The Pursuit of Perfection
In an age of ever-evolving systems capabilities, security is the quest that never ends. That’s not a value judgment; it’s just the nature of the game.
We have to ensure that we explore every possible avenue to foil hackers, short-circuit information crooks, thwart terrorists from causing untold mayhem, prevent voter fraud and simply make sure we don’t inadvertently lose vital information.
Nowhere is the need for security more acute than when it comes to voting — a simple act that’s the basis of our system of government. As StateTech’s cover story, “Calling All Precincts” on Page 24, points out — like it or not — electronic voting is here to stay. Polls show that more than one-third of U.S. counties and registered voters used direct-recording electronic systems and nearly half used optical-scan equipment in the November 2006 general election. Although these tools offered a faster vote count, concerns remain about their validity.
Security holes and equipment shortcomings worry information technology professionals because the opportunity for tampering could allow fraud. The best way to ensure accuracy is through a verifiable paper trail, which defeats the purpose of e-voting, in the view of many.
Getting There Faster
One technology that’s increasingly proving its worth for state and local governments is the Global Positioning System. Using a constellation of 24 satellites orbiting at 12,600 feet above the Earth, GPS receivers triangulate satellite signals to locate fixed and moving objects. Geographic information systems, on the other hand, provide the exact latitude and longitude of structures, streets and infrastructure elements.
GPS is an excellent tool for determining location data that can then be put into a GIS database. Add a local database of addresses, and you have a good start at an emergency dispatch system. Throw in a database of unrepaired potholes and nonfunctioning water mains, and you can readily see how handy the merging of GIS and GPS systems can be. For more, turn to “Moving Maps From the Sky” on Page 16.
In transforming new technologies into useful services, the bulk of the responsibility — and therefore the success or failure of any given effort — rests squarely on the shoulders of top-drawer IT managers. So just how do you find the right people with the requisite skills and proven competence to tackle your systems challenges?
One guidepost is the optimum combination of right- and left-brain thinking, which often comes disguised on the organizational chart as the chief technology officer and the CIO. In an ideal relationship, the CTO stays abreast of technologies that could improve constituent services, which allows the CIO to focus on making the most of IT investments. In “CTOs and CIOs: Eye to Eye” on Page 20, StateTech takes a look at this relationship and how to make it work to an organization’s advantage.
No project or technology works perfectly right out of the box, but that shouldn’t hinder the pursuit of perfection.
Lee Copeland, Editor in Chief