The Technological Foundations of E-Government



Sukumar Ganapati



Book Chapter for:
Electronic Government: Information,...
Author:
Sukumar Ganapati
Assistant Professor
School of Public Administration (PCA 363B)
College of Social Work, Justice, a...
Chapter # (TBD)

The Technological Foundations of E-Government



Sukumar Ganapati



Abstract

This chapter provides an o...
Due to its emphasis on Internet use, the e-government literature has focused on the

development of Web based services. Ho...
phone systems to optical fiber cables and wireless based communication systems. The

combination of computer and communica...
scope between the two: while Web-based services are delivered through browsers, the IP

based services are broader (e.g. f...
3. WEB BASED SERVICES

The Internet technology has enabled the growth of Web based systems for information

dissemination ...
(ii)    they harness collective intelligence (e.g. through blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social

           networking sites...
portals. The first government portal, usa.gov, combined the services from different departments

under one portal. Other e...
of different entities through data mining techniques. Indeed, data mining has emerged as a key

concern of federal governm...
Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). These services, however,

require broadband (i.e. high b...
VoIP. Indeed, following incidents like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane

Katrina, when emergency com...
channels. The content is constantly delivered by the provider to each customer, who then

selects the content to watch. In...
speed broadband through telephone wires, rather than a requiring more costly optical fiber

upgrade (Alfonsi, 2005). Publi...
RFID is an automatic identification technology using tags and readers to capture data about

objects. The RFID tag typical...
temperature, movement, or vibration). Passive tags are typically used where they need to be

read at very short distance (...
stores, and replenish goods in a timely way based on the demand of the goods in the store. The

consequent efficiencies wi...
government. The founders of the movement call RFID as “spy chips” since they can invade

one’s privacy, allow snooping by ...
the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the Geographical Positioning Systems (GPS).

GIS and GPS are two distinctive ...
three data components (which could be distributed across servers) with search and query

interfaces to provide maps and re...
make the public domain property data (e.g. transactions, property taxes, ownerhship) available

through Web-GIS. According...
features in 2000 and discontinued the procurement of satellites with SA capabilities in 2007.

Yet, the DoD could restrict...
7. BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE

As identified in Section 2, advances in computers as well as communications technologies

ena...
extensive infrastructure has to be laid to enable such connections. Wireless connections are

flexible, but could have les...
copper. Optical fiber cables are thinner than copper, allowing more lines in the same diameter

cable. Moreover, optical f...
carrying the BPL signals and the user’s building. The user could then connect a device (e.g.

computer, IPTV) with a BPL m...
the number of wireless subscribers increased from 109.5 million in 2000 to 233 million in 2006;

about 12.8 percent of hou...
support Internet communications (Web browsing, emailing, etc.). Indeed, analog devices are

getting outmoded: from mid-Feb...
300 feet (they comply with IEEE 802.11 family of standards). Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) devices

(e.g. network cards used i...
processes, particularly for first responder services (e.g. police, fire, paramedics) and for field

work (e.g., on-site da...
particularly beneficial for organizations with call centers that have to interact with the public (e.g.

311, 511, 911 sys...
emails could burden email inboxes. IP based systems are also prone to similar security

breaches. RFIDs are looked upon as...
REFERENCES

        Albrecht, K. and McIntyre, L. Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan

to Track Your Ever...
Financial Management, the Budget, and International Security, Committee on Governmental

Affairs, U.S. Senate, 2004.

    ...
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Potential

Interference from Broadband over Power Line ...
Tongia, R. Can broadband over powerline carrier (PLC) compete? A techno-economic

analysis, Telecommunications Policy, 28 ...
Figure 1. A basic BPL system

                                              Access
                                       ...
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  1. 1. The Technological Foundations of E-Government Sukumar Ganapati Book Chapter for: Electronic Government: Information, Technology, and Transformation [Foundations of E-Government section] Edited by Hans J. Scholl Publisher: ME Sharpe, Armonk, NY [Advances in Management Information Systems (AMIS) series]
  2. 2. Author: Sukumar Ganapati Assistant Professor School of Public Administration (PCA 363B) College of Social Work, Justice, and Public Affairs Florida International University Miami, FL 33199 Email: ganapati@fiu.edu Fax: 305-348-5848 Biographical Sketch Dr. Sukumar Ganapati is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Administration at Florida International University. He teaches graduate courses in Information Technology and E- government in the school. He has also taught courses in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He has undertaken several IT projects at both local and international levels. These include the Access Indonesia project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
  3. 3. Chapter # (TBD) The Technological Foundations of E-Government Sukumar Ganapati Abstract This chapter provides an overview of the technological foundations of e-government. IT practitioners need to be aware of alternative technological choices in their strategic decision making. The current e-government literature has focused mainly on Web based services. Besides Web, four additional related areas of interest are identified in this chapter: IP based services, Sensor based services, Location based services, and Broadband Infrastructure. The technological principles underlying the five areas and their applications for e-government are identified. Keywords: Web services; IP services; RFID; GIS; Broadband Infrastructure This chapter provides an overview of the technological foundations of e-government. Garson (2006, p. 19) defines e-government as the “provision of governmental services by electronic means, usually over the Internet.” Although Internet is indeed at the core of e-government, there are several related technological areas that are often overlooked in considering e-government applications. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Information Technology (IT) managers need to be aware of such technological choices in their strategic decision making. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of these emerging technological alternatives is important for adopting the newer technologies; else, these choices are made on an ad hoc basis. 1
  4. 4. Due to its emphasis on Internet use, the e-government literature has focused on the development of Web based services. However, besides Web based services, at least four additional related areas of interest for e-government could be identified. These are: (i) Internet Protocol (IP) based services; (ii) Sensor based services; (iii) Location based services; and (iv) Broadband Infrastructure. The technology in the above areas is rapidly evolving. Practitioners, policymakers, and researchers of e-government have to often play catch up in dealing with these technological developments. Yet, the literature focusing on these technologies and their implications for e-government applications is thin. The present chapter aims to fill this gap. Consequently, the chapter discusses the five areas with a technological view on their prospects and problems for e-government. While the five areas hold prospects for e-government, each is not entirely standalone. Indeed, systems spanning one or more of these areas are at the cutting edge of e-government in the 21st century. However, the interconnections between the systems also bring up the issues of security and interoperability. The rest of the chapter is structured as follows. The second section reviews the state of the art of technology in e-government. Sections 3 through 7 describe the advancements in the five technological areas mentioned before. The fourth section concludes with the problems and prospects of technological developments for e-government. 2. THE STATE OF THE ART OF TECHNOLOGY IN E-GOVERNMENT Electronic government or e-government capitalizes on the advances in computer and communications technology since World War II. Computer technology enabled large scale storage (i.e. memory) and mathematical (e.g. calculations, logic) capability. Since the World War II, computers have evolved from room-sized equipments based on vacuum tubes to small sized desktop and laptop machines based on transistors in microprocessor chips. Communications technology enabled the networking between computers, i.e. the Internet. The technology has also evolved significantly since World War II, from copper wire based landline 2
  5. 5. phone systems to optical fiber cables and wireless based communication systems. The combination of computer and communications technology has enhanced the ability to disseminate information in real time, to increase efficiency of routine chores, and to collaborate between different actors. Technological advances of computer and communications technology have occurred faster than the changes in the industrial era. Alvin Toffler (1970) referred to the too much change in too short a period of time from industrial to the super-industrial society as “future shock.” Unlike the industrial era changes, however, the technological evolution has not been at the cost of affordability. Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, predicted as early as 1965 that the number of transistors on a microprocessor chip will double approximately every two years at inexpensive rates. Moore’s Law, as the prophecy has come to be known, is more broadly applied to other features of computer and communications technology too. Networks, which were for elite use in defense (i.e. ARPANET) and research (i.e. BITNET) institutions, have become more widely accessible through proliferation of private Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Greater affordability of computers and communications technology has been conducive to the growth of e- government in the public sector and e-commerce in the private sector. Although some forms of digital divide persist (Servon, 2002), the divide has been narrowing on several aspects (e.g. between racial, gender, and income groups). According to Pew Internet Research (Horrigan, 2007), 71 percent of American adults use Internet from some location. The growth of Internet has contributed to the Web becoming the base for e-government. The Web has facilitated information dissemination, public interactivity, electronic transactions, and even organizational transformation. Indeed, Web based services have attracted much attention in the e-government literature. However, there are at least four additional related areas of technology that have impacted e-government processes. These areas include: Internet Protocol (IP) based services; Sensor based services; Location based services; and Broadband Infrastructure. IP based services are similar to Web-based services in being dependent on the computer and communications technology infrastructure. However, there is a difference in the 3
  6. 6. scope between the two: while Web-based services are delivered through browsers, the IP based services are broader (e.g. for voice communications, video conferencing, etc.). Sensor devices like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can identify objects uniquely and can be read automatically from a remote location. Services based on such sensor devices are used for identification, inventory tracking, and supply chain management. Location based services are explicitly oriented towards geographical mapping and location of persons or objects; these services are significant for e-government since they describe the spatial characteristics. Broadband infrastructure does not refer to services per se, but the backbone that supports e- government services. The infrastructure is critical for augmenting e-government services. The above five areas are not entirely stand-alone. Web and IP based services can be easily integrated. Web services also incorporate the location based services, such as GIS and GPS. When combined with GPS, RFID and wireless devices (e.g. cellphones) become powerful tools for location on the field. These devices can also be connected using the Internet to relay the information over the Web. Transportation agencies use such interconnectivity between systems for traffic management, including real time traffic alerts. A driver with a GPS device in the car, for example, can gauge the traffic ahead based on his/ her location. Indeed, the interconnectivity between the systems is at the cutting edge of e-government. The interconnectivity between the systems also brings up problematic issues, such as security and interoperability. IP based services, for example, are open to the same security threats as the Web based services. RFID devices, if not properly managed, are vulnerable to security threats. Moreover, the technological standards between the systems could differ; or they could run under proprietary systems that are incompatible with other systems. This brings up the issue of interoperability between the systems, for the devices to communicate with each other. In the following sections, the technological foundations of the five areas are considered first, and then their prospects and problems for e-government are explored. 4
  7. 7. 3. WEB BASED SERVICES The Internet technology has enabled the growth of Web based systems for information dissemination and email systems for communication between people since the early 1990s. At its very basic, the Web based system consists of a server computer, which is a publicly accessible repository of information (e.g. content, documents, databases), and a client computer, which accesses (i.e. reads) the information in the server. The email systems allow private transmission of messages and documents between computers over the Internet. The systems have since evolved into complex ones. Web portals, for example, make use of multiple servers to serve Web pages; content and applications could be distributed across the servers and mirror one server’s content on another for contingency (e.g. if one server went down, another will serve the same information) or speed (e.g. to balance load between servers during times of excessive demands). The current Web 2.0 technologies in the 21st century are distinctive from the Web 1.0 applications of the 1990s. Web 1.0 was related to basic information dissemination through static Web pages (e.g. using Hyper Text Markup Language, HTML) and basic database manipulation for dynamic Web pages (e.g. using Structured Query Language, SQL). This generation of Web served customary information published and owned by the producers with hyperlinks to other Web pages of related interest. In the Web 2.0 era, the usage of Extensible Markup Language (XML) is more prevalent than HTML. XML facilitates the sharing of structured data and allows for serving dynamic content over the Web. O’Reilly (2005) outlined several characteristics of currently evolving Web 2.0 technologies: (i) they treat the Web as a platform rather than as a base for singular applications (e.g. mashups, which overlay information from multiple Web sources into one Web service using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs); peer to peer networking such as Napster and KaZaA, where client machines are used to act as servers for deploying information); 5
  8. 8. (ii) they harness collective intelligence (e.g. through blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social networking sites); (iii) data ownership is a key element; (iv) their softwares are not end products—they are services that are continually developed; (v) they use lightweight programs that build on existing Web platforms, rather than using proprietary programs; (vi) their software can be used across devices. The literature on the prospects and problems of Web-based services for e-government is rich. There are four stages of Web based services in e-government: (i) Web presence, in which governments deploy basic information about themselves on the Web; (ii) Web interaction, which includes interactive features between government decision-makers and citizens (e.g. through emails, interactive dialog boxes); (iii) Web transaction, in which various government transactions such as procurement, contracting, payment are processed through the Web; and (iv) Web transformation, where public organizations are themselves transformed from hierarchical, stovepipe model to horizontal, collaborative model. Government agencies have made remarkable strides in the usage of Web services. Although information dissemination is at the core of the Web services, interactivity is also increasingly being used. Email has displaced traditional snail mail to become a dominant mode of contacting senators and other policymakers. Social networking sites like MySpace are used by political candidates for outreach to the younger constituency for votes. Federal sites such as regulations.gov allow for public participation in the federal rulemaking process by enabling citizens to view and comment on regulations and other actions for federal agencies. Web transactions such as renewal of driving license, payment of fines, checking on the status of an application, etc. could be done online. According to West (2007), 86 percent of federal and state websites have fully executable online services. In terms of Web transformation, spillover activities that span several departments are centralized through the Web using cross agency 6
  9. 9. portals. The first government portal, usa.gov, combined the services from different departments under one portal. Other examples include: grants.gov, which is a central repository for federal grants and for streamlining grants management; usajobs.gov, which is dedicated to federal jobs. Such sites eschew the traditional stovepipe models of government agencies and transform them into horizontal networks. There is also a convergence of government websites to be arranged according to the audience needs, rather than specific department functions. In this, websites are typically arranged for four audience categories: citizens, businesses, employees, and visitors. Web services could be classified into four categories: government to citizen (G2C) services; government to business (G2B) services; government to government (G2G) services; and intra- governmental services (IG). G2C services focus on citizen demanded government services (e.g. driving licenses, birth certificates, etc.) which could be carried out through the Web, rather than face to face interactions with the bureaucracy. G2B services focus on business oriented government services (e.g. business licenses, local taxes) that can be carried out over the Web. G2G services act between different levels of government for intergovernmental transactions, to meet reporting requirements, and for performance measurement. IG services are back office employee oriented and internal management services specific to the agency. A few government agencies—especially at the federal level—have adapted to the Web 2.0 environment. For example, podcasts and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds are available from most federal websites. The podcasts provide department specific videos and RSS feeds provide latest announcements or policy developments (similar to latest news). Blogs have increasingly gained significance in American politics. They have become powerful tools for political activism, public participation, and campaign communication (Lawson-Borders and Kirk, 2005). A few government sponsored blogs have also emerged (e.g. U.S. Department of State’s Dipnote, which provides an alternative source to mainstream media reporting on American foreign policy). A potent aspect of e-government in terms of Web 2.0 is the proprietary ownership of large amounts of data that is collected by different agencies from individual citizens and businesses on a mandatory basis. The data enables governments to create profiles 7
  10. 10. of different entities through data mining techniques. Indeed, data mining has emerged as a key concern of federal government agencies for different purposes, ranging from improving service to analyzing and detecting terrorism activities (GAO, 2004). The use of Web-based services is prone to hacking, snooping, and other security breaches, and attacks by spy worms and viruses. Consequently, sensitive government data could be compromised. Although email has become a staple for communications, phishing emails mislead citizens and government officials alike; unwanted emails (i.e. spam) is also a standing problem. Moreover, public sector email communications are generally not private; hence, private emails could become available to the public domain. 4. IP BASED SERVICES Similar to Web based services, IP based services draw on the Internet technology. Fundamentally, these services rest on the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/ IP) standard, the most widely used standard for networking between computers. TCP/ IP represents a significant advancement over traditional phone networks. Traditional phones use circuit switching, which uses a dedicated circuit (or channel) between nodes and terminals for communication. The circuit is not available to other users until it is released. However, TCP/ IP systems use packet switching, which do not use dedicated circuits. Rather, data from the sending device is broken down into small packets and transmitted over the Internet using the best available route; the packets are then reassembled at the receiver’s device. TCP/IP thus represents a more efficient use of network bandwidth. The network can balance the transmission load across various pieces of equipment, and if a problem occurs with an equipment, the data could be re-routed over another equipment in the network. Packet switching has lowered the cost of communications, enabled new services and features, expanded network resiliency, and enhanced consumer choice. Various IP based services have emerged as a result besides the Web based services. Such services include the Voice over 8
  11. 11. Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). These services, however, require broadband (i.e. high bandwidth, like DSL, cable, or T1) rather than dial-up connections to perform efficiently. The most significant among IP based services is the VoIP, which has become a popular alternative to traditional phone systems. According to Telegeography (2007), the number of VoIP subscribers increased from 6.5 million in mid-2006 to 11.8 million in mid-2007. The increase in popularity is due to cost and other advantages. For residential consumers, VoIP rates are generally lower than traditional phones. For enterprises, deploying VoIP is estimated to be one-third the cost of traditional phone systems; operating costs could be 50-60 percent less. VoIP also has other advantages, such as sophisticated messaging and conferencing applications and simplified management. VoIP represents a convergence of data, voice, and video (Triple Play) using the same broadband network. Email and phone conversations are thus transmitted on the same network. Consequently, email and voice mail queues could be merged to make either type of message retrievable by phone or computer. VoIP’s voice services work over the computer, a special VoIP phone, or traditional phones. While using the computer, one requires a microphone and software to process the voice; the special VoIP phones plug into the broadband connection directly; the traditional phones require a VoIP adapter. Skype, which is used by residential customers and businesses, provide both voice and video connections using peer to peer networking. People with Skype accounts can call each other for free regardless of their location; they pay a fee when calling a phone. VoIP services for residential and business use are also provided by ISPs, phone, and cable companies. Several vendors of VoIP have emerged for enterprise wide solutions, notable among them being Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, Mitel, Siemens, and so on. Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Social Security Agency have adopted VoIP to provide a unified and comprehensive range of services. Several states, counties, and cities have also jumped into the bandwagon of VoIP technology. In particular, government agencies with call centers (e.g. 311, 511, 911 systems) that have to field many phone inquiries could find it expedient to implement 9
  12. 12. VoIP. Indeed, following incidents like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, when emergency communications between first responders failed, there have been calls for an IP-based nationwide 911 system. Unlike traditional telephone systems that fall under state regulation, VoIP falls directly under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) jurisdiction; hence, VoIP norms are uniform nationwide. The implementation of VoIP, however, is not without its problems. Reviewing the security considerations of VoIP, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) observed, “Because of the integration of voice and data in a single network, establishing a secure VOIP and data network is a complex process that requires greater effort than that required for data- only networks” (Kuhn et al, 2005, p. 5). VoIP is time-critical, where time-lag between packets of voice transmitted between source and destination could result in lower Quality of Service (QoS) than that in data transmission. At the same time, VoIP is vulnerable to the same security problems as other systems that depend on the Internet (e.g. worms, which can compromise servers). Hence, similar to data networks, the VoIP services also need to be protected with software and hardware devices (e.g. firewalls, antivirus protection, and intrusion detection systems). However, the implementation of security measures could deteriorate the VoIP’s QoS, including latency (greater time taken for a voice transmission from the source to destination), jitter (non-uniform packet delays, particularly due to low bandwidth), packet loss, and Denial of Service (DoS). Another major issue is that not all VoIP services connect directly to 911 emergency services. Skype, for example, cannot be used to call 911. The FCC imposed 911 obligations on providers of VoIP services, particularly those that allow users to make calls to and receive calls from the regular telephone network. In addition, the FCC requires interconnected VoIP providers to comply with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA), which allows law enforcement officials to wiretap digital telephone networks. Similar to VoIP, IPTV also uses the IP network, but delivers television and video services. Being IP based, IPTV is unlike traditional TV and Cable. In the traditional TV, users have to tune in to 10
  13. 13. channels. The content is constantly delivered by the provider to each customer, who then selects the content to watch. In an IP network, only the content selected by the consumer is delivered. This selective delivery frees up bandwidth, thus allowing for significantly more content and functionality. For example, IPTV provides picture-in-picture functionality for channel surfing without leaving an existing program; it allows downloading of photos or music from personal computers. IPTV is related to Internet TV (ITV) since both are Internet based. However, ITV consists mainly of Web-based video streaming. IPTV is not solely Web based and often requires additional software and hardware (e.g. set-top box) for high quality video. Youtube is a prime example of ITV, where people upload videos and are accessible to the general public. IPTV is used for both live TV and Video On Demand (VOD). Live TV (including synchorous communications like web-conferences, distance learning, corporate communications) use multicasting, which is a bandwidth-conserving technology to reduce traffic by simultaneously delivering a single stream of information to many recipients. VOD uses streaming of content for real time viewing, or downloading the content for later viewing. In live TV, the size of data is not known a priori and could be infinite; in VOD, the video is a pre-recorded finite file. Motorola, Seachange, Tut, Verimatrix are some of the leading IPTV vendors (Multimedia Research Group, 2007). In combination with VoIP, the consumer base of IPTV is projected to grow exponentially, according to various industry analysts such as Infonetics, Insight Research Corporation, and Multimedia Research Group (New Millennium Research Council, 2006). IPTV has become a staple medium for viewing games. Major League Baseball has been offering streaming video since 2002; the 2006 FIFA World Championship was also viewed using IPTV throughout the world. In 2006, the Earth Day Network and Communications Technology (ComTek) partnered to offer a live, two-way IPTV broadcast to 16,000 high school and college classrooms in the U.S. Students could view the broadcast through a Web, email questions to environmental experts and religious leaders, and have two-way communications through VoIP. In 2005, the IEEE Spectrum magazine predicted IPTV to be a technology winner since it can use relatively low- 11
  14. 14. speed broadband through telephone wires, rather than a requiring more costly optical fiber upgrade (Alfonsi, 2005). Public sector enterprises that depend on legacy copper network for telephones could thus use IPTV with little loss of QoS. IPTV has much potential for government applications. First responder solutions could be distributed community wide through video and interactive communications for public safety in emergency situations. IPTV could be used as interactive channels for community broadcasting of municipal meetings. Interactive video, voice, and data could be used for distance learning and off-site training sessions (e.g. Webinars). Special interest virtual conferences (e.g. Webcasts) could be held using IPTV. The scope of political debates could be also enhanced through the interactive capabilities. Youtube, for example, was used to field questions for Democratic Presidential candidates in the debate held in Charleston in July, 2007. Lastly, IPTV could be used for telemedicine, wherein doctors can monitor and treat patients interactively from remote locations. 5. SENSOR BASED SERVICES Sensors are devices that respond to an environmental stimulus (such as heat, light, sound, pressure, magnetism, or motion). For example, motion detectors are sensors that respond to any movement in the area of their coverage, and issue security alerts in case of an unauthorized intrusion. Other common sensors include cameras, scanners, lasers, radar systems, thermal devices, seismographs, etc. Among these, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems have gained significance for e-government, and hold much potential for future use. Hence, this section focuses mainly on RFID devices. Although the technology of using radio frequencies is not new, RFIDs gained popularity in commercial and government applications only in the late 1990s. RFID has grown by leaps and bounds since then. The number of RFID devices doubled to 1.2 billion units between 2005 and 2006; they are expected to reach 700 billion units by 2015 (Bevan, 2007). 12
  15. 15. RFID is an automatic identification technology using tags and readers to capture data about objects. The RFID tag typically contains a unique identification code that can be attached to objects and living beings. The code can be read by the reader using radio waves. The RFID tag represents a revolutionary change over the traditional bar codes that are used to identify objects in retail stores. Bar codes, which use the Universal Product Code (UPC), cannot uniquely identify objects—they identify a class of objects. They require line of sight for reading them; they can be read only one at a time; they cannot be read if they are dirty or damaged; their information cannot be updated. Unlike bar codes, RFID tags, which use the Electronic Product Code (EPC), can be used to uniquely identify objects. RFID tags do not require line of sight for reading them; they can be batch processed since many tags can be read instantaneously; they are more durable; and their information can be overwritten and updated (Wyld, 2005, p. 12). Since RFID tags are read by radio waves, they do not need to be swiped like magnetic stripe cards. From a technological perspective, RFID consists mainly of tags and readers. A middleware is used to process the data from the tag. An RFID tag has an integrated circuit (IC) chip, which contains the unique EPC data. The chip’s memory could be read-only (i.e. data cannot be changed), read-write (i.e. data can be changed), or a combination of both. The chip is linked to an antenna, which is a small coil of wires. The tag could be packaged in different forms and sizes, depending on the function. It could be packaged in smart cards (e.g. identification cards serving multiple purposes, credit cards that can be scanned instead of swiping, etc.), smart labels (that can be attached to books, packages, etc.), disks (which can be attached to an object with a screw), glass cases (for implantation in animals and human beings), and so on. The tags could be as small as grain of rice (e.g. Hitachi’s mu chip). The tags could also be passive (which have no power source, and are activated when they are in the vicinity of a reader at short distance), active (which have a power source and emit radio waves continuously, so that they can be read at greater distances), and semi-passive (which have a battery, but are activated based on a sensor that automatically responds to an environmental stimulus such as 13
  16. 16. temperature, movement, or vibration). Passive tags are typically used where they need to be read at very short distance (e.g. e-passport, credit cards); active tags are used when they need to be read at longer distances (e.g. electronic toll collection); semi-passive tags are used to monitor environment (e.g. sense earthquake tremors, changes in temperature in a remote location). The RFID readers can be small hand-held devices that are portable or can be large and fixed. A reader comprises of an antenna, transceiver, and a decoder. The range of the reader depends on the size and efficiency of the antenna, and the power of transceiver. There could be one or more antenna, depending on the desired read range. The RFID transceiver sends out radio waves either on demand (in case of small hand-held devices) or continuously (in the case of a fixed reader). If an RFID tag is in the transceiver’s active range, the tag’s unique code is read by the reader. The radio frequency of the transceiver gives the intensity of the radio waves for transmitting information—higher the frequency, the more powerful is the reader. Low frequency (125–134 KHz) readers are used upto 18 inches; high frequency (13.553–13.567 MHz) are used for 3 to10 feet; ultra-high frequency (400–1,000 MHz) are used for 10 to 30 feet; and microwave frequencies (2.45 GHz) are used for higher distances (Wyld, 2005, p. 20). Typically, when a reader receives a tag’s signal, it passes that information to the decoder, which then forwards the unique code for processing to the back-end system (e.g. looking up or adding to a computer database). RFIDs have gained much popularity in the private and public sector for supply chain management, which is the tracking of materials and products from a supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. The principal goal of the supply chain management system is to reduce inventory (i.e. shelf life), so that goods need to be moved down the chain in an efficient manner. RFIDs enable greater visibility in the supply chain management since the inventory of any particular node in the chain could be centrally read and managed. Wal-Mart was among the early adopters of RFID in requiring its suppliers to provide RFID-tagged pallets and cases to the distribution centers. The Wal-Mart could centrally monitor the inventory of the 14
  17. 17. stores, and replenish goods in a timely way based on the demand of the goods in the store. The consequent efficiencies with RFID implementation were expected to save Wal-Mart upto $8.35 billion annually (Wyld, 2005). Several federal agencies have also undertaken RFID initiatives, the notable ones being the Department of Defense (DoD), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Social Security Agency (SSA). DoD has a complex supply chain management, with many domestic and overseas locations. RFID is used for logistic support through fully automated visibility and management of assets, hands-off processing of materiel transactions, and to streamline business processes. Since 2005, DoD has phased in RFID tagging of pallets by DoD manufacturers and suppliers of shipments. FDA has required pharmaceutical companies to use RFID to have better control over the prescription drug supply chain. USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS) envisages the management and tracking of individual animals in order to trace and control animal diseases. RFID ear tags or implanted devices are used in the NAIS for identifying large animals like cattle. SSA has been using RFID since 2003 for its internal office supply store, wherein tagged items are scanned at checkout for inventory management. A few state and local governments have also adopted RFID for inventory management. Electronic toll collection is a prime example at the state and local levels, wherein drivers do not have to stop and pay tolls at the toll booth. Overhead readers in the booth automatically read RFID transponders in the vehicle, and the appropriate amount is deducted from the transponder’s account. Hospitals use implanted RFID chips (e.g. VeriChip) to monitor patient’s health (especially for senior citizens). The use of RFID is not without controversy. The principal concern with government’s use of RFID is privacy—that the big brother is watching every move. The concern is more acute when RFIDs are used to track human movements or are implanted in human beings. Such fears have precluded people from installing transponders in the car. A consumer group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) has been at the forefront raising awareness about the downside of implanting RFID chips by corporations and 15
  18. 18. government. The founders of the movement call RFID as “spy chips” since they can invade one’s privacy, allow snooping by others, and increase government surveillance (Albrecht and McIntyre, 2005). Security is also a major concern since RFID tags can be read by readers for illegitimate purposes. Thus credit cards and e-passports could be compromised with appropriate readers that could eavesdrop and make unauthorized use. The National Institute of Science and Technology highlighted four types of major risks with RFIDs: business process risks; business intelligence risk; privacy risk; and externality risk (Karygiannis, et al, 2007). The report set guidelines for security and privacy. These guidelines include: implementation of firewalls to separate RFID databases from other databases in the organization; usage of encrypted radio signals; authentication of approved users of RFID systems; shielding RFID tags and tag reading areas to prevent unauthorized access; implementation of procedures for auditing, logging, and time stamping to help in detecting security breaches; and disposal of tags and recycling procedures to permanently disable or destroy sensitive data. 6. LOCATION BASED SERVICES Broadly, location based services relate to spatial descriptions of persons or objects. These services assist in determining precise geographical locations and describe the spatial attributes of a jurisdiction. At its very basic, a location based service is a graphical map which represents geographical boundaries (e.g. political, physical, climatic), linear elements (e.g. river, streets), and point objects or living beings (e.g. buildings, people). Although maps have been in existence for centuries, the evolution of computers and communication systems have revolutionized the location based systems to enable spatial descriptions in real time (e.g. spatial movements). The location based services have benefited government processes in several areas, including natural resource management, health management, disaster management, law enforcement, real property services, land management, and planning and economic development. There are two major components of location based technologies in this respect: 16
  19. 19. the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the Geographical Positioning Systems (GPS). GIS and GPS are two distinctive technologies—while GIS is oriented toward mapping a geographical space, GPS is oriented toward locating an object or living being in the geographical space. From a technological perspective, GIS is commonly understood as “a system of hardware, software, data, people, organizations and institutional arrangements for collecting, storing, analyzing, and disseminating information about areas of the earth” (Dueker and Kjerne, 1989, p. 7-8). It helps manipulate, analyze and present information that is tied to a spatial location. Fundamentally, GIS comprises of three data components: spatial, attribute, and raster. Spatial data represent locations and shapes (i.e. polygons, lines, and points) of geographic features (e.g. boundaries of census tracts, zip codes, counties, states, etc.). Attribute data (qualitative or quantitative) provide the spatial characteristics that describe a geographical feature (e.g. population of a jurisdiction). Raster data consist of images (e.g. aerial photographs). GIS combines the three data to provide a graphical representation of geographical features. Several attribute layers are combined to give a composite depiction of the feature. The power of GIS for e-government is in the ease of condensing vast amounts of attribute data from various sources into graphic visuals in order to display spatial relationships. Moreover, the GIS data can be analyzed (e.g. topographical analysis of a site to achieve optimum drainage configuration; forecast of hurricane paths) and queried (e.g. location of hospitals within a given distance from an accident location) interactively. Lastly, GIS enables building “what-if” scenarios with alternative data projections and can be useful for simulation. Graphic visuals like thematic maps of population distribution can be manipulated on the fly to make complex data projections understandable to both the lay people as well as experts (pictures speak a thousand words). GIS technology has been refined quite significantly since the 1980s. Traditional desk top based GIS has since evolved into Web-based GIS, so that spatial information is deployed over the Internet. Web-GIS is more dynamic than a static map display. Unlike static maps, Web-GIS allows for pan and zoom to obtain maps based on user defined parameters. It combines the 17
  20. 20. three data components (which could be distributed across servers) with search and query interfaces to provide maps and reports interactively. Thus, lay users with an Internet connection can also access GIS, without having to go through steep learning curves or expensive GIS software. Mapquest.com, for example, has become common for two dimensional route mapping. Google Earth enables three-dimensional GIS, where users can fly over terrains virtually. With mashups, Web-GIS is a powerful tool for real time mapping applications, like traffic alerting systems (e.g. sigalert.com). GIS has gained popularity across federal, state, and municipal governments to deploying Web- based spatial information. The federal government has facilitated the use of GIS by developing geospatial standards and by providing spatial and attribute data. For example, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) was established in 1990 as an inter-agency committee to promote the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) for the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis. FGDC develops the geospatial data standards in cooperation with other public, private, and academic institutions. Government organizations have also emerged as important sources of spatial, attribute, and raster data. Geodata.gov purports to be a one-stop site for federal, state, and local spatial data; many states also have geospatial data clearinghouses (Goodchild et al, 2007). U.S. Census Bureau had originally developed the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system (TIGER) for spatial data. The bureau has also emerged as the principal resource for attribute data (population, housing, economic data). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) uses GIS to better portray geographic relationships that affect public health outcomes and risks, disease transmission, access to health care, and so on (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/gis.htm). DoD uses GIS in the millitary for intelligence gathering, terrain analysis, mission planning, and facilities management. State and local governments have increasingly adopted GIS for a wide variety of purposes. The uses include: land management, transportation planning, parks and recreation, environmental monitoring, infrastructure services, and promoting citizen participation. Many city and county governments 18
  21. 21. make the public domain property data (e.g. transactions, property taxes, ownerhship) available through Web-GIS. According to Kaylor (2005), over 60 percent of the municipal websites surveyed in the Municipal e-Government Assessment Project (MeGAP) had “data rich, highly interactive GIS features.” In contrast to GIS’s mapping function, GPS is used to determine location in geographical space using satellites. GPS consists of three segments: the space segment; the control segment; and the user segment. The space segment comprises of the satellites that were placed in orbit by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for military applications initially, but have been made available for civilian use since the 1980s. A constellation of 24 satellites (called NAVSTAR) orbit at about 12,000 miles above the earth and make about two orbits in a 24 hour cycle. These GPS satellites emit two radio signals consisting of three bits of information: the pseudorandom code (an identification code of satellite), ephemeris data (location of the satellite, sent periodically) and almanac data (the status of satellite, current date and time, sent continuously). The control segment comprises the master control (located in Colorado) and a network of five ground stations located around the world. The ground controls monitor the paths of the satellites and update the ephemeris and almanac data. The GPS unit consists of a receiver and an antenna capable of reading the signals emitted by the satellites. The receiver essentially determines its location (latitude, longitude, altitude) by calculating its distance from satellites. The GPS unit requires at least three satellites in view to locate its position in two dimensions and at least four satellites to locate in three dimensions (locating a point in three dimensional space requires at least four distances from other known locations). The distance from a satellite is calculated using the ephemeris data, with differential error adjustments based on the pseudorandom code and the ephemeris data. Since the original scope of the US GPS program was for military purposes, the DoD has regulated its civilian use. For example, DoD used the Selective Availability (SA) feature of the GPS to introduce random errors of several hundred feet into the civilian systems, so that the errors can confound accuracy of long range missiles. The federal government disabled SA 19
  22. 22. features in 2000 and discontinued the procurement of satellites with SA capabilities in 2007. Yet, the DoD could restrict the GPS use in case of a national emergency. In a direct challenge to the US GPS monopoly, the European Union and the European Space Agency began to develop Galileo as a global satellite navigation system (GNSS) for civilian purposes. The system, which is expected to be operational by 2008, will comprise of a constellation of 30 satellites. Several non-European countries, including China, India, Saudi Arabia have also joined the program. The Galileo is expected to comprise of five navigation service groups available worldwide: open service (available freely for mass market applications with reduced accuracy); safety of life service (available for safety critical transport applications, with the same accuracy as open service, but implemented on frequency bands reserved for Aeronatuical Radio-Navigation services); commercial service (encrypted fee based services with high accuracy), public regulated service (robust signals protected against jamming and spoofing, and available during crisis periods; for government authorized applications, including police, coastguards and customs officials); and search and rescue service (for quick reception of distress messages from anywhere on earth, precise location of alerts, return link to reduce false alerts). Galileo is also expected to be interoperable with the US GPS system. The most common use of GPS is in navigation systems, such as ships in the ocean, airplanes, and cars. GPS is increasingly used for land surveys since they yield more accurate results than traditional theodolite methods. Metreologists use GPS is for weather forecasting; seismographers use GPS for studying tectonic motions in earthquake studies. Combined with GIS, objects can be located in real time on a map using GPS. Local governments use the technology for dispatching first responder vehicles. For example, in case of a 911 call of a crime event, the dispatcher can identify and dispatch the police vehicle nearest to the event. Tourism oriented data (e.g. location of restaurants, recreational facilities) can also be accessed through the integrated GIS/ GPS services. 20
  23. 23. 7. BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE As identified in Section 2, advances in computers as well as communications technologies enabled the growth in e-government services. Unlike computers, which are private goods, the communications infrastructure is a public good. Hence, governments typically have a stake in developing the infrastructure. Studies show that the communications infrastructure investments are significant for economic growth and development. The telephone lines (e.g. copper wires) form the basic infrastructure component for communications, but dial-up computer modems are not sufficient in the rapidly evolving world of broadband requirements. Broadband refers to the high speed Internet communications, which are typically faster than the 56.6 kilobytes per second (kbps) offered by dial-up modems (FCC defined the first generation threshold of broadband as 200 kbps). With the increase in demand of high bandwidth due to IP based services, the demand for broadband infrastructure has escalated. According to the Pew Internet’s 2007 survey, 47 percent of adults have broadband at home, up 5 percent from 2006 (Horrigan, 2007). While there is extensive coverage of basic infrastructure of telephone lines and power lines (overhead or underground) across the country, the availability of more advanced broadband infrastructure is uneven and yet to catch up. The catch up game is an interminable one since the broadband technology is also evolving quickly. Technology policymakers in the state and local governments need to be aware of the evolving technologies to make judicious infrastructure choices. The evolving broadband communications infrastructure includes both wired and wireless technologies. Wired infrastructure is based on a cable connection (e.g. telephone, optical fiber, or coaxial); wireless infrastructure is based on radio wave signals that do not require a physical cable connection. Examples of wired broadband include Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable, Fiber to the Home (FTTH), and Broadband over Powerline (BPL). Wireless infrastructure includes Wi-Fi hotspots, Ultra Wide Band, and Mesh networks. The choice between a wired and wireless infrastructure is a paradoxical one for many local governments. Wired connections have better QoS, but are less flexible due to the requirement of physical connectivity; hence, 21
  24. 24. extensive infrastructure has to be laid to enable such connections. Wireless connections are flexible, but could have less QoS and be more prone to dropped calls and security lapses. Wired infrastructure requires only marginal investments in urban areas where the infrastructure may already have been installed; wireless infrastructure may be more advantageous in rural areas where it is expensive to lay the wired infrastructure. Of course, the choices are not mutually exclusive among the various wired and wireless systems; hybrid systems have also evolved. Solutions for “last mile” problems (i.e. the final leg of connectivity to a customer from a hub), for example, could be based on such hybrid systems. Wired Broadband DSL and Cable broadband build on existing copper wire connections of telephone and cable TV respectively. The communications are based on transmission of electrical signals over the copper network. Since this infrastructure already exists in most urban areas, additional infrastructure investments are usually minimal. DSL and Cable are both widely available for urban consumers at more affordable rates than other systems. The additional capacity in the existing copper network is due to packet switching, which frees up space for routing more communications. Routers, modems, and filters need to be added at the user end to separate voice and data. DSL and Cable prevail the broadband Internet penetration—in 2006, DSL constituted 50 percent of home broadband connections and Cable constituted 41 percent. According to FCC (2007), the number of DSL and Cable lines increased exponentially from 4 million in June 2000 to nearly 53 million in June 2006. Theoretically, DSL and Cable could offer speeds upto 10 and 30 megabytes per second (mbps) respectively; however, the actual speeds are lower and reduce with additional users on the network at the same time. Although DSL and Cable speeds represent significant improvement for data transfer, the QoS may deteriorate for voice and multimedia services. Unlike DSL and Cable, communications in optical fiber networks is through light signals, which provides several advantages. Signal degradation and interference is less in optical fibers than 22
  25. 25. copper. Optical fiber cables are thinner than copper, allowing more lines in the same diameter cable. Moreover, optical fibers provide broadband speed upto 10 gigabyte per second (gbps) (the T-carrier lines and Optical Carrier lines). Installing optical fiber cables provide cost savings over the long run due to the higher reliability and lower maintenance. Yet, optical fiber cables have not become as popular as DSL and Cable. For, the copper wire networks are more extensive and the initial costs of laying copper cables are lower. The number of optical fiber based lines increased from nearly 0.4 million to about 0.7 million in June 2006 (FCC, 2007). Two types of network connectivity are based on the optical fibers: Fiber to the Home (FTTH), which delivers communication to the end user; and Fiber to the Curb (FTTC), which delivers to a platform and the last mile could be served by other modes (e.g. DSL, Cable, or wireless systems). According to the FTTH Council (2006), FTTH served 936 communities in 47 states by April, 2006. Broadband over Powerline (BPL) provides yet another prospect for wired broadband access through the existing infrastructure network of electric power lines. When transmitting electricity, power lines use a limited range of frequencies. BPL takes advantage of the unused transmission capability of the power lines for communications, without disrupting the power output. Hence, it is also called Power Line Communication (PLC). BPL is an emerging technology, which can provide broadband speeds between 500 kbps and 3 mbps. FCC identifies two components of BPL systems (NTIA, 2004, p. 1-1): Access and In-house. Access BPL systems are the outdoor network of devices that use electrical power lines for transmitting broadband data to, from, and within the geographic area. In-house BPL systems are the indoor wiring and power outlets for networking within a building, and for connecting end-user devices to the access BPL network. A basic BPL network is illustrated in Figure 1. Access BPL equipment consists of injectors, repeaters, and extractors. BPL injectors (also, couplers) interface between high speed optical fiber or other high speed broadband and the power lines (overhead or underground). Repeaters are required at periodic distances on long power lines to keep the signals from attenuating or distorting. Extractors provide the interface between the power line 23
  26. 26. carrying the BPL signals and the user’s building. The user could then connect a device (e.g. computer, IPTV) with a BPL modem in a power outlet to have high-speed internet access. Early problems with BPL have included radio interference over the utility line, which negatively affects ham radio operators (American Radio Relay League, ARRL, protested against BPL implementation with FCC). BPL implementation in the U.S. has lagged behind Europe due to its peculiarity of power lines: unlike Europe, US utilities have differing standards of power systems and grids. While European distribution transformers feed several homes (100 to 200), US utilities typically have few (4 to 8) homes per transformer (Tongia, 2004). The number of BPL based lines increased from nearly 4,000 in 2005 to a little over 5,000 in 2006. (FCC, 2007). According to the United Power Line Council (UPLC, 2007), which is the FCC certified BPL database manager, there were 35 BPL deployments across United States, ranging from small pilot projects to large scale commercial deployments. These BPL deployments include Cincinnati (catering to over 50,000 homes) and Manassas (catering to over 700 households). BPL holds potential particularly for multihousing units (e.g. apartment complexes) where there are scale efficiencies in using the power lines for providing Internet to several households. [Insert Figure 1 around here] Wireless Broadband Unlike the wired communications infrastructure described above, wireless infrastructure does not require physical cables for making broadband connections. Wireless communications are based on radio waves, where frequencies emitted by radio base stations, towers, and radio devices are read by wireless devices using antenna. Although wired systems make up the major portion of broadband penetration, wireless services have emerged as a significant contender in the market. Satellite and other wireless based lines increased from over 0.65 million in June 2000 to 23 million in June 2006 (FCC, 2007). According to CTIA-Wireless Association (2006), 24
  27. 27. the number of wireless subscribers increased from 109.5 million in 2000 to 233 million in 2006; about 12.8 percent of households in 2006 were wireless only. Wireless based communication devices (e.g. cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants, PDAs) have also grown exponentially in the 21st century. Government enterprises have increasingly adopted the wireless devices in the work place—a Government Computer News (GCN) survey revealed that 86 percent of agency managers use wireless technologies for conducting agency business (Walker, 2004). Thus, wireless is a major technological development to contend with for e-government, both from citizen and agency’s perspective. Wireless provides mobile Internet access to citizens and government officials (e.g., coffee shops, cars); a single device can be used to make phone calls, pay bills electronically, and access entertainment and data. The transmission and reception of electromagnetic radio frequency is at the core of wireless communications; hence, wireless infrastructure needs to address the management of frequency spectrum. The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) share responsibility for managing the spectrum. While FCC manages the spectrum used by individuals (e.g., garage door openers), private sector (e.g., radio and television broadcasters), and public safety and health officials (e.g., police and emergency medical technicians), NTIA manages the spectrum used by the federal government (e.g., air traffic control and national defense). Generally, devices using a particular radio frequency require FCC license or NTIA authorization; these devices are protected from interference since other devices are prohibited from using the frequency. Unlicensed devices do not require such license or authorization. Wireless could be analog or digital. Analog refers to modulation (amplitude or frequency) of sinusoidal radio wave forms for communications delivery and reception; cellular phones and FM/AM radios are typically analog devices. Digital refers to binary (0 or 1) radio wave transmission and reception. Digital wireless offers more advantages over analog: it can accommodate more users (due to packet switching on channels), reduced background noise, better sound quality, and more security. Moreover, digital wireless is IP based, so that it can 25
  28. 28. support Internet communications (Web browsing, emailing, etc.). Indeed, analog devices are getting outmoded: from mid-February, 2009, analog television services will be terminated under the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005. Contentious debates have followed in the auction process and usage of the recovered analog spectrum (700 MHz). Yet, the auction is expected to raise over $10 billion to be put into the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund. From an e-government perspective, the fund will pay for emergency and essential services, such as public safety interoperable communications, a national tsunami warning program, enhanced 911, and essential air-services. Analog cellphones are also giving way to the 3G (third generation) digital mobile phones (e.g. Portable Communication System, PCS phones). FCC discontinued the requirement of cellphone providers to provide analog services from mid-February, 2009. Wireless companies have already started to deploy broadband technologies on their mobile cellular networks operating on licensed spectrum. Smart phones use the broadband for integrating voice (VOIP), data (document), and Internet (Web browsing, emails). Newer 3G technologies, such as Evolution Data Only (EVDO) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) provide wireless broadband services at speeds ranging from 300 kbps to 1 mbps. Wireless communications infrastructure has also significantly advanced from the traditional cell phone infrastructure, where communications between two phones are enabled through radio communication with a tower in the geographic area. In contrast to the analog cell phones, the digital wireless could be short-, medium-, or long-range broadband devices. Short-range Personal Area Networks (PANs) span about 30 feet (they comply with IEEE 802.15 family of standards). For example, Bluetooth and Ultra Wide Band (UWB) are PAN technologies. Bluetooth equipment use unlicensed frequency (2.4 GHz) and have speeds of upto 720 kbps; they could be used for home security, streaming audio, ad-hoc file sharing. UWB uses low- powered, pulse modulation (often exceeding 1 GHz) and can have much higher speeds upto 100 mbps; the higher speeds allow it to be used for wireless monitors and faster data transfer between various devices. Medium range wireless is used for point-to-point communications upto 26
  29. 29. 300 feet (they comply with IEEE 802.11 family of standards). Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) devices (e.g. network cards used in laptops) are typically medium range. Wi-Fi hotspots are venues equipped with Wi-Fi antenna, enabling access to wireless Internet; as of the writing of this article, JiWire.com (2007), which tracks hotspots around the world, identified over 63,700 hotspots in the United States. Several mobile service providers use Wi-Fi hot spots to complement their cellular services. Longer range networks are point-to-point or point-to- multipoint that can span upto 30 miles. Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (WMANs) are such long-range networks, which can provide last mile connectivity. WMANs are vendor specific or comply with IEEE (802.16) standards and often use Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) for data speed upto 155 mbps within a 2 mile range. A more recent long-range technology is the WiMax, which are based on improved 802.16 standards. WiMax networks employ Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to provide data speed upto 75 mbps. OFDM, unlike LMDS, does not require line of sight for data transfer and can penetrate through obstructions like buildings and trees. Thus, WiMax represents an improvement over WMANs. Mesh networks represent another recent development in the long-range wireless networks. They consist of several nodes (antenna) at short distances (i.e. there is no central tower), enabling each antenna as an access point to broadcast at lower power with less interference. From a government perspective, the provision of medium-range and long-range wireless infrastructure has gained significance. In an effort to increase digital connectivity for tourism and economic development, several cities have provided municipal broadband through Wi-Fi, Wi- Max, or mesh networks. The infrastructure is fully municipality-owned (e.g. Coffman Cove, Alaska; Scottsburg, Indiana) or joint ventures with commercial operators (e.g. with Earthlink in Philadelphia). Debates rage over whether or not municipalities should provide such wireless services; industry advocates have argued that such services may be better provided by private agencies (Gillett, 2006; New Millennium Research Council, 2005). Notwithstanding these debates, deployment of city or region wide wireless services holds potential for e-government 27
  30. 30. processes, particularly for first responder services (e.g. police, fire, paramedics) and for field work (e.g., on-site data processing by inspectors). 8. TECHNOLOGICAL PROSPECTS AND PROBLEMS FOR E-GOVERNMENT The above review shows significant development in recent technological developments with respect to e-government. Progress in computer and communications technology facilitated e- government processes. E-government is generally considered as the services provided through Web, over the Internet. Yet, other technologies are also of significance to e-government. Four such technological areas were identified in this chapter. IP based services such as VoIP and IPTV provide both voice and video communications enhancement. Sensor devices like RFIDs are used for unique identification of objects. GIS and GPS provide location based services, including mapping and location in real time. Broadband infrastructure—wired as well as wireless —provides the backbone for e-government processes. The above technological developments offer several prospects for e-government. Web based government services provide information, interactivity, and transactions; they are also transforming government organizations. Recent studies (e.g. West, 2007) show that Web services are getting saturated across federal, state, and local government organizations. Yet, there is much room for development with the evolution of Web 2.0 technologies. Blogs and podcasts increase the capacity for public participation and discussion, and act as alternative news forums. Since governments have vast amounts of demographic, geographic, economic, health, agriculture, and other public domain data, they have the potential for becoming primary sources for such data. Although Web based systems have been at the core of e-government, other related technologies have also facilitated e-government processes. Similar to Web services, IP based services such as VoIP and IPTV are also based on packet switching technology. While the implementation of VoIP and IPTV holds cost advantages for government enterprises, they are 28
  31. 31. particularly beneficial for organizations with call centers that have to interact with the public (e.g. 311, 511, 911 systems). RFID devices are used for inventory and supply chain management, electronic toll collection, tracking animal movements, smart ID cards, and so on. GIS is a powerful tool for managing land, environmental resources, transportation, and other services. GPS is used for real time tracking and dispatching of first response emergency vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, and fire tenders. Wired and wireless broadband infrastructure enables better communications, and is particularly useful for delivering audio and video. DSL, Cable, optical fibers, BPL provide high bandwidth connections; Wi-Fi hotspots (e.g. in airports, coffee shops) and Wi-Max provide medium- and long-range wireless connections. Integration of two or more of the above technologies holds prospects for enhancing efficiency of e-government. Sensor networks, for example, combine the Web, sensors like RFIDs, GPS, and wireless communications for several purposes. For example, SensorNet, based in Oakridge National Laboratory, combines such technologies for high risk incident management (e.g. near- real-time detection, identification, and assessment of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats). SensorNet (http://www.sensornet.gov/) is aimed to provide a common data highway for the processing and dissemination of data from CBRNE, meteorological, video and other sensors in order to provide near-real-time information to emergency management decision makers and first responders. The WaterWatch program of US Geological Survey (USGS) similarly uses a network of sensors across the country to provide a “real-time streamflow” map to track short-term changes in rivers and streams. The changes are updated periodically and can be viewed in Google Earth. Mobile digital phones allow one to speak over the phone, check emails, surf the Web, take photographs, and geocode (with GPS). These multipurpose smart phones allow site inspectors and other field officials to conduct their job on-site itself. The application of the above technologies, however, is not unproblematic. Security and privacy is a common concern in implementing the technologies. In Web based systems, while hacking, snooping, worms, and viruses could compromise the system integrity, spam and phishing 29
  32. 32. emails could burden email inboxes. IP based systems are also prone to similar security breaches. RFIDs are looked upon as “spy chips” that could invade one’s privacy. With the spread of GIS and GPS systems, locative spam is expected to become a common phenomenon (Scharl, 2007). Usage of Web based GIS also raise security issues, ranging from the privacy concerns of individual citizens (e.g. Google Streetview that shows street level photographs in Google Maps) to the national security of countries (e.g. Google Earth’s mapping of defense facilities). Wireless devices are also prone to snooping and other security problems. Security and privacy is of particular concern for e-government for two reasons. First, governments host sensitive data, such as that related to national security, financial transactions, personal data, etc. Second, government organizations could themselves misuse the data, unless laws explicitly guarantee privacy of citizens and circumscribe the use of such data. A second concern with interconnecting the different technologies is the issue of interoperability. In this, the systems could be based on different standards or be proprietary. The standards of legacy systems in government enterprises may be different from the new ones, or different departments within the same organization may have different preferences, so that they may be incompatible. Moreover, the evolution of competing standards could hinder interoperability. Interoperability between proprietary systems is rendered difficult when the hardware systems are not compatible, or software codes are not compatible (e.g. back-end databases that cannot communicate with each other). The proprietary systems could create lock-in, e.g. iPhones do not allow alternative carriers or other programs. Klischewski (2004) identifies two dimensions of interoperability: information integration and process integration. He argues that interoperability requires a guiding vision of integration and both technical and inter-organizational cooperation. Technically, establishing open systems into which individual units can “plug and play” and establishing standards across different units could facilitate interoperability. In this, the IP standards have facilitated integration of data and voice (e.g. Web browsing, emailing, VoIP, IPTV). XML and FGDC have become de facto standards for data sharing and geospatial databases. 30
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  37. 37. Figure 1. A basic BPL system Access BPL Medium Voltage Power Lines BPL Injector BPL Repeater Distribution Fiber / T1 BPL Transformer Extractor Low Voltage Internet Subscriber’s In-House BPL Modem + PC Source: NTIA (2004) 35

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