Federal Communications Commission

Patronus solves John Oliver’s 911 issue


Last Week Tonight’s feature segment focused on antiquated 911 technology, particularly its inability to leverage mobile geolocation and effectively pinpoint a caller’s whereabouts from his or her cellphone.

“911 losing valuable time simply because dispatchers have trouble determining your location is not unusual,” says host John Oliver.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Patronus (formerly Bluelight) is a free, consumer-focused 911 app (available on Android or Apple) that routes emergency calls to the closest dispatcher. Current features provide caller name and location (address and GPS latitude/longitude) and will immediately notify key personal contacts. Future features include date of birth, health conditions, emergency contacts, medications, real-time location and caller photograph.

According to Oliver, more than 240 million 911 calls are made each year, with up to 80 percent coming from wireless devices.

He cites a Federal Communications report that “location accuracy improvements … could save approximately 10,120 lives annually.”

Watch Oliver’s segment and download Patronus:

FCC launches beta FCC.gov

Source: prototype.fcc.gov

Source: prototype.fcc.gov

Based on “extensive user research,” the Federal Communications Commission has launched a beta version of fcc.gov that aims to make the site “more useful and accessible to FCC stakeholders.”

The test site is located at prototype.fcc.gov.

“Based on the additional feedback we receive during the website’s extended Beta period, we intend to complete the switch to the new site fully later this fall with more details to be shared in the weeks ahead,” writes FCC CIO David Bray announcing the beta.

Users can give feedback online or via email at WebFeedback@fcc.gov.

Inside the new FCC consumer help center

FCC Consumer Help Center

Source: consumercomplaints.fcc.gov

In an effort to make the agency “more user-friendly, accessible and transparent to consumers,” the Federal Communications Commission launched a new consumer help center this past January.

The new site, powered by Zendesk, provides FCC with a full-scale, cloud-based help center and internal support ticketing system with an elegant, simple, flexible and intuitive interface.

FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray shares more on the process of getting it launched.

From start to finish, how long did it take to build?

From purchase of the technology to the launch of the platform, the process took approximately six months to complete. This process included an aggressive requirements analysis of the current processes and the development of more streamlined processes for the future. The new system dramatically modernized both internal and external processes. For example, the old process required mailing 18 different forms to consumers wanting to file a complaint, while the new system provides a user-friendly website that allows consumers to file a complaint with a few clicks.

How many people were involved?

The project was led by two members of the FCC’s IT team, who collaborated daily with other stakeholders within the FCC.

What was the development process from content development to input to design to launch?

Launching the new consumer complaints system was done using a non-traditional, agile process. We assessed the existing system, developed an eight-page requirements document with input from stakeholders, outlined implementation tasks, set a deadline, and went full steam ahead on execution, all while maintaining the flexibility to shift daily in order to address needs and issues as they came up.

What costs savings did you realize?

This new system uses the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, which embodies the FCC’s approach to IT moving forward. For systems using the traditional in-house, “on-premise” model, we received estimates of approximately $3.2 million over 1-2 years. The new system’s price tag of only $450,000 represents savings of 85 percent to taxpayers, and it was completed in less than half the time.

Read more about the new site on the FCC blog.

FCC readies to refresh FCC.gov



It took 10 years for the Federal Communications Commission to re-do its first website, and now FCC.gov is set to undergo a second overhaul since it relaunched in 2011.

A public beta of the next iteration will be completed by January 2015, followed by a full-release launch in June.

Much of the criticism since its last launch has been around the site’s focus on the general consumer as the primary audience, as opposed to the communications industry.

“We are focused on answering the call from our users to improve our site,” writes FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray on the FCC blog. “We are collaborating with multiple internal and external stakeholders to provide feedback and input, and the resulting data will guide the improvements to our website.”

The website upgrade is part of a larger modernization effort that Bray says “will holistically improve the data, information, and services the FCC provides the public.”

Seven habits of a highly effective FCC

Federal Communications CommissionFederal Communications Commission Chief Information Officer David Bray has outlined a new technology modernization strategy that includes teleworking, cloud-based collaborations, access to open data, an “open source by default” policy and more transparency into agency operations.

Bray highlighted seven areas of focus on the FCC blog:

  • Improve Secure Employee Telework & Mobility
  • Secure Internal & External Collaborations
  • Strengthen FCC’s IT Security Posture
  • Transform Access to FCC Enterprise Data
  • Modernize Legacy Systems & Tracking
  • Improve FCC.gov & Complaint Reform
  • Increase Transparency & System Usability

“Like an iceberg where a majority of the ice is hidden underwater, modernizing manual, human-intensive processes at the FCC will reduce legacy ‘sunk costs’ at the Commission,” writes Bray. “The result will be a more agile, responsive, IT-enabled FCC enterprise able to work faster and float ‘above water’. Our workforce will be more effective, efficient in their time and energy, and better able to deliver the highest quality public service to the U.S. public and FCC partners.”

Read the full post.

FCC CIO David Bray on social media, open source, agile development and more

David Bray

Federal Communications Commission Chief Information Officer David Bray participated in our first GitChat, an open Q&A with civic innovators, that leverages GitHub as a discussion platform.

Bray discussed extensively on topics ranging from social media, open data and open source, agile development, IT procurement and more.

Here are key excerpts of the conversation.

On how C-level government executives can leverage social media:

“Pick a few channels to invest in, learn from, and monitor. You don’t have to be everywhere (because your hours are limited) but you do have to be open to inputs and ideas from the public and other partner organizations. Social media is much more than “broadcast” — it is being #open2ideas and #learning&listening from folks … I find I learn a lot from hearing from the views of others, and then have a chance to also share some of the day-to-day challenges facing us in modernizing IT within an existing organization.”

On why gov CIOs aren’t more social:

“Good question — it might be a combination of concerns about ensuring the agency’s message is consistent and uniform. There’s also a lot of pressure right now on public service folks to not take too many risks, because there does seem to be an element that is quick to point out those who take risks and have them not always work out as planned.

I also think there’s a huge pressure on the time commitments for CIO. More of them might be more social if they felt like they had a supportive environment and that them taking the time to do it was valued by their agency leadership.”

On personal vs. public social media usage and voice:

“personally I feel like as a public servant, I have a responsibility to recognize I’m always serving the public and thus under the public view. The role of a public servant requires that we aspire to be available to the public and operate with (1) benevolence, (2) competence, and (3) integrity.

I try to embody these three things wherever I go. What I do and say in-person is the same I would do and say online.

As for content – I do think I have a responsibility to recognize that an in-person context conveys tone of voice, emotion, facial expressions, and eye contact. Online takes that a way so the opportunity for misunderstanding increases.

Also if a question is asked that isn’t in my area of responsibility, I’ll defer and say I’m not the one who can best answer that question for you. Or if it is a case where someone on my team is the better expert than I, I’ll also defer to that individual – as I firmly believe any Agency leader should #empower-your-coders”

On the challenges of being a federal CIO:

“So being a CIO in the public sector requires you to be a “digital diplomat” internally and externally on these challenges and the need to change cultures plus reward mechanisms. It also requires you to be a “human flak jacket” as you work to address these challenges, work horizontally, change cultures, and reward mechanism. Sometimes being that flak jacket means taking metaphorical bullets from all angles.”

On attracting talent:

“I’m working on my end to ensure our HR processes are chugging as best and as fast as they can, and our Procurement processes are also chugging as best and as fast as they can. We’ve 18 months to do something great that’s never been done before, so now is the time to make it happen.

If there are altruistic, dedicated folks who want a reverse IPO = OPI = Opportunity for Positive Impact @FCC … we’re your place, and we’re actively looking for great, proven #Rockstar talent to enable this transformation to happen.”

On open data:

“Some of our data could be made more open in a better fashion, or in some cases a better draw. So as we modernize our systems, we will be planning and implementing both thin UIs as well as APIs to make the data more open to the public and partner organizations. The vision is the FCC is a trusted broker of data in and out appropriately, so that others can remix and analyze the data that we share in new ways.

@GigiBSohnFCC is here and a great advocate for #opendata which I 100% support. Also part of our on-going strategy will be regular engagement with the public and our partners on what data would be most valuable for us to focus our energies first, and go from there. The FCC Chairman’s Process Reform just sought public comment on elements of this and that will help inform what we focus on as top priorities: http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-seeks-public-comment-report-process-reform”

On open source:

“In general, public service should use existing code — ideally open source code — if what the code provides fits their needs.

If public service is developing code, I generally would like to recommend the code be open source unless there is sufficient legal or mission integrity reason to not make it so.”

On the role of data officers:

“It is also why you’ll note the FCC Information and Data Officers are just that — Information and Data Officers, as separate tracks doesn’t make a lot of sense since the data is in information systems. Plus, since access to the data is tied to modernizing our legacy systems, you will see we have a FCC Chief Enterprise Architect — a new position since my arrival — since frankly the FCC was lacking an enterprise view to either its information systems or its data.

The FCC Chief Enterprise Architect has a Lead for Enterprise Information and Data Integration which is serving as what you might call a CDO, however we opted to call this role that because it emphasizes what we need to do to get the data in a usable form: Enterprise Information and Data Integration.”

On the new 18F:

“I am watching the news reports and want to remain optimistic, however my observation is 18F has not does a great job communicating to other government agencies what they’re doing. In fact, it appears to have been fairly secretive, which seems curious and somewhat odd for an era of increased transparency and open endeavors? Maybe an approach that includes going to other agency CIOs and asked what the big issues you need fixed are, and having that dialogue with other #PublicService CIOs help inform the issues — would be a great one?

To be honest other agency CIOs & I have commented that we hear more about 18F from outside news reporting than inside the public sector itself — that may need to be fixed? :-) Also, naming your endeavor after your street address seems curious in an age where the internet means great #PublicService does not need to be location-based seems puzzling?”

On agile development:

“The good news is FCC has been doing agile and lean since my arrival. We’ve had at least 4 different FCC-wide training sessions on agile, through our IT contractors to both IT staff and programmatic stewards (the folks who the mission-centric systems are being built for) on agile, as the process needs to involve them in tandem, working together. Another reason why I believe you can’t abstract too much from the programmatic stewards and succeed with IT. It’s why I’m encouraging Intrapreneurs — entrepreneurs on the inside — at FCC.”

On IT procurement:

“Lastly, if I was to urge where to place attention and energy, it would be on educating Procurement shops — and the General Counsels of agencies that provide legal guidance on what can and cannot be procured — as to what’s possible. If you want people to take risks, be lean, be agile, and do great stuff taking these steps to #empower-the-edge and #empower-your-coders are great first steps!”

Read the full discussion.

GitHub and the C-suite social

GitHubIn the early days of Twitter, it was easy and common to dismiss the infant social network as a simplistic tool that served a whimsical and nerdy niche.

Today, Twitter has gone from the technorati tweeting hipster conference minutiae to a platform driving the new world digital order. This didn’t happen overnight. But, when the flock of civic technologists set flight, the social government migration happened quickly and collectively.

Much like we pooh-poohed Twitter in those early days, GitHub, in its early crawl, is today dismissed simply as a tool for the diehard developer. However, as with any tool with great potential, innovators find new ways to leverage emerging technology to communicate, and government chief information and technology officers can effectively do this with GitHub.

There’s the obvious use case, such as contributing code and commenting on projects, much like Veterans Affairs Chief Technology Officer Marina Martin does via her GitHub account. It’s probably asking a lot for the C-suite to dive deep into code on a daily basis, there are other, more conversational ways GitHub can be leveraged.

Case in point, a few weeks ago, Federal Communications Commission Chief Information Officer David Bray and I had a Twitter exchange about the utility of GitHub. Immediately, I created a repository (think “folder”) on my personal account, and set up a new “What questions do you have for FCC CIO David Bray?” issue (think “discussion”).

To Bray’s credit, and perhaps surprise of his public affairs office, he humored me by immediately joining GitHub, posting replies to a number of questions about FCC open data, open source, cloud hosting and web operations. Over the course of an hour, there was a genuine, real-time conversation between a federal CIO and the community at large.

Despite wide adoption of social tools by public sector innovators, most of the C-suite remains decidedly analog in terms of engagement and sharing of relevant information about the inner workings of our public sector institutions. A cursory survey of government chief information and technology officers shows they abstain altogether or, when they do, generally give random personal updates or staid posts with a heavily-sanitized public affairs filter.

The emergence of GitHub may change this for the government technologist, especially those willing to engage fellow coders and citizens on projects in an open, fluid environment.

Former Presidential Innovation Fellow and current GitHub government lead Ben Balter has since followed suit and created a government-focused “Ask Me (Almost) Anything” repo featuring Q&As with Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Mark Headd and staff from the newly-minted 18F.

GitHub’s repo and issues features are natural communication tools for C-level technologists who fancy themselves innovators leveraging emerging tech in new, creative ways.

For the IT C-suite, the GitChat is the new Twitter Townhall, a way to instantly and directly connect with peers and the general public and be asked anything.

Well, almost anything.

New FCC CIO launches blog, joins Twitter

Federal Communications Commission Chief Information Officer David Bray announced Tuesday a new blog, Twitter handle and hashtag in an effort to open up communications on the agency’s technology strategy and operations.

You can follow Bray’s blog, “FCC CIO’s Connection Blog,” or on Twitter at @fcc_cio and the hashtag #FCCcio.

From the announcement:

As I begin my journey as CIO, I also am open to the different views and perspectives of the FCC Bureaus and Offices who each have critical missions and IT needs that we will support to the best of our abilities. Also, and most importantly since we live in rapidly changing times both in terms of the pace of technology advances and the tightening of budgets in government, communication across both the public and private sector is crucial to the success of the FCC’s IT endeavors. Through the power of communication and IT, we can transform what we can do together.

Bray was appointed FCC CIO in July.

5 more sites crowdsourcing ideas for government

Here are 5 more sites crowdsourcing citizen ideas to improve the way government works. See also 6 government sites crowdsourcing citizen ideas.


OpenInternet.gov is a place to join the discussion about the important issues facing the future of the Internet. Through this site you can stay connected to all Federal Communication Commission activities on the issue, and share your thoughts and ideas on open Internet.


Share your ideas on the National Broadband Plan.


How can we strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness by making government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative?

New York State Senate Property Tax Ideas

New York State Senate Property Tax Ideas

The New York Senate is working on ways to help New Yorkers cope with high property taxes – and we need your ideas.


OpenAustin is a community-based effort to crowdsource the requirements and development for the new City of Austin web site using local software developers, marketing experts, and graphic designers that have been displaced from their jobs due to the current economic downturn. This will produce a superior web site for the citizens of Austin at a fraction of the cost of the city’s lowest bid.