Tech Talk

A Quick Way to Build a Wireless Network

What do Sayada, Tunisia, and Red Hook, Brooklyn, have in common? At first glance, not much. One is a fishing town on the Mediterranean Sea. The other is a waterfront neighborhood in an industrial section of America’s largest city. But both are using a networking technology that is cheap, relatively easy to set up, and remarkably resilient and secure.

Called a mesh network, the technology lets users connect directly to each other rather than through a central hub. For the citizens of Sayada, that means they can create a community network free from government surveillance or interference. For residents of Red Hook, the local mesh network helps them stay connected during power outages. READ MORE

NYC’s Simple Plan for Reducing IT Fraud and Waste

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer doesn’t mince words when describing the city’s problem with IT consulting costs and contracts. “We’ve seen millions of taxpayer dollars misspent because of a lack of oversight and accountability,” he says. One of his favorite examples of this is when contractors working on overhauling the 911 system billed the city $147 an hour to remove waterbugs from a bathroom and to photocopy conference room calendars.

But the city’s problems with IT contracts go way beyond timesheet issues. In 2012, contractor SAIC agreed to pay the city a record $500 million in penalties for a failed automated payroll system, the cost of which ballooned from $73 million to more than $700 million before it was shut down. The U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case -- which was ultimately settled -- called the project “a fraudsters’ field day that lasted seven years.” READ MORE

The United Arab Emirates: A Rising Star in E-Government

This story is part of Governing's annual International issue.

Some small countries have had outsized success with e-government. For years, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Singapore and South Korea have scored high on international rankings for online service delivery. But another small country from outside the digitally advanced regions of Europe and Asia has quietly yet quickly moved to the forefront of tech-savvy governments: In 2012, the United Nations ranked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 28th in its global survey of e-government, up from 49th in 2010. READ MORE

Most Schools Don’t Teach Computer Science

Would it surprise you to know that most schools don’t teach computer science—not even the basics? It should, especially given that there will be about 1 million more U.S. jobs in the tech sector in the next decade than computer science graduates to fill them, according to Code.org, a nonprofit launched last year to promote computer science in schools. 

Failure to teach students basic theory behind how computer technology works has several implications—none of them positive. First, employers are clamoring for qualified people to fill tech-related jobs. Yet students aren’t introduced to this potentially high-paying field as they take the first steps toward a career. READ MORE

A Little Neighborly Competition Can Help Reduce Water Usage

As a longtime California resident, I consider myself fairly water conscious, thanks to a series of droughts stretching back nearly 40 years. As a high school freshman living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the historic 1976-77 drought, I remember folks in my neighborhood using buckets to catch what little rain fell during those years to water outside plants. We learned to take short showers, and we tried not to drink water from the tap because it tasted like saltwater, which was pushing inland toward the municipal water intake located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Another six-year dry spell from 1987 to 1992 triggered constant reminders to conserve. And now the lack of precipitation is hitting home again. 2013 is the driest year on record, according to state water officials. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January. Folsom Lake, a huge reservoir a few miles from my house, is less than 20 percent full and looks like a mud puddle. Outdoor watering is restricted to two days a week, and it may be eliminated altogether this summer if conditions don’t improve. READ MORE