?

Even without such a policy, the article also points out that it’s increasingly difficult to separate out public and private roles in the workplace. While one of my employers had a rule against Googling or Facebooking job candidates lest it bias us, other employers do this as a matter of course. Like it or not, it is growing increasingly difficult to create a clear separation between work and personal life.

What do you think? Can or should government try to regulate an employee’s online behavior outside of working hours?

Industry Perspective: 6 Steps for Communicating the Value of Technology

Being the chief of information, as in chief information officer, means you’re responsible for the flow of knowledge between people in your organization. CIOs often are described as not much more than technocrats who are wrapped up only in the procurement and implementation of new technologies. Too often, those within their agency (and sometimes even CIOs themselves) don’t realize the true strategic value their office delivers. It’s about a lot more than fixing BlackBerrys — CIOs facilitate agencywide collaboration and efficiency that furthers the government’s mission. The key to CIOs being more to their organization than just the head IT officer is to communicate their value.

1. Be the chief of information.

CIOs already do a good job of managing enterprise-level technology adoption and policymaking that meet strict requirements. But have you considered going above and beyond the traditional role of a CIO? Consider this: What if you were truly the chief of information, sharing openly with subordinate groups about organizational plans and objectives? Those who work for you, or groups that depend on your office, may not truly realize how valuable the work your office does is for them unless you make that information readily available. Don’t neglect telling your story to others in the organization. The messages should drive your overall strategy as a CIO — ensure that each time you communicate, it’s filled with purpose.


Eva Neumann is founder and president of ENC Marketing & Communications

You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to
Eva Neumann, (August 12, 2011 ) Government Technology, http://www.govtech.com/featured/Industry-Perspective-6-Steps-Communicating-Value-Technology.html?page=2, 2011

Texas Airport Uses Bluetooth Checkpoints to Monitor Customer Experience

Remember when Bluetooth technology was only used to transmit your phone call from your mobile phone to a headset or sharing ring tones and contact information? Then computer accessories… mice, keyboards, speakers and finally a Bluetooth wireless printer. Now an airport in Texas is monitoring their customers when getting from point “A” to point “B” using Bluetooth check points through out the airport, trying to get a gauge of where the hold ups are. And all in the name of customer satisfaction! Don’t you love it… no more wasteful man power watching hours of video or waiting for the customers feedback analyst to return. (IAH) George Bush Intercontinental Airport has become proactive in ensuring a positive customer experience.

Digital Cameras and Bluetooth Ease Travel Through Houston Airports

May 31, 2011 By Hilton Collins

Cameras in airports give control room operators a good handle on all airport activity — long security lines, busy check-in counters and terminal waiting areas included. These cameras are typically used for security purposes. But in Houston, city airport officials are taking an even closer look at understanding airport activity through a customer service perspective — and standard surveillance cameras may not be enough.

“Certainly we use cameras all over the airport for security purposes, but there are some implications that are a little more related to customer service where we are looking to get data collected about what’s happening within our facilities and on our roadways,” said Lisa Kent, CIO of the Houston Airport System (HAS), which represents Houston’s three airports: George Bush Intercontinental, William P. Hobby and Ellington. Last year, HAS partnered with Purdue University to conduct a unique study: The two entities used Bluetooth technology to track the nearly 50 million people who passed through Houston’s airports. Officials hope the study’s results, which are also of interest to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), will ultimately improve customer service and the general airport experience.

A Detailed View

In a Bluetooth environment, data is transmitted over short distances between fixed or mobile devices. In Houston, the technology will reveal whether construction was causing traffic backups, or if passengers were delayed from leaving parking garages because payment transactions took too long. The TSA wants data on how long customers wait in line before going through security checkpoints. After passengers are through security, Kent wonders where they go next. “Do they spend much time in the concession areas? Do they go straight to the gate hold room and stay there?” she asked.

 The Bluetooth study, she said, was a way to track the transit time for people carrying Bluetooth-enabled devices that are in discoverable mode, and to measure that transit time between point A and point B.

The project went live inside Bush Intercontinental’s terminal and on the roadway and parking garage. HAS officials analyzed customer activity by tracking people’s movements between those points. “That helps us plan for a better customer experience so that people are happy while they’re in our facility,” Kent said. Bluetooth antennas with sensors were installed in various areas and captured discoverable unique serial numbers. The numbers, called media access control (MAC) addresses, are emitted by phones, iPads, phone earbuds or other Bluetooth-enabled devices. The sensors captured a person’s MAC address as he or she passed by, and then successive sensors also captured it as the person continued on his or her way. Long-range sensors detected movement on roadways, and short-range sensors detected movement inside the building. The pilot also incorporated GPS technology.

In total, nine sensors were deployed, including one on each roadway coming into the airport, in the garages, at the two terminal entrances, at the ticket lobby, in the north and south concourses, and near airport checkpoints.

“We were trying to demonstrate that not only were we capturing the wait time through the checkpoint, but then how long it took the passenger to get through the checkpoint and actually out to one of the gate concourses,” said Project Manager Darryl Daniel.  

There’s bound to be worry about privacy and anonymity with a project that tracks people’s movements. But according to Kent, there’s no reason for concern. “We truncate that MAC address, so even if I had the full MAC addresses, there isn’t a way for me to associate that address with your cell phone number,” she said, “and certainly not with your name.”

The technology was used to calculate passenger transit time from sensor to sensor. The data wasn’t transmitted in real time during the pilot, but that’s something HAS would shoot for in a permanent deployment, along with ways to involve security cameras.  “We are looking at camera locations to give us views of things like those queues so that, in a future phase, when we do see that wait time is increasing, we can actually look at the queue to determine if there is a problem [there],” Daniel said.

HAS considered using video analytics for the customer wait-time analysis, but Bluetooth was cheaper and easier, Kent said. Airport lines can be fluid and unpredictable, making it tough to rely solely on camera technology without backup for deep study.

With the pilot completed in September, airport system officials have a better understanding of how to approach a permanent deployment. Neither Kent nor Daniel specified when that would happen, but they offered details on how data from a long-term project could be applied. Customer preferences, for example, may become more obvious. “If we have certain concessions in an area that passengers are just walking right past, they’re not even dwelling to look, it helps us make decisions from a commercial standpoint about what we should consider changing,” Kent said.

They would also have a better understanding of where sensors should be located. During the study, some sensors were too close together or long range when they should’ve been short range and vice versa.

HAS also must work with the federal government on interpreting and applying the data. “If you’re comparing information about how many people went through at the same time [that] you’re measuring wait time, you’re getting feedback from your partners like the TSA about how many lanes were open at that point,” Kent said.

A History of Change

A partnership with the TSA could benefit HAS airport personnel. Kent said the TSA could handle operational deficiencies at terminals, and information gleaned from the Bluetooth pilot could tell them how.

But airport officials aren’t relying on that project alone to strengthen the alliance. HAS is also working with the TSA on an advanced surveillance program so the federal government can learn how much and what type of technology it would need to enhance airport security. The Aviation Safety Program allows the TSA to fund a portion of the camera system and recording capabilities for that project and, in exchange, TSA workers view the camera feeds.

“In general terms, we are deploying newer camera technologies, some additional storage capabilities, and additional viewing and monitoring capabilities that enable us to do a better job of monitoring more and more cameras,” Kent said.

Video surveillance has been in place in HAS’ system for as long as Kent and Daniel can remember, but technical migrations have happened over time. The cameras at Bush and Hobby, for example, were analog, but staff incorporated digital functionality from 2006 to 2009. And more digital units are on the way. “We are just now starting to design and deploy pure IP digital cameras,” Daniel said. They include high-definition and megapixel units. “It’s an ongoing migration, and you’ll see that in every industry with their surveillance technology.”

Today the camera hardware environment is a conglomerate of units from different vendors (Kent and Daniel couldn’t divulge which for security reasons) and they’re supported by Honeywell software. Kent added that HAS is committed to routine technology refreshing, which keeps security updated and enhances efficiency. She admits that the surveillance technology in the terminals isn’t as sophisticated as what’s in most casinos, but she’s happy with it so far. And according to Daniel, most units are built to last. “The life cycles of the cameras are pretty robust,” he said.

 

You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to
http://www.govtech.com/transportation/Digital-Cameras-Bluetooth-Houston-Airports.html

How data and open government are transforming NYC

"In God We Trust," tweetedNew York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg this month. “Everyone else, bring data.”

Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of Bloomberg L.P., is now in his third term as mayor of the Big Apple. During his tenure, New York City has embraced a more data-driven approach to governing, even when the results of that data-driven transparency show a slump in city services.

This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the mission statement of his financial data company:

Bloomberg started out with one core belief: that bringing transparency to capital markets through access to information could increase capital flows, produce economic growth and jobs, and significantly reduce the cost of doing business

To reshape that mission statement for New York City, one might reasonably suggest that Bloomberg’s data-driven approach to government is founded upon that belief that bringing transparency to government through access to information could increase capital flows, produce economic growth and jobs, and significantly reduce the cost of the business of government… Read the complete and original post at http://radar.oreilly.com

State of Georgia Making the Move to Drupal Using OpenPublic

Jeff:

What a year for Drupal in government! After several major launches for Drupal at the Federal level from the U.S. House of Representatives, FCC.gov, and Energy.gov, I am very pleased to announce that the Georgia Technology Authority will be migrating from the commercial CMS Vignette to OpenPublic, the Drupal distribution our team developed and open sourced for use in the public sector.

It is exhilarating to see that state governments are now making the switch from proprietary platforms to open source solutions like Drupal. The Georgia Technology Authority administers the systems that manage content for Georgia.gov and 65 state agency websites. Phase2 will head up the effort with Acquia and Mediacurrent as our partners in this work. Mediacurrent is based in Georgia and Phase2 has a satellite presence in the state so this is an especially exciting project for us… The complete and original post can be found at Agileapproach.com

About Jeff

CEO and co-founder Jeff Walpole leads strategy and firm development efforts for Phase2. Jeff has been instrumental in recruiting and managing staff, the acquisition of new clients, overseeing client engagements and leading process improvement …

more >

Read Jeff’s Blog

10 Trends In My Communication Life for FY11

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For government professionals, the start of the fiscal year (October 1) signals the start of professional evaluation for the year that came before. As I wrote up my work for the year it seemed like it might be useful to categorize projects in terms of their significance, and then go up a level and analyze some trends they seemed to point to.

I am not sure that all of this represents trending - some of it is just my workstyle, is unique to my professional life, etc. - or whether it’s about government communication or communication in general. Either way, in case it has broader applicability, here you go:

1. Integrating communications solutions across the board: It’s been a year of getting a single message across using new media and traditional media, creative but consistent branding, and synthesized external and internal messaging… Read the complete and original post on the “10 Trends In My Communication Life for FY11” at www.GovLoop.com

Communications is not a swear word

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Imagine this.

You work for a Council. You’re on the periphery of a few services, have a job which needs you to learn very quickly how a number of sub sets of services work to see if they’re using digital in the most appropriate and cost effective way for them and more importantly their residents and you have a few years background in one particular area which you loved and truth be told, still occasionally miss a teeny tiny bit.

You’re not part of Communications in the traditional sense in that you’re digital. But you sit next to Communications in an open plan office. You hear the ebb and flow and you occasionally join in with interesting conversations because these days you’re less about not disturbing Research behind you and more about random 2 minute bouts of silliness to get it all out of your system so you can get your head down and concentrate properly for the next 2 hours.

You learn some things, sat in that position. You hear some things too, but this is not what this post is about and it is not my place to talk about those things. Instead, I’d like to explain some harsh realities to those of you who think that ‘traditional’ communications, a phrase somehow always read by me with a sneering tone to it, is a thing of the past, irrelevant, of no standing in the conversation… Read the complete post at www.GovLoop.com

25 ways to use Facebook, Twitter & Storify to improve political coverage

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Social media has become a powerful tool for journalists covering elections. It’s given journalists a way to see how politicians and campaign staffers are interacting with voters and sharing news. And it’s helped them find local voters and get a better sense of what their audience wants in election coverage.

As the Republican primary season intensifies, here are 25 tips on how journalists can use Facebook, Twitter, Storify, Google, LinkedIn and other tools to improve coverage leading up to — and on — Election Day.

Facebook
  • See how politicians are targeting local voters. In preparation for the Republican straw poll in Iowa, Michele Bachmann’s campaign staffers launched an ad campaign that targeted local Facebook users who had identified themselves as Christian rock fans and Tea Party supporters. Other politicians, including Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, have also put Facebook at the center of their campaign strategies. What’s the effect of these messages? Are supporters responding to them?
  • See what local voters, Tea Party activists, Occupy Wall Street protesters, etc. are saying about politicians. Use Facebook Search to see what they’re saying and how they’re reacting to new political developments, debates and polls.
  • Gauge how open/accessible politicians are. Republican State Rep. Justin Amashwas one of the first legislators to post all of his votes on his Facebook Fan Page. What does this level of transparency say about a politicians’ willingness to be open with voters… Read more on "25 ways to use Facebook, Twitter & Storify to improve political coverage" at www.poynter.org
Geotags Replacing ZIP Codes?

GIS: Geotags Replacing ZIP Codes, Census Tracts for Analyses

June 3, 2011 By Steve DuScheid

Editor’s Note: Steve DuScheid is marketing director of Maponics, a developer of polygonal map data, such as neighborhood boundaries, ZIP codes and school attendance zones.

Every year, federal and state government agencies collect, analyze and publish an enormous amount of data — directly and through grants to universities and foundations. Researchers and policymakers often segment this data by geographic area to compare regions, analyze trends and draw conclusions. One challenge to effectively grouping data by geography is finding the right level of granularity suited to answering particular questions. Too often, researchers simply use what’s readily available or must be satisfied with the level of geography inherent in the processes or organizations used to collect it.

Some common geographic entities used to segment and analyze data include: county, ZIP code and U.S. Census Bureau geography (i.e., block groups).

While there are real benefits to using these defined areas — including wide availability, broad geographic coverage, and the ability to link and compare multiple data sets — none of them truly reflect social and cultural boundaries at the local level. Therefore, they may not answer fundamental research questions or address key factors for policy decisions. ZIP codes and similar entities were defined to facilitate and administer government operations and services — and while some may take into account population characteristics — their borders aren’t meaningful to local citizens.

Standard geographic entities will always be important in how researchers analyze data and how policymakers draw conclusions. But with the availability of new geographic data sets and the growing volume of geotagged data, it’s now possible for researchers to consider questions in new ways that align data to the geographic areas most relevant to answering them.

The Old Standbys

Below are some of pros and cons of using the standard geographic entities in research and some alternatives that offer new ways to look at data.

County. There are many data sets collected and managed at the county level and made available to federal, state and local government agencies. There are many reasons for this — not least of which is the established infrastructure in place within county governments. Also, data at the county level is manageable to work with because there are only about 3,100 counties in the U.S. But counties are far too large (averaging more than 3,000 square miles) and too varied in population (from as few as 45 to as many as 9 million people) to get at many local socio-economic questions. Population groups within counties are often too diverse for researchers to characterize behaviors or outcomes.

ZIP code.
Zone Improvement Plan codes were created by the U.S. Post Office Department in 1963 to improve mail delivery service. ZIP Codes are defined and made up of carrier routes, also designed to optimize mail delivery. Researchers are drawn to ZIP Codes for obvious reasons—they are essentially ubiquitous in databases and they can be easily linked to households and related demographics.

Because ZIP codes were so prevalent for data collection and aggregation, beginning with the 2000 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau compiled and released a new set of geographic areas called ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) intended to align census-tabulated data to ZIP code areas.

While ZIP codes and ZCTAs are generally easy to use, the geographic areas that they represent are a function of process — not people. Other than knowing a ZIP code to address a piece of mail, people don’t use or relate to them and certainly don’t place any cultural significance on their boundaries.

Census. The primary way researchers organize and analyze data is by the geographic entities defined by the Census. This is because when it comes to demographics, almost all data — whether published directly by the Census or by private companies — originates from the core decennial Census dataset. In terms of small-area analysis, the following Census geographic entities are often used (along with the number of each entity as of the 2010 Census): blocks (11.1 million), block groups (220,000) and census tracts (65,000).

Census geography was developed primarily to facilitate, execute and tabulate the decennial census. As a result, it not only covers the entire U.S. and its territories but also is organized into a clean hierarchy, with larger areas (e.g., counties) composed of a set of smaller areas (census tracts). The Census boundaries also largely obey administrative entities, ensuring, for instance, that block groups don’t cross county lines. And while Census entities are designed to be relatively homogeneous with respect to their population characteristics, they are still derived through an administrative process and are not determined organically by the people who live in them. As a result, analysis performed strictly by these geographic units is limited in terms of how well it represents populations segmented according to locally defined boundaries.
  

Alternatives to Common Geographic Entities

When examining cultural and social trends at the local level, neighborhoods are typically the geographic areas that best reflect how local residents think about the places where they live, work and play. People don’t think about the area around them in terms of ZIP Codes or census tracts — in fact, very few people have any idea where these begin and end in the area immediately surrounding their homes and communities. But people can almost certainly identify and describe their neighborhood as well as the surrounding ones. This is, of course, because neighborhoods are social constructs that reflect the history, values and culture of the people who live in them.

In fact, research often cites statistics, characteristics and trends by neighborhood. But in reality, the delimiter used is almost always some kind of neighborhood surrogate, like a census tract. When true neighborhood boundaries are overlaid onto census tracts for the same area, it’s clear that there is far from a one-to-one correlation.

So, for researchers to adjust U.S. Census geography to conform to areas local citizens identify with, they would need to manually aggregate block groups or census tracts together to align with what people on the ground would consider true neighborhood boundaries. In other cases, census tracts would have to be split to accurately reflect true neighborhood boundaries. For research purposes, neighborhood boundaries would need to be determined and then redrawn. This may be possible at a very small scale but is generally not feasible for larger geographic areas due to the time and expertise needed. At the very least, researchers would need to somehow translate tract numbers to neighborhood names — no trivial task. It isn’t generally meaningful when illustrating a point to say something like, “… as we can see from the results in census tracts 36061006300 and 36061005600 …”

An argument can be made that in small areas, there won’t be a significant statistical difference between using census tracts or block groups compared to true neighborhoods. But it really depends on the area of study. And in many instances, alternate geography can be used to augment traditional methods. After all, looking at intractable problems and policy questions in new ways is the only way to come up with new solutions and ideas.

So how can data be tagged, aggregated and analyzed by neighborhood?

Nationwide Neighborhood Boundaries Data Set. In recent years, geographic data sets have been developed to map tens of thousands of neighborhoods across the U.S. and abroad. Neighborhoods are informal in nature and don’t necessarily follow administrative boundaries or physical features. And while not all local citizens would agree on the exact borders for any given neighborhood, multiple sources can be used to represent a consensus view of the boundaries.

Other Alternate Geography for Small Area Analysis. In addition to neighborhood data sets, there are other alternatives. While neighborhoods are a recognized geographic unit in urban areas, other spaces are important across the suburban landscape. In terms of residential real estate, much of the development in the U.S. during the last half century has been organized around subdivisions — which can include everything from a few homes within a gated community to a development with hundreds of properties. Attributes tied to subdivisions impact everything from quality of life to housing values.

A common research topic is education. Whether stratifying a sample by education level or examining the impact of funding levels on student performance, the relationship between numerous variables and education can be significant. In terms of geography, when looking at the public education system, researchers can use school district boundaries from the U.S. Census. But school districts often cover large areas (nearly 300 square miles on average) and have heterogeneous populations — which can make drawing conclusions about data aggregated by school district difficult.

An alternative geographic entity — and one that is significant for many research questions — are the areas that define which households attend specific public schools. These attendance zones, or catchment areas, have only been available from local school authorities until recently. But there is now detailed attendance zone data available for schools covering more than 70 percent of the U.S. student population.

How Can Alternate Geography Be Used in Research

There are two primary approaches to conducting analysis based on the alternate geographic entities discussed above. Direct methods simply add attributes to data records to assign the proper geographic entity and indirect methods perform some type of translation of data organized by standard entities to alternatives.

Direct. For studies that include source data collection (versus using pre-existing data sets), researchers can simply tag data points with the appropriate alternate geography as it’s collected. Also, any data that can be geocoded (basically, data with an address or even just ZIP code) or that is already geotagged (has latitude/longitude associated with it) can be related directly to any type of geographic entity — including the alternate areas discussed previously. For example, using the address of a set of health clinics can be geocoded and once the latitude/longitude is determined, the set’s location can be resolved to the boundary it falls within. With the proliferation of GPS-enabled devices, there is now a massive amount of geotagged data available. Everything from point-of-sale data to individual tweets are tagged with a lat/lon attribute and can be resolved to and then analyzed by virtually any geographic entity.

Indirect. In many cases, researchers must combine one or more pre-existing data sets or join collected data to demographics and other statistics that are only available in standard Census geographic areas. In these cases, it’s often still possible to use a variety of statistical and spatial processing methods to transpose data from Census areas to alternatives that are more meaningful for evaluation. For example, if basic demographics are needed as part of data analysis and the data is only available by block group, this data can be transposed to neighborhood areas using several techniques. One approach would be to take the geographic center-point (i.e., centroid) of the block groups and determine which neighborhoods they fall within and aggregate the data accordingly. Or, if more precision is required, the overlay of two sets of geographic entities can be calculated to assign demographic values based on overlay proportions.


Use Cases for Alternate Geographic Entities

There are so many ways that alternate geography can be applied to answer interesting research questions and address policy and funding decisions. Even if only a subset of the data in a given study is examined in new ways — it may provide new insights into age-old questions. Here are several examples of how research or policy decisions might be improved by looking at data in a new way.

Health Policy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track the spread of infectious diseases. Geography is an important element given the nature of how infections spread among populations. In many ways, proximity is the key determinant in looking at concentrations and movement of contagions. Proximity is an easy variable to consider in analysis. A simple radius approach can be used to draw virtual perimeters around infection clusters.

Of course, proximity is a function of social ties and tendencies — and neighborhoods represent a unit of geography that reflects social groupings. In this way, neighborhoods are natural population boundaries that can be useful in looking at how diseases spread. Since school-age children are also a key factor in the spread of infections, another geographic entity that can be used by epidemiologists is the school attendance zone. Adding a geographic layer that shows the exact households from which children attend public school can provide meaningful data that allow health-care professionals to understand trends at a deeper level and take corrective action more quickly.

Consumer Lending. In 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was passed to help ensure banks offered services and credit in all areas — including low-income regions. The CRA created a set of self-reporting requirements for banks to demonstrate compliance. Because the CRA is tied directly to geographic areas and socioeconomic data, it makes sense that regulators would dictate that banks use Census geographic units as a way to group data in compliance reporting. While true neighborhoods can’t necessarily be substituted for census tracts in regulatory reporting, they can provide an interesting way to examine trends and contrast data sets. This kind of analysis is useful for governing bodies and the financial institutions themselves. Imagine if financial products and services could be tailored and marketed based on the population characteristics and preferences of true neighborhood areas. This type of target marketing can take advantage of the social connections inherent in locally defined spaces.

Crime. Every year, thousands of studies are conducted that examine crime in the U.S. America incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any nation. And crime is linked to many
other socio-economic variables. There is a growing trend to tag crime incidents with location data. Local communities are using this data to display crime statistics in interactive Web maps and to make citizens more aware. In large urban areas, there is so much data that showing individual incidents is overwhelming and as a result, metro areas must be divided into areas with statistics summarized for each. What better way to segment and present data than terms that local residents would use — neighborhoods. Similarly for research conducted at the national, regional or metro level, slicing and dicing crime statistics by neighborhood offers a great way to align results to the geographic entities that reflect local cultural distinctions and norms.

You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to
http://www.govtech.com/geospatial/GIS-Geotags-Replacing-ZIP-Codes-Census-Tracts.html



Best App Ideas Named in New York City Contest

Giving New York City residents the ability to “like” or rate a street or block in a given borough and aggregating bike accident data to make safer bike routes were among the top 10 winning ideas chosen for NYC BigApps Ideas Challenge announced Wednesday, Aug. 10.

The competition, which started in late June…

You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to
http://www.govtech.com/e-government/Best-Apps-Ideas-Named-in-New-York-City-Contest.html, August 11, 2011 By Sarah Rich

7 Consumer Websites that Should Inspire Government Solutions

There once was a time when the best technology existed in government. You could not afford a computer at home but you had one at work. And if you owned a computer, you had dial-up at home but fast Internet at your government job.

Consumer technology has advanced so fast that sometimes I look at the tools we have in government and am amazed at how far behind they are compared to what we use in our daily personal lives.

It’s easy to sit and complain, so instead I thought I’d list seven websites that I believe government could model to solve core mission problems:

Zipcar — I love Zipcar. When I lived in D.C., I didn’t own a car so I used Zipcar to reserve a vehicle for an hour or two when I had to run errands. It was much cheaper, environmentally friendly and convenient. When I observe large government fleets, I wonder why there isn’t a Zipcar for government. Far too often government cars sit around unused and the reservation process is cumbersome. A simple Zipcar for government would make it easy to book a car, save lots of money and maximize fleet usage… Read this complete post at GovTech.com


Geoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica to focus on cause-related work, and released an award-winning book on new media Now is Gone in 2007. Control of the House of Representatives hangs in the balance of the 2010 Congressional election. A recent forecast published on The New York Times website anticipates a two-out-of-three chance for a change in power. The election has become a war, with battles being fought locally and nationally, in person, on the news, and online with social media.

With new media at hand, elections become a time for innovation, and online engagement can lead to enormous influence. We’ve seen this with Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008, and more recently with the British general election. During the last debate between the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Labour party, 154,342 tweets appeared containing various terms from the debate, and coming in at 26.77 tweets per second from 33,095 different people… Read complete article at Mashable.com

Obama Encourages Twitter Users To Ask GOP for #Compromise

As negotiations over raising the U.S. debt ceiling continue, President Barack Obama took to Twitter to express his desire for a compromise between parties. Now, his staff is posting the Twitter handles of the GOP lawmakers in each state, so that Twitter users may voice their opinions to the people in charge.

Earlier Friday, the president tweeted: “The time for putting party first is over. If you want to see a bipartisan #compromise, let Congress know. Call. Email. Tweet. —BO.”

Now, his staff has begun tweeting the handles of lawmakers in each state, asking users: “Tweet your Republican representative and ask them to support a bipartisan solution to the deficit crisis.”

Earlier this week, Obama also urged citizens to contact their representatives. The results of that request took down capitol websites.

We’ll be watching Twitter to see how this story unfolds.

Original and complete post can be found at http://mashable.com

Houston Streamlines Security Alarm Notifications to its 911 Center

Original post can found at govtech.com by Sarah Rich

The Houston Emergency Center (HEC) implemented a new alert system to streamline the receipt of notifications for emergency dispatch from alarm monitoring companies.

The new computer-aided dispatch system, called the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP), eliminates the need for alarm monitoring companies to call the HEC about alarm notifications, according to HEC Director David Cutler.

When a security alarm in a home goes off, the alarm company is notified. At the company, a computer-aided dispatch event is created in the computer system, which directly transmits the alarm notification to police dispatchers. Previously when an alarm monitoring company’s call center received an alert of an alarm, a call taker at the center would call the HEC about the alarm, Cutler said.

“In the past, [alarm company call takers] would pick up the phone and call the police department and wait however many rings it would take to get a hold of a person and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been sitting on the phone for five minutes, but here’s the information,’” Cutler said.

Because the alarm companies that contact the HEC aren’t located in the Houston area, the calls don’t come through on the 911 line, but come through nonemergency lines, which would often delay the time it took for the call to be answered, he said.

ASAP was developed through a partnership between the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and the Association of Public‐Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International. As a result of the ASAP project, Houston is expected to save between $1 million to $2 million annually, according to the HEC.

The HEC is the fourth largest 911 public safety answering point in the nation and the first agency in Texas to implement the ASAP system.

Cutting the phone calls made from the companies to the HEC out of the process reduces miscommunication, Cutler said. In certain incidences, an incorrect address would be given to the HEC over the phone or numbers of an address would get transposed. Since the verbal communication between the alarm companies and the HEC is cut out of the process, first responders will be able to respond to a situation minutes faster than with the previous process.

“Because we are leveraging these call centers to actually be our call takers as opposed to them just passing the word to us and we do what they just did and send it to the dispatchers, they do it for us,” Cutler said.

Earlier this year, the HEC piloted the ASAP system with two alarm monitoring companies that are responsible for 35,000 alarm systems in Houston. Cutler said the two pilot alarm systems make up 10 percent of the HEC’s alarm call events in its computer-aided dispatch system.

But from May 2010 to May 2011, the HEC saw a 13 to 15 percent reduction in call volume to its nonemergency phone lines. Cutler said the reduction rate isn’t entirely attributable to the ASAP system, but nearly 8 to 10 percent of the reduction rate is attributable to the new system — a significant decrease for the HEC’s nearly 2,000 police alarm notifications per week.

According to the HEC’s press release, “Houston’s implementation of ASAP was conducted in concert with the CSAA being approved as an Nlets strategic partner organization. Nlets, the International Justice and Public Safety Network, links the majority of the nation’s 6,500 [public safety answering points] to international, federal and state criminal justice and public safety‐related databases.”

Bill Hobgood, the project coordinator for APCO and project manager for Richmond, Va.’s Department of Information Technology Public Safety Team, said because the CSAA is an approved Nlet strategic partner organization, more alarm companies and 911 call centers will implement ASAP systems in the future.

“When I was working with the people at Houston, they mentioned if Houston does it, others will be sure to follow,” Hobgood said.

Social Media Gets Serious

by: Christopher R Albon

On Friday, a bomb went off at the UN compound in Abuja, Nigeria. In the aftermath, some Nigerians turned to Twitter to request people come forward to donate blood in the city’s hospital. This is not the first time Twitter, originally maligned as a tool for broadcasting what you ate for breakfast, has played a role in events of international significance. Since the Arab Spring started earlier this year, there has been an energetic debate as to what role Twitter — and all social media — played in the pro-democracy movement… Click here to continue to reading

Here it comes: Neighborland

Neighborland is a new ideation crowdsourcing startup that gives citizens a “fun and easy way for residents to suggest new businesses and services that they want in their neighborhood.”

Founded by Candy Chang, Tee Parham and Dan Parham, and funded by the Tulane Social Entrepreneurship program with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, it launched in alpha mode this June in New Orleans.

Co-founder Dan Parham shares his thoughts on the new venture.

What’s the story behind starting Neighborland?

Neighborland started as an off-line art project called ‘I Wish This Was‘ from one of our founders, Candy Chang. ‘I Wish This Was’ received great response from the residents of New Orleans and the press, and we realized there was potential for a new type of civic input tool to collect the same kind of conversation from the city’s residents… The complete and original post can be found at http://govfresh.com