The Washington Post reports on a new government website:
Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, on Tuesday announced a new Web site designed to track more than $70 billion in government information technology spending, showing all contracts held by major firms within every agency.
The revamped site, USAspending.gov, was launched early this morning, and Kundra unveiled it at the Personal Democracy Forum conference on technology and politics. The site shows detailed information about whether IT contracts are being monitored and budgets being met.
The new website is the product of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which required the government to provide a searchable website detailing every Federal award.
This year, 39% of doctors said they’d communicated with patients online, up from just 16% five years earlier, according to health-information firm Manhattan Research, a unit of Decision Resources Inc. So far, the most common digital doctor services are the simplest ones, like paying bills, sending lab results and scheduling appointments.
The number of patients offering online consultations is still small, but it’s expected to grow steadily, especially as more and more insurance companies start covering online consultations.
Google has released its quarterly spam report, and for those of us—as in, all of us—who hate sifting through annoying pitches and messages and in our inboxes, the news isn’t encouraging. According to the report, spam levels were up 53% in the second quarter, with the much-welcome 70% in the wake of last November’s shutdown of the malicious McColo ISP now a distant memory.
Meanwhile, a separate report from Symantec’s MessageLabs finds that over 80 percent of spam is originally sent by non-human botnets.
Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (he’s also an IIA Broadband Ambassador) has released a new report on America’s communications capacity, specifically the rise of bandwidth between 2000 and 2008. And despite the doom and gloom often accompanying reports on our country’s rank in worldwide broadband penetration, Swanson finds that we’ve actually experienced a boom. From the report:
Moore’s law, combined with smarter regulatory policies and big infrastructure investments, yielded dramatic gains in consumer bandwidth over the last decade. Over the eight-year period:
• Total residential bandwidth grew 54x.
• Total wireless bandwidth grew 542x.
• Total consumer bandwidth grew 91x.
• Residential bandwidth per capita grew 50x.
• Wireless bandwidth per capita grew 499x.
• Total consumer bandwidth per capita grew 84x, for a compound annual growth rate of 74%.
The report credits heavy investment in America’s digital infrastructure as key to this explosion in bandwidth. In 2008 alone, $455 billion was poured into communications and technology investments, and between 2000 and 2008 the number totals over $3.5 trillion.
Still, while the number are impressive, Swanson’s report cautions that investment must continue in order to keep up with demand:
[B]andwith must grow if we (1) merely want to accommodate the bandwidth-hungry applications already in the pipeline; and, crucially, (2) want new generations of unpredictable innovations in software, services, applications, and devices that all use bandwidth as a key resource.
Given the effect new innovations such as the iPhone are already having on overall Internet traffic, it’s hard to argue against Swanson’s point.
The ease and dependability of today’s Internet makes it easy to forget that it takes a complicated backbone of wiring and cables that makes the whole thing run. This backbone is expensive to build and maintain, and like any complex infrastructure, things sometimes go wrong—such as, say, cables being severed accidentally during construction.
So how do we make the Internet “crash-proof”? Is it even possible? NewScientist has an interesting article on the problem, and finds that while cables will always be vulnerable, focusing on routers may actually make a “crash-proof” Internet a reality.
For seven months, New York Times reporter David Rohde was help captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan. During that time, the paper worked hard to keep news of the kidnapping off of front pages. But while other media outlets obliged the request, the paper faced a formidable opponent in Wikipedia, the user-generated online encyclopedia.
Now that David Rohde has escaped the Taliban, the Times has a fascinating account of their struggle to keep news of his kidnapping off the Internet:
A dozen times, user-editors posted word of the kidnapping on Wikipedia’s page on Mr. Rohde, only to have it erased. Several times the page was frozen, preventing further editing — a convoluted game of cat-and-mouse that clearly angered the people who were trying to spread the information of the kidnapping.
Even so, details of his capture cropped up time and again, however briefly, showing how difficult it is to keep anything off the Internet — even a sentence or two about a person who is not especially famous.
As the traditional journalism model continues to crumble, new means for dispensing information continue to expand. Enter YouTube, which has already seen a significant jump in uploaded videos following the release of the latest video-capable iPhone, and has now started an initiative to train “citizen journalists” on how to better report the news. From the YouTube blog:
The YouTube Reporters’ Center... features some of the nation’s top journalists sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting. Learn how to prepare for an interview from CBS News’ Katie Couric; how to be an investigative reporter from the legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, or why it’s important for citizens to participate in the news-gathering process from Arianna Huffington. And definitely don’t miss out on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s video on how to report from a crisis area without getting shot.
Between 2000 and 2008, residential broadband subscribers grew to 80 million from 5 million. Adding to this expansion of connected households was a substantial increase in the quality, robustness, and speed of the broadband connections themselves.
Swanson, Bret. “Bandwidth Boom: Measuring U.S. Communications Capacity from 2000 to 2008.” Entropy Economics, June 24, 2009.
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