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Archive for the ‘Government/Defense’ Category

New SEC rules could kill most angel investments in the U.S.

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Angel Capital AssociationAn move by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to change rules to make it easier for startup companies to land financing could have exactly the opposite effect. New rules published recently could “effectively kill most angel investment in this country,” according to the Kansas City, MO-based Angel Capital Association.

The rules ending the ban on general solicitation for companies seeking investments from accredited investors eliminates the ability of angel investors to self-certify their status – requiring them instead to provide personal financial information to an issuer or to a third party such an accountant who can verify their status.

For a background piece on these SEC rules see: “The SEC’s Bluff on Lifting the Ban on General Solicitation and Advertising.”

Here’s what Forbes had to say: The SEC’s Removal of General Solicitation Changes Everything.

So-called Safe Harbors in the convoluted SEC rules include allowing the would-be angel investors to provide pay stubs for the two most recent and current years or IRS forms that report income. Currently, the SEC defines an accredited investor as one with annual income over $200,000 ($350, 000 for a married couple) or net worth of more than $1 million excluding a primary residence.

Coming regulations could substantially raise qualifying amounts, the ACA says.

Bernie Dixon, chair of the Atlanta Technology Angels, says of the new rules:

“It is early in the process and many terms of the new ruling are unclear such as “private offering, advertised offering and what defines qualified investor certification. All important because many regulatory actions to date have served to encourage or impel crowdfunding and other advertising of investment offerings.

These new rules appear to add just as much burden as encouragement to entrepreneurs.  I don’t believe the intent of the SEC was to deter this type of early stage funding. At this point the issues require more consideration and less speculation.”

“Angel investors provide the fundamental source of startup capital in our economy,” says Marianne Hudson, executive director of the ACA. “Not a single angel I have spoken with is willing to provide the personal financial information to an issuer who is asking them for an investment. This violation of privacy is untenable, especially to angels who do multiple deals a year.”

“These SEC rules provide no safe harbor for our angel members, which effectively could kill most angel investment in this country,” said David Verrill, board chairman of ACA.

Is this another incidence of government trying to fix something that’s not broken. The situation reminds us of states passing voter restriction laws allegedly aimed at preventing fraud, even though no evidence of voter fraud exists.

 

Not one iota of fraud

“Our member angel groups have decades of history investing in startups while self-certifying their accredited status without one single iota of fraud.  Our process works because angel groups know their members well, and focus on the education and skill needed to do this type of investing well.  Angels do not have to invest in start-ups, but we are almost entirely the only ones who do so – some 90% of outside equity raised by start-ups comes from angel ranks.”

“It would be devastating for the economy if innovative startups that create all net new jobs in the US lose access to this critical capital,” Verrill said. “Congress passed the JOBS Acts as a way for small businesses to access more capital and therefore create more jobs. Unfortunately, these rules appear to do the opposite.”

She warns that “with thousands fewer angels participating in this market, startups will have far less access to capital. The millions of jobs they create every year will disappear and the economy will suffer. This is the exact opposite of Congress’ intent in passing the JOBS Act.”

Further information on ACA recommendations are available in:  ACA December, 2012 letter to the SEC and ACA testimony to a Congressional committee in April, 2013).

 

Americans know they’re tracked and uncomfortable about it

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Big brotherBig Brother – and big business is watching you. Americans know it. But they’re divided on their attitudes toward it. Some “teeter with anxiety,” while others see benefits in personal data collection by businessesj.

New figures from the quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll show that most Americans exhibit a healthy amount of skepticism and resignation about data collection and surveillance, and show varying degrees of trust in institutions to responsibly use their personal information. Recent headlines focusing on government collection of telephone records within the United States may further stoke the underlying worries that the American public has about data privacy.

he 17th quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll investigates American attitudes and opinions on the collection and use of their personal information by various groups and institutions and how “big data” affects their personal privacy.

A full 85 percent of Americans believe their communications history, like phone calls, emails and Internet use, are accessible to the government, businesses, and others. Two in three (66 percent) feel that they have little or no control over the type of information that is collected and used by various groups and organizations. Fifty-nine percent, meanwhile, feel that they are unable to correct inaccurate personal information.

Conducted before disclosure of surveillance programs

The poll – conducted days before the disclosure of top-secret government surveillance programs – also finds that just 48 percent of Americans have “some” or a “great deal” of trust in the government when it comes to the use of their personal data.

Similarly, cell phone and Internet service providers are trusted by just 48 percent of the public. Healthcare providers and employers were seen as the most trustworthy institutions with respect to responsible use of information, with 80 percent of all respondent and 79 percent of employed respondents saying they have “some” or a “great deal” of trust in them, respectively.

The survey finds that Americans are also divided on possible steps to improve national security, with just 10 percent supporting expanded government monitoring of phone and email activities.

Public camera surveillance support

Rather, the public is more likely to favor increased use of camera surveillance of public places, with 44 percent supporting the measure, followed by 16 percent of respondents in favor of “increased censorship of websites and less freedom to access sources on the Internet.” However, a full 42 percent of respondents said they oppose all three options.

With respect to privacy in the future, nine in ten poll respondents said they feel that they have less privacy than previous generations and expect the next generation will be even worse off.

Meanwhile, a clear majority (88 percent) favors a federal policy to require the deletion of online information and nearly four in ten (37 percent) report they have personally experienced fraudulent use of their personal information to make purchases without their consent.

Importantly, a wide majority of Americans (79 percent) believe that IRS scrutiny of the political activities of certain groups is typical and has probably happened under previous administrations.

Benefits vs. drawbacks

When asked to weigh the relative benefits and drawbacks of personal data collection, Americans generally believe the practice has a mostly negative impact. More than half (55 percent) say the collection and use of information is “mostly negative” because the information can be collected and used in a way that can risk personal privacy, peoples’ safety, financial security, and individual liberties.

A minority (38 percent) believe it is “mostly positive” because more information can result in better decisions about how to improve the economy, grow businesses, provide better service, and increase public safety.

 More than two in three Americans believe that the collection and use of their personal information is likely to result in a greater ability to stay in touch with friends and relatives, receive more information about interesting products and services, and result in access to lower prices.

Understandably concerned

privacy“Americans are understandably concerned that the fundamental American right to privacy is no more,” said Marci Kaminsky, senior vice president of public relations for Allstate Insurance Company.

“A majority of Americans aren’t happy or comfortable about the collection and use of their personal information, and they have mixed feelings about whether they can trust that their information is being used responsibly. Protecting privacy and rebuilding trust with Americans will require shared accountability and compromise among the public and private sectors, as well as among individual citizens.”

“This survey found Americans teetering between anticipation and anxiety as they sort through the implications of the brave new world of communications, connectivity, and surveillance,” added Ronald Brownstein, editorial director of Atlantic Media.

Key findings from the 17th Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll follow and are available via PDF. Additional information on the entire polling series can be found at: http://www.theheartlandvoice.com/category/insights.

Key Findings

Americans recognize and expect that a wide array of information about them is being collected by various groups and organizations. And, most feel they have very little control over the collection and use of this information.

  • Eighty-five percent of Americans say it is likely that information about their communications history, like phone calls, emails and internet use is available for businesses, government, individuals, and other groups to access without their consent.
  • A solid majority of Americans believe that information about them is collected and used without their knowledge, most notably by communications providers, financial institutions, the government, and insurance companies.
  • Two in three (66 percent) feel like they have not very much control or no control at all over the type of information about them that is collected and used by businesses, government, individuals, and other groups.
  • Another 59 percent feel that they are unable to fix incorrect information about them or remove unwanted information.
  • There is a near universal acknowledgement among Americans that they have less privacy than previous generations when it comes to their personal information (90 percent) and 93 percent believe that the next generation will have even less.

Americans express a healthy level of skepticism and concern about the breadth and depth of data collection and use.

  • privacy-policy-mainMore than half (55 percent) say the collection and use of information is MOSTLY NEGATIVE because the information can be collected and used in a way that can risk personal privacy, peoples’ safety, financial security, and individual liberties.
  • A minority (38 percent) believe it is MOSTLY POSITIVE because more information can result in better decisions about how to improve the economy, grow businesses, provide better service, and increase public safety.
  • Americans report high levels of concern with the use of information about them being used by businesses, government, individuals, and other groups without their consent.
  • A majority of Americans (57 percent) are most concerned with having their identity stolen.
  • Equal percentages (47 percent) believe that “being able to connect with people all over the world and access information on just about any subject is worth the potential privacy tradeoffs” and that “the ease of communicating and locating information online has made it too easy for personal information to be shared and is not worth the risks.”

Throughout the survey, there is a sharp generational contrast when it comes to opinions on the collection and use of information by various institutions.

  • Americans 39 and younger are close to evenly split on the impact of the collection and use of information by various sources, with 46 percent seeing a mostly positive impact and 50 percent seeing a mostly negative impact. Among those ages 40 and older, just 33 percent see a mostly positive impact to the collection and use of information while 58 percent see a mostly negative impact.
  • Similarly, regarding the collection and use of their personal information, Americans 39 and younger are more comfortable than concerned (53 percent-46 percent) while those 40 and older are distinctly more concerned (36 percent-61 percent).

5.    Americans express strong support for control over their online information, believe that security cameras play an important role in protecting the public, and overwhelmingly believe that IRS scrutiny of political activities is a typical activity.

  • Internet users are nearly unanimous (88%) in their support for a federal law that would require companies that operate online to permanently delete any personal information or activity if requested by an individual.
  • Regarding the recent debate over IRS scrutiny of the political activities of certain groups, a wide majority of Americans (79 percent) believe that this activity is “typical and has probably happened before during previous administrations.”
  • Nearly two in three (62 percent) believe that security cameras serve an important role in protecting the public from criminals and terrorists, even if some law-abiding citizens may be uncomfortable being recorded in their daily lives.
  • However, just 44 percent say they support increased camera surveillance of public places, only 16 percent say they support increased censorship of websites and less freedom to access certain online sources, and just 10 percent support expanded government monitoring of cell phone and email activities. Four in ten (42 percent) say they support none of these options.
  • Despite an overall sense of discomfort with information collection and usage, Americans recognize that they could receive some transactional benefits or advantages in exchange for their personal information.
  • More than two in three Americans believe that the collection and use of their personal information is likely to result in more ability to stay in touch with friends and relatives, more information about interesting products and services, and access to lower prices.
  • Most Americans also believe that the collection and use of data will provide them with better information about health risks and news events, and give them the ability to connect with other people of similar interests.
  • Americans are of mixed opinions about whether the collection and use of data will result in any increase in safety and security, lower rates on insurance, greater access to public assistance programs, or more professional or business opportunities.

President Obama’s approval numbers have not suffered in the face of multiple controversies and questions about his Administration.

  • Obama

    Just 30 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction. Since the first Heartland Monitor poll in April 2009 showed a plurality of believing the country was headed in the right direction (47 percent-42 percent), that indicator has topped 40 percent just once, in November of last year.

  • President Obama’s job approval rating is at 48 percent and has shown remarkable resiliency in the face of recent headlines about the IRS, Benghazi, and the AP news scandal. His approval is actually up 2 points from April and has held between 44 and 51 percent for more than two years.
  • Just 17 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, the same percentage measure in April.

Americans remain nervous, yet stubbornly optimistic about their personal financial situation.

  • There is a clear split between those who say their financial situation is excellent or good (49 percent) and those who say it is fair or poor (51 percent).
  • Nearly half (47 percent) now expect their personal finances to improve by this time next year.
  • More than eight in ten (82 percent) say that all things considered, including their finances, their family, and their health, that things are generally going somewhat or very well in their life.

Americans worried about data breaches, split on info sharing

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

keyA majority of Americans are concerned about data breaches involving large organizations, but are evenly mixed on whether legislation should require private businesses to share cyber attack information with the government, according to new research conducted by Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS).

Results from the Unisys Security Index, which regularly surveys more than 1,000 Americans on various areas of security concern, showed high levels of concern about data breaches among Americans.

Respondents to the survey said they were most worried about data breaches hitting their banks and financial institutions, with two-thirds (67 percent) reporting concern.

Here at the TechJournal, we see weekly reports of companies, agencies and organizations suffering serious cyber intrusions, the theft of personal information, and high costs of repairing their security. The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure seems applicable here.

Split on federal legislation

A majority of Americans surveyed also reported concern about data breaches involving government agencies (62 percent), health organizations (60 percent) and telecommunications and Internet service providers (59 percent).

Findings released last month from the same survey also showed most Americans harbor some level of concern about identity theft (83 percent) and credit card fraud (82 percent), both of which can arise from breaches at large organizations.

Despite these concerns, Americans polled were split on whether federal legislation to strengthen the country’s cybersecurity defenses should require organizations like banks, utilities and healthcare organizations to disclose breaches to the government.

Roughly half (48 percent) of respondents said they do not believe private businesses should be forced to disclose and share cyber attack intelligence, but a similar proportion (46 percent) said they think Congress should pass cybersecurity legislation mandating that the private sector share cyber-attack information with the government.

You have to wonder why people worry about having these security breaches disclosed. What are they hiding besides lax security?

Cost of breaches outweigh those of prevention

The poll was undertaken in March, via 1,006 telephone interviews, approximately a month before the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was passed by the United States House of Representatives. CISPA is not expected to be considered by the Senate this year, and many point to a lack of consensus on its information-sharing requirements as the reason.

“Americans clearly see a need for stronger methods to prevent cyberattacks, and many see a natural role for government in that process, but they differ on precisely how government and the private sector should interact in that regard,” said Steve Vinsik, vice president of enterprise security for Unisys.

“Regardless of where the legislation ends up, businesses and government agencies need to realize that the costs of breaches far outweigh those of prevention – and that Americans are paying close attention.”

They should be paying close attention. We don’t know anyone with digital segments in their business who has not had to deal with security problems and we know few private individuals who have not had to replace credit cards and change passwords due to these continuing security troubles.

US Census Bureau issues app development challenge

Friday, May 31st, 2013

US Census BureauThe U.S. Census Bureau has joined other federal agencies and nonprofit organizations to issue a challenge to participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking.

The event brings together citizens, software developers and entrepreneurs from across the nation to use publicly released data, code and technology to solve challenges facing neighborhoods, cities, states and the nation.

The Census Bureau has created “The Census American Community Challenge,” which asks developers to use publicly available American Community Survey statistics in the agency’s open API.

Participants are asked to develop an application that helps communities either with economic development or with disaster planning. Note: Protecting your privacy and confidentiality is a core Census Bureau commitment. No confidential or personally identifiable information is available.

The Census Bureau’s API and participation in this national event open up Census Bureau statistics beyond traditional uses, giving developers in research, business and government the means to customize the statistics into applications that their audiences and customers need.

With the release of this API and other upcoming forward-looking online communications improvements, the Census Bureau is meeting the goals of the Digital Government Strategy to make information more transparent and customer-centered.

When: Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2

Who: 5,000 expected participants, including software developers and entrepreneurs; 20 local, state and federal agencies

Where: More than 80 cities nationwide. Follow the conversation on Twitter using #hackforchange and #census. Developers can access the API online and share ideas through the Census Bureau’s Developers Forum.

Developers Forum

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Four ways to make your firm risk resistant

Friday, May 17th, 2013

KPMGRegulatory pressure is consistently one of the biggest threats facing companies across industries, and the number one challenge facing financial services and energy and natural resources companies, says a new KPMG survey.

A full seventy percent of c-suite executives, across all industries, say that regulatory changes have caused either substantial or moderate changes in their risk management and reporting processes in the past two years.

  • 59 percent of c-suite executives at financial services companies and 53 percent of c-suite energy and natural resources executives identified regulation as their top threat
  • 50 percent of health care executives said government pressure to contain spending was their biggest threat
  • 49 percent of executives in diversified industrials said an economic slowdown in OECD markets was their biggest risk
  • 44 percent of executives in technology media and telecom said a slowdown in demand was their biggest threat.

Risk management not advancing fast enough

“We found that risk management is not advancing fast enough at most companies in the face of an array of threats in an increasingly complex global economy,” said Mike Nolan , KPMG International’s Global Leader for Risk Consulting.

“But companies can transform these challenges into a competitive advantage.  All of their competitors are in the same boat, but very few are going to take advantage of the regulatory onslaught to become more competitive.  The companies that do will be in a strong position to turn regulatory risk into an advantage.”

According to the KPMG report, in the financial services industry, banks and other financial institutions face a plethora of new regulations, especially in Europe and the United States, where international banks face at least 40 major sets of new regulations that affect everything from how retail customers are treated to the way derivatives are traded.

In addition, new global regulations for bank capital and liquidity, known as  Basel 3, came into effect in January 2013.

The survey also revealed: 

  • Despite their awareness of the risk environment and devoting more resources to risk management, many companies struggle to communicate their risk program with stakeholders, link risk management with compensation and build an enterprise-wide view of threats.
  • 86 percent of survey respondents said risk management is factored into strategic planning decisions
  • Two thirds of respondents said they will invest more in risk management as a proportion of corporate revenue in the next three years than they did in the previous three
  • Almost half profess difficulties in understanding their enterprise-wide risk exposure
  • Less than one fifth have developed a formal risk appetite statement, yet this is an important step in risk management
  • Less than half believe their organization is effective at developing stakeholder’s understanding of the risk program
  • 43 percent said there was a weak link between risk management and compensation

“While the global financial crisis has created significant challenges for businesses, one positive outcome is boards’ desire for greater understanding of integrated risk management,” said Nolan.

“As trusted advisors, handling strategic risk is not about compliance and box-ticking, it is a critical investment companies make that can underpin an organization’s long–term growth, value and sustainability.  It’s all about risk optimization and aligning an organizations’ risk appetite with desired returns.”

Four steps

Within the key areas covered by the survey, KPMG has outlined opportunities for leaders to foster a risk-resilient culture within their organizations, including:

Define, operationalize and articulate risk appetite
With today’s complex and changing risk environment, it is essential that companies clearly define and articulate their appetite for risk. Only then, can they begin to integrate risk management into the overall corporate strategy, making it an essential part of collaborative decision making, discussion, debate and learning.

Improve communication across the enterprise
By clearly defining roles in the three lines of defense (.i.e. business units, risk management and compliance functions, and internal audit) companies can close gaps in managing priority risks and eliminate duplication of efforts.

Also, by improving the quality and visibility of risk information through greater sharing, companies can create a seamless flow of information that will benefit all lines. Effective communication with stakeholders will enhance their understanding of the risk program and positively impact value in the minds of the board, investors and regulators.

Develop and reward your people
Technology is an enabler of the convergence of risk and control functions, but human skills are essential if companies are going to manage the complexity of this kind of convergence.

The setting of common goals for risk and compliance can only be done with sufficient numbers of people with the right skills. Furthermore, by including risk management as an important attribute for leadership with the ability to manage risk as part of regular performance reviews, companies can reward employees for prudent decision making, not just for aggressively hitting financial targets.

Clearly define Return on Investment
One clear trend in the survey is that companies are spending more to strengthen risk management despite their struggle to estimate its ROI. By understanding the link between risk management and corporate strategy and how identified risks threaten the achievement of business objectives, executives can move risk management from a theoretical exercise to a business tool.

The KPMG Global Survey Expectations of Risk Management Outpacing Capabilities—It’s Time For Action, was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and can be found here.

Military simulation training addressing new realities

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Army tankWay back in the now distant 1980s, I wrote about the U.S. Army training tank crews using a video game simulation for Science Digest Magazine. The game saved expensive ammunition and let the crews make errors in a digital realm rather than on actual terrain where they could be costly.

Since then, the military embraced simulation training in many areas. Now,   faced with Global economic downturns, armed forces reorganisation and allied troops withdrawals from Afghanistan, the training and simulation (T&S) market is being pushed to come up with more customized solutions.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan , Global Military Training and Simulation Market Assessment, finds total expenditures of $36.88 billion in 2012 and estimates this to increase to $46.09 billion by 2021.

The research covers end users (air, land and naval forces), military capabilities (platform-based training, system-based training and platform maintenance-based training), and training types (live training, virtual training, constructive training and live, virtual, constructive (LVC) training.)

Battlefield lessons learned

“In addition to military equipment modernisation driving the global T&S market, lessons have been learned from battlefields in the Balkans and the Middle East,” noted Frost & Sullivan Aerospace & Defence Research Analyst Alix Leboulanger .

“The key lesson has been that conventional training types are no longer fully adequate to prepare armed forces for military operations other than war.”

As a result, apart from live training, virtual and constructive training will also grow at very dynamic pace. The increasing trend of blending training types will be stimulated by developed countries looking for more realistic but affordable training solutions.

Fully immersive environments

End users are looking for training solutions providing fully immersive, seamless and realistic environments to solve the delicate equation of training costs, place and time issues. Military end-users globally will use more complex weapons systems, C4ISR capabilities and are also expected to conduct more joint operations in shorter turnaround times.

“Therefore, the T&S industry has to develop new training solutions based on the LVC type, by enhancing new technologies such as Augmented Reality, haptics and embedded systems integration to enable military end-users to train faster and more effectively within an increasingly interactive and networked centric environment,” remarked Leboulanger.

We’ve actually seen a number of these fully immersive simulation training systems at TechMedia events over the years. Some even provide tactile feedback as soldiers walk a simulated battlefield landscape. Others allow pilots to familiarize themselves with actual terrain and targets.

Before LVC training takes over and whilst live and virtual training remain highly expensive, a strong demand for constructive training is forecast during the next ten years.

This is also due to a growing number of constructive training solutions being made available under the commercial off the shelf (COTS) format, hence offering a cost-affordable training solution for both transitioning and cost-saving end-users economies. — Allan Maurer

State, local goverments awash in data but few harness it

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Big Data

Credit: http://www.linuxforu.com

The ongoing data boom continues to present a challenge to government agencies, particularly on the state and local level. State and local agencies express interest in leveraging data to improve decision making and meet mission objectives, but struggle to process and analyze the data, according to a new study by MeriTalk, the government IT network, underwritten by NetApp.

The new report, “The State and Local Big Data Gap,” reveals that despite the known advantages of big data, few state and local agencies are taking action to harness and analyze it.

Big data promises to unlock the value hidden in complex data sets to improve government’s ability to make decisions, increase efficiencies, and ultimately better serve citizens.

Value recognized

State and local IT professionals see the value in big data. Respondents cited improving overall agency efficiency (57 percent), improving speed and accuracy of decisions (54 percent), and achieving a greater understanding of citizen needs and how to meet them (37 percent) as the top advantages to tapping into big data.

While state and local IT professionals recognize the benefits big data can provide, few agencies are taking action. Seventy-nine percent of state and local IT professionals say they are just somewhat or not very familiar with the term “big data” and only 2 percent say they have a complete big data strategy.

Big data isn’t on the radar screen for 44 percent of state and local agencies – they are not even discussing it. While they understand the promise of big data, just 59 percent of state and local agencies are analyzing the data they collect and less than half are using it to make strategic decisions. On average, state and local IT professionals report that it will take their agencies at least three years to take full advantage of big data.

Great strides made

“State and local agencies have made great strides in consolidating applications and data into fewer physical resources,” said Regina Kunkle, Vice President, State & Local Government, NetApp.

“Storage efficiencies like deduplication and compression help to manage the explosive storage growth by reducing the amount of storage required and simplifying data management. However, agencies still have data silos, and they are just beginning to explore how to effectively analyze this disparate data. To help them unlock this valuable wealth of information, agencies should look toward big data solutions.”

Today, the average state and local agency stores 499 terabytes of data. State and local IT professionals expect that amount of data to continue to grow. Eighty-seven percent of state and local agencies say the size of their stored data has grown in the last two years, and 97 percent expect data to grow by an average of 53 percent in the next two years. One in three state and local agencies has a data set that has grown too large to work with given their current capacity limitations.

Challenges identified

State and local IT professionals identify several challenges when it comes to managing large amounts of data. The top challenge is storage capacity (46 percent) followed by speed of analysis/processing (34 percent), and analysis (32 percent).

To further complicate data management, agencies are unclear about who owns the data. Forty-seven percent believe that IT owns the data and 31 percent believe ownership belongs to the department that generated it.

State and local IT professionals also report a gap between big data’s promise and big data reality. State and local agencies estimate that they have just 46 percent of the data storage/access, 42 percent of the computational power, and 35 percent of the personnel they need to successfully leverage big data. In addition, 57 percent say their current enterprise architecture is not able to support big data initiatives.

Despite the challenges, some state and local agencies are working to close the technology gap. Thirty-nine percent are investing in IT systems/solutions to improve data processing, 39 percent are improving the security of stored data, and 37 percent are investing in IT infrastructure to improve data storage.

“The State and Local Big Data Gap” is based on a survey of 150 state and local government CIOs and IT managers in November and December 2012. The report has a margin of error of +/- 7.97 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. To download the full study, please visit http://www.meritalk.com/state-and-local-big-data.php.

Five steps to overcome federal agency big data challenges

Monday, April 15th, 2013
Big Data

Credit: http://www.linuxforu.com

The amount of data government agencies must capture, store, and analyze is growing exponentially. Whether this data boom provides agencies with new opportunities to gain insights or threatens agencies with massive new data collection, security, and management requirements remains to be seen.

To find out how government can balance big data’s risk and opportunity, MeriTalk, the government IT network, and NetApp surveyed 17 government and industry big data leaders. The new report, “Big Data, Big Brains,” for the first time aggregates the thoughts of these big data leaders – providing insights on tools government will need to respond to big data as well as the risks and challenges agencies may face.

While big data is the newest buzz word in IT, there is little consensus about what it actually means. The big data leaders say it is the point at which the traditional data management tools and practices no longer meet the demands of the size, diversity, and pace of new data.

A management and process issue

The leaders also say big data is more of a management and process issue than it is a technology problem. Based on panel insights, big data is “the set of technical capabilities and management processes for converting vast, fast, and varied data into useful knowledge.”

The opportunities are significant. Big data leaders say organizational and IT leaders can expect four vectors of insight from big data. First, big data will deliver a full, start-to-finish model of a problem. Second, big data is real-time – providing immediate feedback on management decisions. Third, it offers atomic-level detail drawn from the whole population rather than inferred from a sample. Finally, it offers an understanding of how elements relate to one another, including a clearer picture of causality.

Of note, another recent MeriTalk and NetApp report, “Big Data Gap” corroborates the panel’s insights. The report reveals that Federal IT professionals believe big data can improve government, but that the promise of big data is locked away in unused or inaccessible data. Federal IT professionals say improving overall agency efficiency is the top advantage of big data (59 percent) followed by improving speed/accuracy of decisions (51 percent) and the ability to forecast (30 percent).

Not without risk

Big data is not without risk. According to big data leaders, top risks include analysis paralysis or getting lost in the review of data, spending too much time and effort looking at the data details and too little time extracting or understanding the value of the data, overreliance on the data which can lead to blind spots in decision making, and relying on wrong or incorrect data.

Before agencies can transition from the risk of big data to the opportunity, they have some work to do. The panel revealed the top big data challenges are personnel, skill sets, data silos, data ownership, and budgets.

Big data will require new professionals to build IT systems and craft analyses that distill data into insights. These new professionals – data scientists and statisticians – will need wholly new skill sets to manage big data. In addition, big data presents a technology challenge – agencies must change how they capture and manage data. To deal with the volume of data, many agencies will need new IT solutions.

Threat or opportunity?

“Agencies are at a crossroads where big data can be a threat or an opportunity,” said Mark Weber, president of U.S. Public Sector for NetApp. “To ensure big data is an opportunity, agencies need to get prepared by partnering with the private sector on technology solutions that will enable them to easily and efficiently manage, process, and store their data.”

According to the Big Data Gap report, while the promise of big data is strong, most agencies are still years away from using it. Just 60 percent of IT professionals say their agency is analyzing the data it collects and less than half (40 percent) are using data to make strategic decisions.

On average, Federal IT professionals report that it will take their agencies three years to take full advantage of big data.

While the big data leaders agree that there are many hurdles to overcome before agencies will see the full benefits of big data, they recommend that agencies get started now with these five steps:

  • Start Preparing Now: Agencies must invest in the infrastructure to capture and manage data. Without the proper computing and storage components, agencies cannot analyze the growing amount of data
  • Tackle Ownership/Sharing: Agencies and industry need solutions to data ownership and privacy issues. Start working through these issues now
  • Education/Training: Big data will require specialists in data handling fields. Agencies should look into programs that educate data scientists
  • Identify Partnerships: Industry and government should partner to realize the full potential of big data
  • Try It: Agencies should start trying to leverage big data today by finding opportunities to create value and then accelerate budget accordingly

The “Big Data, Big Brains” report is based on a qualitative survey of 17 big data leaders in both industry and government. To download the full report, please visit http://www.meritalk.com/big-data-beacon.php.

Federal agencies overspending on records management

Monday, March 18th, 2013
Capitol building

DC is number one on the Norton list of the riskiest online U.S. cities.

This sounds like an opportunity for the right kind of outside help. The volume of information federal agencies must manage has outgrown their budgets, challenging the nation’s records handlers to control this deluge of information and costing their agencies more and more money.

This is the central finding of a new study from MeriTalk, the government IT network, and storage and information management services company Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE:IRM) that asked federal records managers and finance professionals to assess the state of federal records management.

The results show agencies exceed their annual records management budgets by an average of 17 percent, despite shelling out increasing sums to store and manage mounting volumes of data.

Titled “Federal Records Management: Navigating the Storm,” the online survey asked 100 federal records managers and 100 federal finance professionals in September 2012 to assess their records practices, budgets, opportunities for savings, and views on the future.

Agencies going over budget

Chief among the findings is each federal agency spends an average of $34.4 million per year on records management, or $5 million more than budgeted. And according to the results, those sums will only increase. Agencies expect records management spending to more than double to $84.1 million by 2015 due to an expected 144 percent increase in records per agency over that period.

The survey revealed that the chief causes of blown records budgets come from:

  • Too many records – A single federal agency currently manages an average of 209 million records; government-wide, agencies manage approximately 8.4 billion records.
  • Runaway information growth – The number of records per agency is expected to grow to 511 million by 2015, an increase of 144 percent over current records volume.
  • Multiple information types – Agencies increasingly create records in more varied sources and formats. For example, 47 percent of all records are electronic, while 41 percent of records are created electronically but managed in a paper format.
  • A D-I-Y approach – Sixty-two percent of federal records managers use in-house systems, but that may not be the most effective approach, as 60 percent of federal finance professionals say problems with managing records hinders agency operations.

In addition to the cost and volume pressures of managing records, federal agencies are also racing to comply with the Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records, a government-wide effort to reform records management policies and practices.

The Directive, enacted in August 2012, instructs each agency to modernize its records management policies through more efficient operations, including digitizing records and establishing a new infrastructure that will minimize costs and promote openness and accountability, which form the backbone of President Obama’s Open Government initiative.

“Federal record volumes will only continue to grow, driving up budgets and making it harder for agencies to manage information on their own,” said Sue Trombley, managing director of consulting for Iron Mountain.

Most agencies know they need outside help

“This growth and the added pressure from the Presidential Directive are combining to make records management very complicated and unsustainable.

Most agencies know they need outside help and are looking for alternatives that include the development of a strategic plan, agency-wide collaboration and training, implementing technology solutions, and policy guidance and enforcement all aimed at regaining control for today and the future.”

When asked to name solutions for their information management problems, survey respondents cited training (43 percent), more funding (33 percent), and greater support for records management from agency leadership (32 percent).

By focusing on those three factors, federal finance professionals estimate saving 24 percent of their records management budget, and records management professionals estimate the savings at 36 percent.

This could mean an annual savings of $8.3 to $12.4 million per agency and between $330 million and $495 million government-wide each year.

To realize these significant cost savings, Iron Mountain recommends the following building block strategies:

  • Make it an executive priority – Bring together leaders from all functions within the agency, including IT, finance, operations, legal/compliance, and security to help create, implement, and enforce a culture of records and information management compliance.
  • Invest in training – Regular training and education creates a culture of accountability and responsibility for records management, helping to ensure that employees are invested.
  • Smart digitization & timely destruction – A common mistake when converting paper records to an electronic format is to scan (then save) everything; instead, agencies should consider what records they have, who needs them, for what purpose, and for how long, then digitize those records first and destroy older inactive records no longer needed for compliance or business reasons.
  • Where possible, streamline – Choose a process to standardize on for the entire agency, as records management programs have a better chance of success if there is agreement on common policies/practices and schedules for addressing access, retention, and other processes.

To download the full study, please visit www.meritalk.com/navigating-the-storm. For more information on Iron Mountain’s services for the federal market, please visitwww.ironmountain.com/federal.

Small biz owners think government favors big business

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Capitol building

The interests of large corporations are invariably prioritized over those of small businesses, most business sellers believe.

A survey of thousands of prospective business buyers, sellers and business brokers revealed a groundswell of resentment towards Washington policymakers.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents who were selling a business through BusinessesForSale.com think federal economic policy serves the needs of big business to the detriment of America’s 23 million small firms, which account for 55% of all US jobs. More than half (51%) strongly agreed with this statement.

Taxes punish small businesses

A clear majority also believe that tax authorities punish small businesses punitively while treating corporate tax evaders leniently. Forty-three percent strongly agreed with this assertion and 35% agreed to some extent, with just 2.8% disagreeing to any extent.

Nearly four in five – 78% – of respondents who were planning to sell a business also agreed that burdensome regulation was proliferating and becoming more complex, with 48% strongly agreeing. Nineteen percent had no opinion either way, leaving just 2% that felt the regulatory burden was easing.

Widespread dissatisfaction

Andrew Markou , CEO and co-founder of BusinessesForSale.com, says, “Our survey reveals widespread dissatisfaction among small-business owners about how they’re treated compared to multimillion dollar companies.

“Whether its tax evasion or red tape, it’s often one rule for corporate America and another for the mom-and-pop store.

“But while Big Business has shed four million jobs since 1990, small businesses have created eight million jobs for the US economy. Helping small businesses is clearly the easiest way to boost the recovery.”

Big data could save lives, tax money, federal IT officials say

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Big Data“Big Data” and other analytical tools have great potential to make governments more efficient and improve citizens’ lives, particularly in health and public safety sectors. A new study released by the TechAmerica Foundation and commissioned by SAP AG (NYSE: SAP), revealed that 87 percent of federal IT officials and 75 percent of state IT officials say Big Data can have real and immediate impacts on how governments operate.

The survey of nearly 200 public IT officials, conducted by renowned pollsters, Penn Schoen and Berland, found that 83 percent of federal IT officials say Big Data solutions can help government cut the federal budget by at least 10 percent, or $380 billion. Those surveyed also believe that Big Data can save lives, for example by improving medical treatments.

To learn more, see the complete survey results click here and view an infographic depicting the survey results.

Key Findings:

Big Data Has Potential to Save Lives and Money
The study cites a number of ways the use of Big Data can benefit the public sector, including:

  • Substantial budget cuts: Federal IT officials say real-time analytics of Big Data can help the government cut at least 10 percent annually from the federal budget, or about$1,200 per American, for example by detecting improper healthcare payments before they occur.
  • Lifesaving potential: According to 87 percent of federal IT officials and 75 percent of state IT officials, the use of real-time Big Data solutions will save a significant number of lives each year. For example, medical researchers can aggregate information about healthcare outcomes to reveal patterns that lead to more effective treatments and detection of outbreaks.
  • Crime reduction: 75 percent of state IT officials see the practical benefits of Big Data in medicine and public safety as extremely beneficial. Police departments are currently using Big Data technology to develop predictive models about when and where crimes are likely to occur, helping dramatically reduce the overall crime rate in specific locations.
  • Enhanced quality of life: Real-time Big Data is helping the government improve the quality of citizens’ lives, according to 75 percent of federal IT officials. For example, by gaining insight into huge volumes of data across agencies, the government can provide improved, personalized services to citizens.

Big Data Faces Barriers to Adoption
While Big Data technology is expected to offer citizens significant benefits, the survey also reveals cultural and practical barriers to adoption, including:

  • Privacy concerns: The biggest barrier for taking advantage of Big Data is privacy concerns, according to 47 percent of federal IT officials. Officials believe the challenge will be explaining that Big Data analytics is not equivalent to “Big Brother.”
  • High costs: 39 percent of federal and state IT officials worry about the expense of new tools and the level of investment needed.
  • Return on investment (ROI): A lack of clarity about Big Data’s level of ROI is a barrier for 42 percent of federal IT officials.
  • Long process: Across both state and federal IT officials, about 40 percent say database queries take too long using traditional database technology.

“The findings from this study underscore the infinite potential of Big Data and reaffirm the findings of our Big Data Commission,” said Jennifer Kerber , president of the TechAmerica Foundation. “That governments can save money and improve their service to citizens is clear from this study but it’s also clear that we must find ways to overcome adoption barriers – quickly.”

“The ongoing budget debates in Washington and many state capitals are a useful moment to appreciate what big data tools can do for government,” said Jennifer Morgan , president of SAP Public Services.

“By combining disparate sources of data and analyzing them in real time, government leaders and citizens can turn ‘Big Data’ into ‘smart data’ and gain a much clearer picture of how to save taxpayer dollars and even save lives.  Practical concerns such as costs, consumer privacy, and return on investment must be addressed carefully so that we can gain the enormous benefits of using Big Data tools.”

Most Americans think we are not prepared for a likely cyber war

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

security1A national survey of Americans shows a majority fear that cyber warfare is imminent and that the country will attack or be attacked in the next decade. Despite the threat, Americans also believe both the government and private sector networks are ill prepared for a surge in cyber conflict.

The poll was conducted by Tenable Network Security, a cyber security firms with clients that include the Department of Defense and military and government clients in almost every Democratic nation in the world.

A group of 1,021 adults in the U.S. over age 18 responded to the survey last week, amid a surge of headlines about hacking of private networks from China and an Executive Order issued by President Obama demanding new cybersafety standards for government and corporate networks.

Most Americans support government action

cybercrimeThe survey shows that 60 percent of Americans who responded support increasing government spending to train and equip “cyberwarriors” to defend the U.S. against outside attacks. Only 10 percent of respondents are opposed to this increase in spending.

Also, a stunning 93 percent of Americans believe that U.S. corporations and businesses are at least somewhat vulnerable to state-sponsored attacks.

Even more, 95 percent believe U.S. government agencies themselves are at least somewhat, to very, vulnerable to cyberattacks. And, 94 percent of Americans who responded say they support the President having the same level of authority to react to cyberattacks as he has to respond to physical attacks on the country.

“It’s clear American citizens see the threat of cyber conflict around the corner, and the nation’s state of readiness for such attacks is a major concern,” said Ron Gula, a former cyber security expert with the NSA and now CEO and CTO of Tenable Network Security.

“Americans also want to see more done in both the public and private sector, with the government leading the way in setting standards and ensuring that important networks are protected. Given this strong level of support across age groups and demographics, we may see cyber security move up the list of critical policy and legislative proposals,” Gula continued.

Who’s responsible? Conflicting sentiments

keyAmericans who responded to the survey express conflicting sentiments about whether the public or private sector should shoulder responsibility for protecting corporate networks.

Sixty-six percent of respondents in the survey believe corporations should be held responsible for cyber breaches when they occur. But an almost equal number of Americans, 62 percent, say government should be responsible for protecting U.S. businesses and corporations from cyberattacks.

“I think these rather conflicting results on who should be held accountable reveal that Americans want both the public and private sector working closely together on cyber security,” Gula said. “I think they clearly want the government to be a better first line of defense but they also want to make sure U.S. Corporations are equally diligent in guarding against cyberattacks.”

Additional key highlights from the report:

  • 92 percent of Americans believe public utilities are vulnerable to state-sponsored cyberattacks
  • If the U.S. were to undergo a cyberattack, Americans are most concerned about disruption to utilities – such as water, electric and gas (37 percent)
    • More people are concerned about disruption to communication infrastructure, i.e. phone and Internet, (21 percent) than they are about disruption to transportation infrastructure, i.e. planes, trains and public transportation (7 percent)
    • 30 percent are concerned about disruption to financial services
  • Americans age 65 or over believe the U.S.’s engagement in cyber warfare to be more likely, with 26 percent saying they considered the U.S. “very likely” to engage in such attacks in the next ten years; only nine percent of Americans ages 25-34 believe it “very likely”
  • Men are in greater support of increased spending to equip “cyberwarriors” than women (68 percent vs. 54 percent)

IT execs support tax reform and innovation incentives

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Washington DCInformation technology executives show strong support for simplifying the U.S. tax code, reducing small business taxes, and creating incentives for growth and innovation, says a new white paper from CompTIA.

The white paper, Smart Tax Reforms for the IT Industry, examines the policy priorities of small and medium-sized IT businesses.

The survey found that specific tax code provisions and policies, such as payroll tax and the corporate tax rate, constrain potential growth of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), curtailing their ability to invest in their own companies, hire high-skilled employees and serve customers in a globally competitive fashion.

Nearly one in three surveyed (32 percent) rated payroll tax filings as costly and complicated for their companies. Six in ten (61 percent) cited reduction in the payroll tax as important, while nearly the same (56 percent) prioritized reduction in the corporate tax rate.

“The IT sector is rightly concerned that outdated and poorly applied tax provisions divert their attention away from running and growing their businesses to meet market demands and compete on a global scale,” said Todd Thibodeaux , president and chief executive officer, CompTIA.

“Small and medium-sized tech businesses have room to grow if national leaders remove unnecessary tax compliance burdens and preserve tax policies that incentivize investments.”

CompTIA lays out four key principles of tax reform:

1. Simplify the Tax Code. The cost of compliance weighs heavily on small and medium-sized IT businesses. One in five (21 percent) indicated that estimated tax filings were second only to payroll tax filings as costly and complicated. Increasing the $1,000 threshold for annual payroll tax returns whereby small employers could file annually as opposed to quarterly would reduce reporting costs and errors.

2. Reduce the Tax Burden on the SMB IT Industry. SMB IT companies cite a reduction in payroll tax costs as a top concern, which if reduced would encourage businesses to hire more workers, which in turn will lead to increased economic growth nationwide. While a reduction in payroll tax leads the list at 61 percent, reduction in corporate tax rate (56 percent) and increasing small business expensing (Section 179) (44 percent) rated close behind.

3. Incentivize Growth and Innovation. Many start-up IT firms are economically unable to make needed investments in equipment, workforce and research without tax reforms that provide incentives for investments, which include deductions that allow companies to focus their efforts on hiring and market demand capitalization.

These reforms include: supporting the research and education tax credit, which would allow start-up companies to offset credits against payroll tax liability; bonus depreciation to promote investment and growth; and expanding Section 179 small business expensing to enable small businesses to invest in technologies that improve productivity and quality of goods and services.

4. Protect SMB IT Firms from New Interstate Tax Compliance Burdens. A confusing web of overlapping state taxes will create excessive compliance burdens for small and medium-sized companies. Chief among these are taxes on businesses that do not have a physical presence or workforce within a given state.

For any legislation that requires small business to collect sales taxes for foreign state taxing authorities, CompTIA recommends a robust small business exemption.

Tax reform for small businesses will be one of the top legislative priorities when CompTIA members gather for the TechVoice D.C. Fly-In on February 12-14, 2013. The fly-in gives IT business leaders throughout the country an opportunity to meet with congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., to discuss policy priorities. For more information about the 2013 TechVoice D.C. Fly-In, visit www.techvoice.org.

 

Smart city tech market headed for $20.2B by 2020

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

GLOBAL INFORMATION, INC. LOGOThe next 40 years will see an unprecedented transformation in the global urban landscape. Between 2010 and 2050, the number of people living in cities will increase from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion, with nearly all of that growth occurring in developing countries. Technology will play a transformative role in how these cities are managed and operate.

By 2025 there will be 37 megacities, each with a population greater than 10 million; 22 of those cities will be in Asia.

The consequences of this new phase of urbanization on the global economy and on existing urban infrastructure and resources are already being felt and are spurring innovation in urban design, technologies, and services.

Worldwide Smart City 2013 Top 10 Predictions

The Smart City movement is emerging and growing as a significant force of innovation and investment at all levels of government.

To assist government organizations, IDC, premium market research partner with Global Information (GII), has identified the top 10 predictions for 2013 that will most heavily influence the direction and magnitude of technology investment, management, and evaluation.

The goal of this report is to draw attention to events that exemplify the strategic shifts reshaping the ways cities operate, shifts that will require city leaders to make smart and sometimes very difficult decisions.

This worldwide set of Smart City predictions is a list of prioritized business drivers and technology trends that our team believes will shape the local government IT landscape in the context of an economically and socially challenging 2013 time.

The predictions captured in this report outline the collective opinion of the IDC Smart City team of analysts representing all regions globally.

Among the top 10 predictions are:

1. In 2013, 70% of Worldwide Spending on Smart City Projects Will Be Focused on Energy, Transportation, and Public Safety, and 90% of These Will Be at Least Partially Funded by National or International Government.

2. At Least 50% of Smart City Programs Will Be Initiated at the Line-of-Business or City-Function Level.

3. Worldwide Spending on Smart Water Solutions Will Reach $1.8 Billion in 2013.

The full list of predictions and free sample pages from the full document are available at http://www.giiresearch.com/report/govt261272-worldwide-smart-city-top-10-predictions.html

FTC report recommends privacy practices for mobile platforms, developers, advertisers

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Mobile devicesThe Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s chief privacy agency, has issued a staff report recommending ways that key players in the rapidly expanding mobile marketplace can better inform consumers about their data practices.

The report makes recommendations for critical players in the mobile marketplace: mobile platforms (operating system providers, such as Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, Google, and Microsoft), application (app) developers, advertising networks and analytics companies, and app developer trade associations.  Most of the recommendations involve making sure that consumers get timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about what data they collect and how the data is used.

“The mobile world is expanding and innovating at breathtaking speed, allowing consumers to do things that would have been hard to imagine only a few years ago,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz .  “These best practices will help to safeguard consumer privacy and build trust in the mobile marketplace, ensuring that the market can continue to thrive.”

Consumers increasingly concerned about privacy

The report cites recent data showing that consumers increasingly are concerned about their privacy on mobile devices.  For example, 57 percent of all app users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons.  Less than one-third of Americans feel they are in control of their personal information on their mobile devices.

Based on the Commission’s prior work in this area and information obtained through the panel discussions, written submissions, and the report offers several suggestions for the major participants in the mobile ecosystem as they work to improve mobile privacy disclosures.

The report recommends that mobile platforms should:

  • Provide just-in-time disclosures to consumers and obtain their affirmative express consent before allowing apps to access sensitive content like geolocation;
  • Consider providing just-in-time disclosures and obtaining affirmative express consent for other content that consumers would find sensitive in many contexts, such as contacts, photos, calendar entries, or the recording of audio or video content;
  • Consider developing a one-stop “dashboard” approach to allow consumers to review the types of content accessed by the apps they have downloaded;
  • Consider developing icons to depict the transmission of user data;
  • Promote app developer best practices.  For example, platforms can require developers to make privacy disclosures, reasonably enforce these requirements, and educate app developers;
  • Consider providing consumers with clear disclosures about the extent to which platforms review apps prior to making them available for download in the app stores and conduct compliance checks after the apps have been placed in the app stores; and
  • Consider offering a Do Not Track (DNT) mechanism for smartphone users.  A mobile DNT mechanism, which a majority of the Commission has endorsed, would allow consumers to choose to prevent tracking by ad networks or other third parties as they navigate among apps on their phones.

App developers should:

  • Have a privacy policy and make sure it is easily accessible through the app stores;
  • Provide just-in-time disclosures and obtain affirmative express consent before collecting and sharing sensitive information (to the extent the platforms have not already provided such disclosures and obtained such consent);
  • Improve coordination and communication with ad networks and other third parties that provide services for apps, such as analytics companies, so the app developers can better understand the software they are using and, in turn, provide accurate disclosures to consumers.  For example, app developers often integrate third-party code to facilitate advertising or analytics within an app with little understanding of what information the third party is collecting and how it is being used.
  • Consider participating in self-regulatory programs, trade associations, and industry organizations, which can provide guidance on how to make uniform, short-form privacy disclosures.

Advertising networks and other third parties should:

  • Communicate with app developers so that the developers can provide truthful disclosures to consumers;
  • Work with platforms to ensure effective implementation of DNT for mobile.

App developer trade associations, along with academics, usability experts and privacy researchers can:

  • Develop short form disclosures for app developers;
  • Promote standardized app developer privacy policies that will enable consumers to compare data practices across apps;
  • Educate app developers on privacy issues.

“FTC staff strongly encourages companies in the mobile ecosystem to work expeditiously to implement the recommendations in this report.  Doing so likely will result in enhancing the consumer trust that is so vital to companies operating in the mobile environment.  Moving forward, as the mobile landscape evolves, the FTC will continue to closely monitor developments in this space and consider additional ways it can help businesses effectively provide privacy information to consumers,” the report states.

The FTC also introduces Mobile App Developers: Start with Security, a new business guide that encourages developers to aim for reasonable data security, evaluate the app ecosystem before development, and includes tips such as making someone responsible for data security and taking stock of the data collected and maintained.

Strong demand for technology dampened by economic uncertainties

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

ComptiaStrong customer demand for innovative technology solutions such as cloud computing, big data and mobility are countered by concerns about economic uncertainties, pricing pressures and substitution effects in the IT Industry Outlook 2013released today by CompTIA, the non-profit association for the industry.

This is more evidence that the U.S. economy could probably recover more quickly and with more zest if the uncertainties caused by Congressional squabbling over the debt, taxes, and regulations did not cloud the picture.

Growth rate of 3 percent predicted

CompTIA’s consensus forecast projects a growth rate of 3 percent for the global IT industry in 2013, with upside potential of 5.2 percent. The U.S. forecast is slightly lower – 2.9 percent with upside potential of 4.9 percent.

Industry growth projections dovetail with CompTIA’s quarterly IT Industry Business Confidence Index, which, with a reading of 56.8 on a 100-point scale, remains flat heading into 2013.

“The fiscal cliff turmoil certainly clouded the 2013 outlook,” said Tim Herbert , vice president, research, CompTIA. “Technology has never been more important, but persistent economic headwinds force many customer segments to remain conservative with their investments.”

IT services & software have the most upside

IT industry executives view the IT services and software segments as holding the most promise in 2013. Hardware sales – with many categories experiencing high unit growth, but downward pressure on prices – are expected to grow by just 1.8 percent.

“Reaching the upside of the forecast range will require macroeconomic stability, steady business confidence and healthy customers,” said Herbert. “There is good reason to believe the IT industry will hit the upside of growth projections, but there is still enough uncertainty to warrant caution.”

CompTIA sees 2013 as another transitional year, where incremental advances in a number of areas make their marks on the IT industry and the broader economy.

Macro Trends to Watch:

  • Progress along the innovation leaning curve pays dividends
  • Expectations Reset: The push for Faster, Larger, Easier and Safer
  • Open and transparent further dsplaces closed and hidden
  • The distributed economy deepens

Technology Trends to Watch:

  • Technology continues its transition from supporting tool to strategic driver
  • Mobility becomes a way of life … for employees and customers
  • Companies begin taking cloud computing for granted
  • The big data phenomenon will force companies to review data practices
  • Communication and collaboration get a boost from the cloud

IT Channel Trends to Watch:

  • Managed Services: Upping the Game
  • Navigating the New Channel Ecosystem
  • Specialization: Tackling Growing Markets
  • Convergence Creates Strange Bedfellows

What do startups want from President Obama’s second term?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Silicon Valley BankAt the beginning of President Obama’s second term, Silicon Valley Bank, financial partner to innovation companies worldwide, asked startup companies across America: “What piece of advice would you give to President Obama with regards to supporting the innovation economy?”

Simplifying taxes and focusing on building a strong talent pool made up nearly half of all responses, which came from 600 comments by CEOs and executives of startup companies across the US. The question was part of Silicon Valley Bank’s fourth annual survey of startup companies nationwide.

“Startup companies are looking for simplicity and relevant talent above all,” said Greg Becker , CEO of Silicon Valley Bank. “They said things like, ‘cut the red tape,’ ‘simplify the tax code’ and ‘improve US science and math education to best-in-world outcomes.’”

“Our clients – high growth innovation companies – create jobs and outperform the broader economy. We should be doing everything we can as a country to make it easy for them to grow.”

High growth small companies, while small in number, have an outsized impact on the U.S. economy.  They consume roughly 0.1-0.2% of U.S. GDP in invested capital, but turn into companies that create roughly 11 percent of U.S. private sector employment and 21 percent of U.S. GDP – or roughly twelve million jobs and over $3 trillion in annual revenues.

The most common advice, offered by nearly one-third of startup managers who participated in the survey, was in regard to taxes. Nearly 20 percent of the respondents believed the government should focus on developing a deep talent pool through a combination of approaches including immigration reform and better science and math education. A running theme in the comments was also the desire for government to work together on a bi-partisan basis.

Here’s an infographic detailing the survey findings:

Advice for the president fell into a few major categories:

  • Overhaul Tax System – 28% “Keep it simple” “Focus on ways to stimulate growth”
  • Build Talent Pool – 18% “Make it easy to hire the best & brightest from around the world”
  • Ease Regulation – 12% “US is the hardest country in the world to do business”
  • Promote Investment – 11% “Make investment in growth companies easier”
  • Champion Innovation – 10% “Make it very, very simple and cheap for the little guy to win!”
  • Give Us Space – 9% “Minimize Federal government involvement” “Leave us alone”
  • Other – 13% “Be more bi-partisan – both the President and Congress”

Silicon Valley Bank conducted its annual Startup Outlook survey in December 2012. More than 750 executives of startup companies, defined as those in the innovation sector with less than $100 million in annual revenue, responded. The company will be releasing additional data and reports based on the survey in the coming months.

 

Small business owners see Washington as hostile to free enterprise

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Washington DC A large majority of small business owners believe that Washington has become more hostile toward free enterprise in recent years, according to a new poll of 600 small businesses with 100 employees or less conducted on behalf of the Job Creators Alliance.

In an open-ended question, a quarter of the respondents volunteered taxes as the most important issue facing American small businesses, double the response for any other issue. Health care and government regulations were the next most frequently cited garnering 11% and 10% respectively.

Key Findings

An overwhelming majority of small business owners believe that Washington’s policies have become more hostile toward free enterprise in recent years.

More importantly, nearly half of all small business owners believe Washington has become much more hostile toward free enterprise. Furthermore, only 19% believe Washington’s policies have become less hostile.

Pessimism about Washington’s policies concerning free enterprise crosses party lines. Democrat small business owners split on this question, strongly suggesting that partisan polarization only goes so far on this question.

According to the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute women-owned businesses will account for one-third of the new jobs created by 2018.

This survey finds that a strong majority of women who own a small business also see Washington as an adversary.

When we consider the depth of pessimism among small business owners towards Washington’s policies it should come as no surprise that a majority of minority-owned small businesses also see Washington’s policies as hostile toward free enterprise.

By a margin of 2 to 1, respondents to an open-ended question volunteered taxes as the single most important issue facing small businesses. The most frequently cited issues included:Screen shot 2013-01-15 at 9.56.34 AM

A majority of small business owners are concerned that the lack of spending restraint in the recent congressional deal to avert the fiscal cliff will impact their business.

As America’s small business owners look forward at 2013 they do so with a great deal of concern about the obstacles Washington is placing in their path. As the engine of job creation, pessimism among small business owners does not bode well for job growth this year.• Six out of ten small business owners believe that Obamacare will negatively impact their business in 2013.

Supersuits and sleepless soldiers: Scifi like military tech raises ethical questions

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

The military often acts as the spark that ignites many technological innovations and today is no different. Many technologies under development by the military mirror science fiction such as Robert A. Heinlein’s exoskeleton suit that gave Starship Troopers superhuman powers.

Other advanced military tech may produce soldiers who don’t need sleep for days or even weeks, cognitive enhancements, and more.

But all of this is fraught with ethical considerations.

Report looks ahead

The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly today released a 100+ page report on military human enhancements.

Where the use of other novel technologies, such as robotics and cyberweapons, have caught society and policymakers by surprise, this new report anticipates ethical and policy dilemmas ahead of science and technology.

Funded by the Greenwall Foundation, “Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy” is the first study to examine a wide array of practical issues arising from military enhancements.

Even philosophical questions here — such as how to define enhancement, and whether enhancements technically are biological weapons — have real-world policy implications, such as determining which international humanitarian laws apply.

Game-changing technologies

The technologies range from current use of cognitive stimulants (including amphetamines or “go pills”) to future use of exoskeletons and neural computer chips.

For example, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been funding research to change human metabolism (so that warfighters won’t need to eat or sleep) and synthetic telepathy (so that warfighters can communicate by thought alone).

“These are game-changing technologies in war, but dangerously little has been said about ethics, law, or policy,” said Dr. Patrick Lin, lead author of the report at Cal Poly. “As we’re seeing in the debate on military drones, it’s crucial that we consider policy, law, and ethics before these technologies take off, not after the genie has left the bottle.”

Co-authors of the report are Prof. Maxwell J. Mehlman, law professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Keith Abney, senior philosophy lecturer at Cal Poly. The report is free to access at http://ethics.calpoly.edu/Greenwall_report.pdf.

Meanwhile, researcher Patrick Lin says the military needs to prepare for a future where the enemy has “mutant powers.

Most Americans want a compromise solution to “fiscal cliff” problem

Friday, November 30th, 2012
Grover Norquist

Most Americans think the Grover Norquist “no-tax” pledge is part of the fiscal cliff problem, not its solution.

While most Americans do not think tax increases are the solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff,”  facing the US Congress, they nevertheless hold negative opinions of Grover Norquist, whose “no tax pledge” taken by many GOP lawmakers was a source of their unwillingness to compromise on fiscal reform.

So says a new national survey by Boston’s Emerson College Polling Society, providing new evidence that Americans want a compromise solution to the nation’s debt problem and reject Norquist’s feet-in-cement point of view regarding taxes.

Most think a combination of taxes and cuts necessary

The survey shows that 43% of Americans believe that a combination of spending cuts and tax increases are needed to solve the looming fiscal cliff. Thirty-seven percent (37%) believe cutting spending alone is the best way to handle the deficit; only 8% think tax increases are the solution.

Jordan Del Guercio, Director of Communications, adds that raising revenues without spending cuts does not have wide support: “Only 8% of Americans think raising taxes is the sole solution, and 55% of Americans say they will change their spending habits if tax increases are a result of a deal.”

The poll also showed that people’s opinions about Grover Norquist, the president of Americans For Tax Reform, are generally negative, with 35% having an unfavorable opinion and only 20% having a favorable impression.

Felix Chen, international student from China and the Chief Analyst for ECPS concludes the data suggests that Norquist’s warning “the GOP to keep their ‘fingerprints’ off tax-increase deal” has hurt his image, as it runs counter to the plurality of Americans who want a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Norquist’s view unfavorable among most groups

Norquist’s famous “no-tax pledge” has drawn the ire of Democrats who identify the activists as the source of Republicans unwillingness to meet Democrats halfway in previous fiscal negotiations.

The American people concur. Only 25% advocate sticking to the no tax pledge, while 62% favor raising taxes on the wealthy.

Furthermore, the data, according to Chen, suggests only 42% of Republicans believe the GOP should stick to the anti-tax pledge; 35% would allow tax increases on the wealthy, and 23% are unsure on the tax increase issue.

In addition, 66% of Independents and 83% of Democrats think that tax increases on the wealthy should be on the table during the fiscal negotiations.

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