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Posted: 2/17/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Note this article from the New York Times on January 8, 2009:

In an article by the New York Times, January 8, 2009 it was disclosed that for security reasons at that time President-elect, Barack Obama may need to give up his Blackberry.  Apparently the pressure to do this was for a variety of reasons. I can understand a few very specifically related to executive security myself:
  1. Legally could his e-mail commit the government to some course of action?
  2. Could the fact that he has cellular capability allow him to be tracked and therefore vulnerable to attack?
  3. Could he receive a message that is so powerful that it causes him to make some sort of mistake that causes the end of the world as we know it.  OK, that’s over the top but now I’ve got your attention.
  4. It is another opportunity for secure information to leak into the public (of course this is the case every time he talks in public or to the media)
As technology moves forward the capabilities available to our senior executives must keep up.  I’m certainly no President Obama but I feel completely disconnected from the world when I don’t have my communications device up and running.  It is to the point that I will call my administrator frequently to ask if I have any important e-mail messages.  Technology not only allows us instant mobile access but it has changed our work culture so that there is an expectation of a relatively instant response. 
If it’s not safe for the President should the policy extend to any top Federal executive?  I would bet you would only get it from them if you pried if from their COLD DEAD HANDS!  There must be a better answer than this to the problem.
This is not the first time in history concern over the use of new technology by senior executives has been raised.  The use of telegraph wires during the Civil War and wireless communication between executives during WWII were met with apprehension by those responsible for the protection of our secure communications.  In general along with a little mis-direction (I believe Churchill used to talk to Roosevelt from a makeshift powder room), the primary solution has been to encrypt information sent from and to senior executives, whether it was via the Telegraph, the Telephone, or the Flag Signals used by Lord Nelson’s forces when they were fighting the French. 
In the end the answer shouldn’t be to restrict the use of these devices but to understand how they are being used and develop additional technology, procedures, or other measures to ensure our executives are able to maintain the highest level of efficiency.  In a world where changes occur at the speed of light, the last person we want unable to keep up is our Chief.
Our 44th president has proven himself technology savvy and has charged his team to make effective use of innovation.  By doing so he has attained the highest position in our government.  We can expect that he will want to continue to leverage technology for the advantages it provides and, from his privileged position, enjoy enhanced capability.  I believe he will also be focused on ensuring his leadership team is extending technology’s reach into their own organizations’ administration and improving their ability to meet mission objectives.  In the long run this will mean more secure robust mobile capabilities for all of us.
Posted: 9/4/2008 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Assistive information technologies have been traditionally driven by federal regulations. For example, Section 508 requires technologies used in the workplace to be accessible to people with disabilities. But research and development of these technologies will become more of a business imperative because of changes in the workforce, the industry and the culture. 

Section 508, like energy-saving green technologies, will move from something that is the right thing to do or required by regulation. It will become a business differentiator, driving increased revenues and lower costs.
It’s amazing how quickly your perspective of a federal regulation can change when the regulation impacts you personally.
Recently, someone very close to me underwent brain surgery and was left physically challenged. While we harbor hope she will eventually regain her sight and motor skills, she may need to learn to function in society with some disabilities. Her situation has led me to revisit the availability of assistive IT.
How far does federal law require agencies to go to meet the goal of creating a barrier-free IT environment for people with disabilities?
More than a quarter century ago, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies or receiving federal financial assistance, and in employment by the federal government and federal contractors. Section 508 of the act establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured or used by the federal government. It requires federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, not just federal employees but all citizens. The goal is to allow those with disabilities to function in as many roles as possible without IT standing in their way.
The lower end of the IT market includes many of the hardware and software products that can most readily provide access to disabled workers and the public. That end of the market, however, is highly competitive; there is constant pressure to reduce costs. The costs of altering basic IT products such as PCs, peripherals and software to comply with the performance, testing and documentation requirements of Section 508 can be considerable.
The impact of Section 508 is so pervasive that for manufacturers to include the required capabilities in their standard products makes more sense than to create separate products or add-ons to provide those capabilities. Nonetheless, many companies still resist embracing assistive technologies as standard product sets. It can be hard to demonstrate the advantages of developing and deploying these technologies in an atmosphere where every company feels pressure to increase income and profitability.
I believe societal trends will encourage the evolution of assistive technologies from a government mandate to a business differentiator, not only for those with disabilities, but for all IT users.
First, the workforce is aging. More people are working to retirement age and beyond, both because they are healthier and because they need or want to keep working. This aging workforce will start to use many of the standard assistive technologies bundled with computers to compensate for the effects of aging, including slower typing capabilities or diminished eyesight.
Second, as medical science becomes more adept at saving lives and rehabilitating patients, a greater portion of the workforce will have disabilities that can be overcome with assistive information technologies.
Third, an increasing number of people have the option of working remotely from their employer’s site. Given the advances in communications technologies, the real challenge for many of the disabled is not teleworking but rather commuting to an office. With increasing telework opportunities—driven by everything from facility and energy costs to critical infrastructure protection and the continuity of operations—expect an increasing number of disabled persons who can work effectively from home but were previously unable to enter the workforce because of physical disabilities unrelated to their ability to perform job tasks.
Finally, the younger generation increasingly interacts in virtual ways, such as texting or using avatars in virtual worlds. This group will tend to drive new ways of interfacing with devices, many of which were never thought of as being IT devices before: cellular phones, automobiles, and even toothbrushes and refrigerators.
All of these trends will cause market-wide appeal for technologies initially focused on empowering the disabled.
It wouldn’t be the first time technology has migrated from the specialized to the general. In the early part of the 20th century, automobiles all had manual transmissions. At the end of World War II, amputees returned from the war in large numbers just as the cost of automatic transmissions came down. Automatic transmissions became so popular with drivers across the board they eventually became standard equipment, with the manuals—for the models that offer them at all—available as an option.
I believe that assistive technologies will become a business imperative, just as green technologies have developed from an exercise in good corporate conduct to a business necessity for reducing costs. Assistive technologies will increasingly be used not because they are mandated by federal regulations, but because they will create enhanced revenues from rising demand for these technologies from the new workforce.