Tech Roundup

Game On

Building an educational game for a smartphone or tablet is a pretty tall order for federal agencies. It has to be sufficiently engaging so it doesn’t wilt when compared with apps from private sector leaders such as Zynga. But you can’t ramp up the fun by compromising the app’s educational value or you’ll shortchange young learners and fail to fulfill the agency’s mission.

One app that crosses both these high bars is Solve the Outbreak, an iPad game developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reviewers in Nextgov’s apps rating project gave it 4.5 points out of 5, making it one of the highest scoring apps in the project’s two-year history.

The app presents players with real-world disease outbreaks and teaches them about epidemiology and data analysis as they make decisions about how to respond. Along the way, players earn points until they reach the rank “disease detective.”

Our reviewers thought the app was educational enough to be used in a classroom and fun enough to hold high school students’ interest—a high bar as anyone who’s spent much time with adolescents knows.

“This is the type of learning I love for kids to have,” says Ted Chan, founder of Practicequiz.com and chief technology officer of  Cook123.com. “It teaches that a lot of the math, biology, science and statistics concepts they are learning have meaningful applications.”

The reviewers’ only criticism of the app was that it’s only available on the iPad. 

For more information, check out Nextgov’s Building Better Apps project at www.nextgov.com.

Joseph Marks

Glass Half Empty

Federal agencies for 15 years have been unable to move cybersecurity off a list of the government’s most imperiled initiatives, with a new audit revealing a declining number of agencies—half—do not annually train employees on security. 

Perennial weaknesses in network security endanger national security because of the pervasiveness of the Internet and sophisticated cyber threats, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in September.

In fiscal 2012, 12 of the 24 major federal agencies provided annual security awareness training to at least 90 percent of their network users, compared with 22 agencies the prior year. 

These and other “weaknesses show that information security continues to be a major challenge for federal agencies,” the audit states. “Until steps are taken to address these persistent challenges, overall progress in improving the nation’s cybersecurity posture is likely to remain limited.” 

Aliya Sternstein

Testing 1,2,3

Contractors that helped develop the Obama administration’s troubled online health insurance marketplace say the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the project, performed only two weeks of testing before going live on Oct. 1. 

That’s significantly less testing time than usual for major Web applications, representatives from HealthCare.gov contractors CGI Federal and QSSI say. They declined to say how much time should have been allocated. 

CGI played a major role in building Medicare.gov, for which it had several months of testing, says senior vice president Cheryl Campbell. 

Joseph Marks

NSA Needs a 12-Step Program

Since Edward Snowden started leaking details on how the National Security Agency gobbles up exabytes of data worldwide, it has become increasingly clear that it has an unhealthy addiction.

NSA chief Keith Alexander has said the agency needs to collect “haystacks” of data in order to detect terrorist needles, an effort The Washington Post says “occasionally threatened to overwhelm storage repositories, forcing the agency to halt its intake with ‘emergency detasking’ orders.”

Those are real signs of addiction. The explanation for this spying—everyone does it—is an excuse used by alcoholics on the 10th beer of the evening while everyone else at the bar slowly sips their second. 

I’m not suggesting NSA go cold turkey, but it might try tapering off—a terabyte at a time.

Bob Brewin

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.