More than a decade ago, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) recognized the need for changes to the nation’s 911 systems.
The old systems had their jobs for decades, but in a world of wireless calling and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), the country needed more accommodating technology. Enter the concept of next-generation 911 (NG911), a system that would run on a secure Internet protocol-based network and allow texting, data transfer and more.
Since then, a generation of youngsters has grown up texting pals not only with words, but with pictures and videos as well. In fact, a 2011 Pew Internet survey found that 73 percent of cellphone users text, and nearly one-third of them would rather text than talk. In addition, many people with hearing and speech disabilities have abandoned TTY in favor of text messaging. Despite this phenomenon, just a small number of the nation’s 911 call centers run on secure emergency services IP-based networks, and just a handful of the centers have piloted technologies that allow the public to text 911.
So what’s taking so long?
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Cybersecurity is one of the greatest concerns and hottest IT trends in government today. Highlighted recently through reports of China’s hacking of Google, the issue has simmered for years. Now the Department of Homeland Security says it is detecting new patterns of cyber attacks from foreign foes.
Einstein 2, a new “special-purpose intrusion-detection system (IDS)” has been detecting the attacks according to reports in NetworkWorld. With only a handful of agencies now on the system, DHS says it is detecting between 100 and 10,000 cyber attacks on the federal agency per week. The IDS will be widely deployed in federal networks during 2010.
According to NextGov.com, “cybersecurity” is defined as “…the protection of all things Internet — from the networks themselves to the information stored in computer databases and other applications.” The concept has grown as businesses and government agencies send and process greater amounts of data online. Its importance will continue to expand as broadband capacities swell and new technologies emerge that foster greater collaboration and data exchange.
Last week the House passed the 2009 Cybersecurity Enhancement Act. According to NextGov.com the bill provides about $395 million in grants for computer and network security R&D between 2010 and 2014. It also funds nearly $100 million in scholarships to recruit and train cybersecurity professionals, and $120 million for research facility construction and training program development at colleges and universities. The bill requires a task force, made up of representatives from federal government, industry and academia, to consider how to encourage collaborative research and development for cybersecurity. There is no companion bill in the Senate yet.