Avocette Blog

Archive for the ‘Information Technology’ Category

Avocette Renews Gold In The Microsoft Partner Network

March 22nd, 2016 | Posted in Announcements, Information Technology, Partners

We are proud to announce that Avocette has attained the Gold Application Development competency and Gold Data Platform competency in the Microsoft Partner Network. These achievements demonstrate Avocette’s “best-in-class” ability and commitment to meet Microsoft Corp. customers’ evolving needs in today’s dynamic business environment. Avocette is now a part of the top 1 percent of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.

microsoft partner network gold competencies

Earning a Microsoft Gold Competency

This is the eleventh consecutive year that Avocette has earned the Gold Application Development competency, and fifth consecutive year that we’ve earned the Gold Data Platform competency. In order to earn a Microsoft gold competency, partners must:

  • Successfully complete exams (resulting in Microsoft Certified Professionals) to prove their level of technology expertise,
  • Designate these certified professionals uniquely to one Microsoft competency, ensuring a certain level of staffing capacity,
  • Submit customer references that demonstrate successful projects
  • Implement a yearly customer satisfaction study,
  • Meet a revenue commitment (for most gold competencies), and
  • Pass technology and/or sales assessments.

“By achieving a gold competency, partners have demonstrated the highest, most consistent capability and commitment to the latest Microsoft technology,” explains Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft Corp. “These partners have a deep expertise that puts them in the top 1 percent of our partner ecosystem, and their proficiency will help customers drive innovative solutions on the latest Microsoft technology.”

Gold Application Development and Gold Data Platform Competencies

By gaining access to a comprehensive set of benefits through the Application Development and Data Platform competencies, Avocette can help new customers become more productive and profitable through deployment of business applications, advanced web portals and rich client user interfaces that run on premises or in the cloud.

Earning the Application Development and Data Platform competencies helps differentiate Avocette as trusted experts through the development and deployment of commercial or custom applications built using core Microsoft technologies. These core Microsoft technologies include Windows Server and Windows 8 operating systems, the Windows Azure platform, Microsoft SQL Server 2014, Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 development system, Microsoft BizTalk Server and emerging cloud-based and web business models.

About the Microsoft Partner Network

The Microsoft Partner Network helps partners strengthen their capabilities to showcase leadership in the marketplace on the latest technology, to better serve customers and, with 640,000 Microsoft partners in their ecosystem, to easily connect with one of the most active, diverse networks in the world.

Managed Services and the Microfoft Partner Network

Data: It’s Not As Scary As You Think (Part 3)

March 8th, 2016 | Posted in Data, Information Technology

What is civic technology?

Is talk about civic technology leaving you with more questions than answers?

Have you clicked on one of the ever increasing-number of articles with the terms “big data”, “open data” and “open government” in the title, only to close it immediately because it doesn’t appear to be written for you?

This is the third installment of a three-part series exploring those very concepts as they relate to informed, engaged citizens and transparent and efficient governments.
If you missed the first two installments, check out part one and part two of the series for even more information, then read on!

Quick Review of Parts 1 and 2

When Big data, Open data and Open Government principles of transparent government practices, government accountability and citizen oversight are combined the result is Big, Open, Government data:

  • A very valuable,
  • Collection of stats and facts,
  • That is massive, often complex and dynamic,
  • Free to be used, reused and redistributed by anyone, and
  • Was collected or commissioned and distributed by a government agency.

By providing access to their Big, Open data to anyone who wants it for free or at very low cost, governments of all levels empower their citizens to question policies, affect change and influence decisions.

Developers, many of whom are private citizens, create desktop and mobile applications (apps) that turn specific Big, Open, Government datasets into useful information for the benefit of their communities.

Civic Technology

The apps created to translate Big, Open, Government datasets into useful tools for citizens are civic technology, or civic tech. While the precise definition of civic tech is somewhat contentions, it can be described as technology that enables and supports the principles of Open Government, including transparent government practices, government accountability and citizen engagement and oversight.

In essence, civic tech involves creating tools to support the public good.

Civic tech often opens up direct and effective communication channels between citizens and government. Those channels can be used by:

  • Governments to keep citizens safe by alerting them to potential hazards, and
  • Citizens to alert government departments to infrastructure and safety issues, creating responsive & efficient city services.

Natural Disasters

In the first post of this series we mentioned that Big, Open, Government-produced data gathered through integrated GPS networks allows scientists to anticipate future earthquakes with increasing accuracy. Though civic tech, governments are sharing that information with their citizens.

Earthquakes Canada is a great example of this in action. Their website is a wealth of information including links to recent significant earthquake reports, a detailed map showing all earthquakes of the last 30 days, and even a live seismogram viewer showing you a life feed of waveforms from any of their 64 stations.

civic technology, big data, open data and government data in action

All earthquakes of the last 30 days at time of writing

In conjunction with their detailed webpage, they also broadcast “notifications of earthquakes significant to Canadians” through their automated Twitter account.

Health and Safety Information

Public access to health and safety inspection reports through a city’s open data portal is incredibly important for, well, our health and safety.

Evanston, IL and San Francisco, CA are taking their commitment to open data, civic tech and citizen engagement to the next level through a collaboration with Yelp and Accela government solutions.

Evanston and San Francisco’s commitment to open government data, combined with their use of Accela’s Civic Platform, allows them to automatically share restaurant health inspection information on Yelp.

The types of information available to citizens through an establishment’s Yelp business detail page includes:

  • Restaurant health scores,
  • Food inspection dates,
  • Specific violations, and
  • Previous health inspection scores.

Through a collaboration of the cities’ Manager’s Office, Information Technology Division, Health Department, Yelp and Accela’s civic tech citizens have the latest health and safety information at their fingertips. Read more about it here.

Parks, Trails and Greenspaces

civic technology helping to create smart parks

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

RGreenway, a smartphone app “designed to make the 3800 acre 115 mile Raleigh Greenway system an integrated park,” exists as a direct result of Raleigh, NC’s open government initiative.

Because of the mass amounts of Big, Open, Government data for the app to pull from, it includes highly detailed information about the greenways including the mileage, whether it is paved or unpaved, the closest places to park, and current weather conditions. Citizens can also report issues like necessary trail maintenance and graffiti directly to the appropriate government departments through the app.

These two short sentences from the app’s home page say it all: “Few have committed themselves to the principle of open data like Raleigh has. Together this presents an opportunity to create America’s Smartest Park.”

Just the Beginning

This series is just an introduction to the concepts of data, Big data, Open data, Government data and civic technology. There’s so much more to talk about!

If you’d like to know more about anything we covered, please let us know in the comments section of the blog or through our LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook pages. You can also contact our team directly by visiting our Contact Us page.

READ MORE: PART 1 and PART 2 in our Data: It’s Not As Scary As You Think series.

Ask us about Accela government solutions and civic technology for your organization

Data: It’s Not As Scary As You Think (Part 2)

March 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Data, Information Technology

Do you avoid conversations about Big data and Open data because you have to a degree in computer science just to follow along?

Do you avoid conversations about Big data and Open data because it feels like it’s mandatory to have a degree in computer science just to follow along? Often these discussions are steeped in industry jargon, effectively excluding the outside world.

And that’s really unfortunate, because it’s important to be a part of these conversations.

But there’s hope!

In this three-part series we explore these Big data, Open Data and Open Government data concepts as they relate to transparent and efficient governments as well as informed, engaged citizens.
If you haven’t already, check out part one of the series for even more information on the ever-present enigma known simply as “data”…

Quick Review From Part 1

  • Data is simply a collection of facts and statistics,
  • Big data is a collection of stats and facts that is massive, often complex and dynamic, and
  • Open data is a collection of stats and facts that is free to be used, reused and redistributed by anyone.

When we add Open Government principles of transparent government practices, government accountability and citizen oversight into the mix the resulting data is Big, Open, Government data:

  • A collection of stats and facts,
  • Massive, often complex and dynamic,
  • Free to be used, reused and redistributed by anyone, and
  • Was collected or commissioned and distributed by a government agency.

And the resulting data is often very valuable.

The Local Value of Big, Open, Government Data

By providing budget data, census data, transportation data, waste management data etc. at no cost to anyone who wants it, governments of all levels empower their citizens to question policies, affect change and influence decisions.

When citizens and their government representatives are working with the same information, they can interact with respect and trust.

This is demonstrated on the local level when citizens speak at council meetings. Open government practices allow constituents to research practically every aspect of a contentious local government issue before presenting their position to their council and community. Even after decisions have been made, these same practices empower citizens to effectively audit their government officials.

Technological Applications by Citizens, for Citizens

As we discussed in Part 1, good open data is data that is released in standardized, structured formats. The main reason this is so important is that it results in data that is easily processed through technology. When governments open up their data in this way, developers can create civic technology-applications that quickly translate the data in meaningful ways.

Additionally, standardizing the format makes data verification easier, which goes a long way to contributing to a respectful and trusting relationship between citizens and their governments.

Many of these developers are private citizens, collaboratively designing desktop and mobile applications (apps) that turn specific Big, Open, Government datasets into useful information for the benefit of their communities.

Code for America

Code for America, for example, is an organization of people who believe “government can work for the people, by the people in the 21st century.” Through Code for America, developers, designers and writers can contribute to civic technology projects across the United States. The apps created through these projects are designed to give Big, Open, Government data meaning and are free to use.

For example, a group of people are currently developing a procurement forecast tool that allows users to search through the U.S. General Services Administration database for all forecasted contracting opportunities. Users can filter their searches down to projected solicitation quarter, returning only the most relevant results.

Citizens use big data, open data and government data to create useful apps

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Civic Tech Hackathons

If the term “hackathon” sounds a little strange to you, have no worries. Hackathons, or “codefests” are simply events “where programmers get together at some venue to collaboratively create a new application or software system within a few hours or a few days” (PC Mag). Internationally, hackathons to help develop new civic technology applications through the use of open data are held throughout the year.

Open Data Day

This coming weekend, hackathons will be held the world over in celebration of Open Data day. One such event, the Vancouver Open Data Day Hackathon is focused on creating “a meaningful open data app or visualization that citizens can use.” Participants have about 10 hours to use open data to create a new prototype and prepare for their demo in front of the panel of judges.

The event page also helpfully includes a list of those who should attend:

Vanlist

The list includes… well, everyone! That’s how important civic technology designed to translate and give meaning to Big, Open, Government data is to our lives.

It’s never too early to get involved in a civic hackathon. For example, Generation Citizen, a non-profit that “works to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective action civics education… necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens” held their own day-long hackathon in Cambridge, MA this past November.

In their 2015 Civic Tech Challenge, Generation Citizen paired teens working on civic action projects through their program with developers, designers, and digital marketers from Boston’s top tech companies and graduate school programs. The goal was to collaboratively create innovative tech add-ons to their action projects.

READ MORE: PART 3 – In the final post of the series we will explore the innovative ways that government agencies and public officials can apply Big, Open Government Data to improve our communities and engage with their citizens.

Learn how our Accela governmnet soutions can transform your big data.

Data: It’s Not As Scary As You Think (Part 1)

February 26th, 2016 | Posted in Data, Information Technology

Conversations about data are happening on a global level, with Big data, Open data and Government data popping up as recurring themes.

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Conversations about data are happening on a global level, with Big data and Open data popping up as recurring themes. But what are they? And what do they really mean to you as a citizen?

In this three-part series we explore these concepts as they relate to transparent and efficient governments as well as informed, engaged citizens.

What is data?
For many, the first thing they think of when they hear the word “data” is the cost on their mobile phone bill. But data has far larger implications and applications than browsing on your smart device. Data is simply a collection of facts and statistics. The type of data that Big data and Open data deal with is almost exclusively digital.

What is Big data?
Big data is data that is, well, massive. Big data can also be complex and dynamic. A good example is the data captured from GPS enabled devices, like the navigation system built-in into your car, and the location tracking enabled on your iPhone. The data from this year, for example, would be both massive and very different from data collected from any year previous and every year after.

The term Big data doesn’t denote any kind of ownership, simply the size of it.

Then what is Open data?
Open data is public data that anyone can use. Data that is open is:

  • Public,
  • Non-personal,
  • Easy to use,
  • Licensed for reuse, and
  • Available at no cost or very low cost.

According to The Open Data Institute, good Open data is also:

  • Easily shared,
  • Easily processed because it is in a standard, structured format,
  • Consistently available and reliable, and
  • Traceable back to its origins.

Big, Open data
Data can be both Big and Open. Using Venn diagrams based on Joel Gurin’s original design, we can see how they work together.

Where Big data, Open data and Government data converge

The overlap of big data and open data produces large public data sets from both government and non-government sources.

The GPS data gathered mentioned earlier is an example of Big, Open data from   various sources. Census information is another great example: the information is collected by the government, made available to the public, and the data is represented by statistical summaries to protect private, personal information.

Citizen science is an interesting source of non-government Big, Open data. Through our increasing access to internet-enabled mobile technology, anyone can gather data in their communities and collaborate in projects and research driven by scientists from around the world. Visit The David Suzuki Foundation for more information.

However, the importance of Big, Open data to you as a citizen is really brought into focus when we add a third factor: Open Government.

Open Government principles revolve around the idea of transparent government practices, government accountability and citizen engagement and oversight. A state regulatory agency, for example, can increase transparency within their processes by making all information used in policy decisions publicly available and easily accessible.

Here’s what happens to the original diagram when we add Open Government practices:

Where Big data, Open data and Government data converge

At the convergence of Big data, Open data and Open Government is Big, Open, Government data.

Because government agencies have the resources to gather mass amounts of data, there are often major economic benefits tied into this data. For instance, the Big, open, government produced data gathered through integrated GPS networks allow scientists to anticipate future earthquakes with increasing accuracy. Planners are using the data collected from the last census to forecast future healthcare costs, and to assess community programs and services needs, to name but a few examples.

People are doing amazing things for their communities through the application of Big, Open, Government data.

READ MORE: PART 2 – How Big, Open, Government data is improving our communities.
Learn more about our government data solutions