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Category: Government

There are 6 posts published under Government.

Improve Your Management Standards and Surpass the Growing Economy

The UK economy is predicted to grow by 2.2% in 2014, and the Service sector looks like it will be the top performer. Good news perhaps, but now is certainly not the time for any business to be complacent. Whatever its market sector, all businesses need to raise their performance levels to ensure they are competitive, both nationally and globally. Of course having a stellar management team is a definite advantage. However, it’s often the basics, such as having efficient, robust systems in place, that are overlooked - a self-imposed barrier to raising your game. You may not even have proper systems; you just do it the way you’ve always done it.

Quality Standards have been around for well over 100 years. The British Standard Mark – the ‘Kitemark’ - was introduced way back in 1903 to reassure buyers that the product they were purchasing was quite simply “up to standard.” Today, it’s not just the quality of products that count but the quality of a business’s management systems. ISO 9001 is now the world’s most recognized standard with more than 1,000,000 organizations having certifications, with China at the top of the leader board.

ISO Standards now cover diverse areas such as environmental management, health and safety, energy performance, quality management specific to the aerospace industry, and the security of sensitive information and data, which certainly wasn’t on the agenda in 1903. Although ISO certification is not mandatory, there does appear to be a compelling business case, not least that many of the new Standards have been developed to ensure that businesses comply with current and new legislation. And complying with legislation is not voluntary.

 So what can an ISO certification bring?


  • Cost Savings by streamlining and optimizing processes and operations, improving profitability.
  • Customer Satisfaction, increased credibility and confidence, and better customer service, which increase sales.
  • A Toolkit to help you proactively manage your business effectively.
  • The Framework for continuous improvement.
  • Opening new markets by having preferred supplier status.
  • More efficient use of resources.
  • Improved risk management.
  • Access to global management expertise and examples of best practice.
  •  Reassurance that you are complying with all necessary legislation.


Unlike previous Standards loathed by many, ISO is simple to manage and maintain. No longer is there the need to destroy a small rainforest with a mountain of paper-based documentation – it can all be handled on a web-based secure interface.

If you’re looking for a significant ROI, ISO certification looks like a pretty safe bet.



Decentralization: Key to Bitcoin’s Success

Bitcoin is now becoming a household name as, once again, the price of each coin is nearing 200 USD and more companies are selecting to accept payment in this convenient, yet new payment option. With the recent closure of Silk Road and the US government’s temporary shutdown, Bitcoin has proven to be a force to be reckoned with.


What makes Bitcoin unique? It is a digital, decentralized, cryptocurrency and a gateway to send money anywhere around the world with just the click of a mouse or the scan of a QR code to anyone with internet access. Proponents of Bitcoin pride themselves in supporting the lead cryptocurrency, which is based on peer to peer transactions. Yet, one must never take the decentralized nature of Bitcoin for granted.


Unfortunately, any system can trend back towards centralization if not carefully monitored and safeguarded. As humans, we can, unfortunately, move towards centralized structures for an, often times, false sense of “security” and “certainty.” Centralization tends to create more problems than naught when the power to make decisions falls into the hands of a select few. History provides evidence of the tremendous failure of central planning with the collapse of the Soviet Union, massive starvation and lack of development in North Korea, and, right now, a bloated US Government with a growing bureaucracy with an accompanied skyrocketing debt. On a US-centric note, how can a Washington bureaucrat really know and meet the needs of a school teacher in California or a farmer in Iowa? In the end of the day, each individual knows what is best for his/her needs and with systems and societies based on greater individual responsibility; in turn, systems that are more diverse will meet more needs than blanket solutions and inefficient “one-size fits all” policies. So, while there is comfort in having to be responsible for less in the short-run, there are too many unintended long term consequences.


Bitcoin is not just a currency, but a movement towards decentralization in society, government, financial systems, and thought. It has served as a catalyst to provide power to individuals seeking to separate themselves from constricting governing bodies and failing central banks. To date, Bitcoin has been characterized as an open source project prompting discussion of the role of money in society, the danger of current banking structures, and the creative decentralized solutions to centralized problems in society today.


A model of organized decentralization is key to the success of Bitcoin around the world. Decentralization does not equate to chaos, but many individuals at work to promote a project with the common goal of strengthening a project and not placing trust in one entity. The best example of organized decentralization would be grass roots activism and organization within the Bitcoin community instead of central actors making all major decisions and protocol adjustments. Each member of the Bitcoin community serves a unique role and has a distinct voice and part to play in keeping the Bitcoin currency on a pathway to success, growth in value and utility, and a global reach. Most members of the Bitcoin community already recognize that the larger the user base, the less volatile the currency, and the greater legitimacy lent to the currency.


Open source software is also vital to the preservation and strengthening of Bitcoin. With decentralization in the development community, there is greater room and leverage for an increased number of individuals to enter the community and contribute. The question, then, may arise as to how the Bitcoin Qt client can remain decentralized. An option which has prompted growth in Bitcoin development is when businesses have given back to the Bitcoin community through hiring individuals to solely work on the Qt client. There is value in the marketplace of ideas as trial and error and diversity of thought inspires the development of the strongest wallets, payment processors, and software. There is too much risk in entrusting all development and protocol to a few. The Bitcoin community must continue its commitment to the open-source ideals that make Bitcoin the resilient system it is today.


As Bitcoin continues to increase in value and central banks continue to disappoint, it is clear that decentralization leads to healthier societies and global financial success. What will become of Bitcoin? To date, Bitcoin is the most successful cryptocurrency and is still in earlier stages of development. What we do know: a model of organized decentralization is vital to the success of the Bitcoin currency and movement.


How The Ridiculous Government Shutdown Could Be A Boon To Startups and The Economy

It’s no secret that the Federal government is the biggest employer in the DC metro area. Smart, skilled people who want to change the world and make a difference, including already-scarce programmers, have traditionally flocked to the government for stability, a steady salary, a  40-hour work week, and great benefits.


With all due respect to my many friends who are currently furloughed, feeling very non-essential, and not sure how they will pay their bills if this lasts too long, the ridiculous government shutdown could turn out to be very good for the economy.


Why work for The Man, who turns out to be rather unstable (and also a little crazy), when you can work for yourself and build something big and bold that could positively affect the lives of millions of people?


It need not be a sexy idea, and, though it may be much more fun to talk about a consumer-facing startup at a cocktail party, who really needs another app for social discovery or an online marketplace or [fill in the blank]?


This morning I was talking to my friend and fellow journalist Bill Flook, and we both agree that the big ideas, the ones that will truly make a difference, are the companies that take big data and tame it to solve an enterprise-level problem. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone: you build a great company doing something you love, and you help other companies work smarter, better, more efficiently, more effectively, save money, save resources – you name it.


Aside from the positive effects on the economy, there really could not be a better time to start up in DC. There are 5 co-working spaces just within city limits - 1776, Affinity Lab, Canvas, PunchRock (their focus is on social entrepreneurship), and UberOffices – where founders can work on their startup and bounce ideas off of other entrepreneurs.


No matter where a startup founder might be in the development or growth cycle, there’s a bunch of other resources that they can tap into:


  • Acceleprise, an enterprise-level accelerator
  • DC I-Corps, a program that is helping connect inventors with companies and products to spur innovation
  • Ideaspace, an entrepreneurial playground/self-directed incubator that will be opening soon
  • DC Device Lab, which provides access to equipment and devices for startups to test their platform on.


This article would not be complete if I did not mention the couple of big stumbling blocks that stand in the way of starting up. It remains to be seen if a former government employee can handle the rigors of startup life. It ain’t easy – we all know that. An abrupt change of lifestyle can throw anyone for a loop, but, of course, if it was that awful, no one would start up.


The other problem is a perennial one for startups in DC, and that is the lack of funding sources. Sure we have the Center for Innovative Technology’s GAP funds, which is only for Virginia-based companies, and a few angel groups like the Dingman Center Angels and NextGen Angels, not to mention numerous angels who invest individually, but many startups have found it necessary to go outside the area to land funding


There is hope that Revolution Ventures’ new $200M Tech Fund will turn its sights on homegrown startups, but there’s a big “if” to that thinking: If there are startups that provide value and have long-term potential, there’ll be money flowing into DC from Revolution.


Of course, it is still too soon to tell what kind of positive effect the shutdown might have – if any – on the launch of startups. So far, the only visible effect has been the hasty unveiling of freelance job site,, which has gotten a ton of press but has not generated much in the way of real, lasting value. For one, there is no way to verify whether or not someone is actually furloughed, and secondly, as I write this, there are 66 gigs posted and many more freelancers than that – one of whom is in Paris of all places.


What it comes down to is this: Do you want to work for The Man, or do you want to be The Man?


Kimsuky is a Simple Computer Virus That Targets South Korea

On September 11, Kaspersky’s research team published a report showing attacks on South Korea’s think-tanks. This cyber-espionage campaign, named Kimsuky, seemed to only target 11 South Korean and 2 Chinese groups—some of these groups include: the Sejong Institute, KIDA (Korea Institute for Defense Analysis), South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, Hyundai Merchant Marine, and supporters of the Korean Unification.

The first instance of Kimsuky’s activity was on April 3, 2013 and the first Trojan samples were found on May 5, 2013. This virus is special in that it’s pretty unsophisticated and communicated with its master using a public email server. Apparently, this is commonplace with amateur virus coders and is usually ignored. What caught the attention of the researchers was that Kimsuky used a Bulgarian email server and the code contains Hangul (Korean characters), which actually translate to “attack” and “completion.”


Because Kimsuky is highly limited and targeted, it is uncertain how it is being distributed. The early Trojan samples collected were delivered by spear-phishing emails. These emails have been traced to “kim” names and 10 IP addresses. These IP addresses connect this virus to the Jilin and Liaoning Network Province in China. Interestingly enough, there are lines in these provinces that connect to North Korea. Another interesting attribute of Kimsuky is that it disables the security tools of a South Korean anti-malware company, AhnLab.


Looking at Kimsuky’s targets and the source of the IP addresses, it seems as though the source of the malware is North Korea. Though, Kaspersky researchers say that “it is not that hard to enter arbitrary registration information and misdirect investigators to an obvious North Korean origin.” In the end, there is no clear cut evidence to point any fingers.


Luckily, the code is, as previously mentioned, simple—Kaspersky products are able to detect and neutralize various Kimsuky threats.


Marissa Mayer on Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Government

At yesterday’s TechCrunch Disrupt, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, discussed much with the topics ranging from Yahoo! to Microsoft to government with Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch.

Arrington opened the floor with what Mayer had done with Yahoo! up until now. Former Google vice president, Mayer had only been at Yahoo! for 1 year and 2 months and was able to double its stock. She attributed a good portion of this grand feat to the investments of her predecessors, but her revamp of how Yahoo! did things played a major part in this. She focused, in order, on: hiring the right people, product, traffic, and revenue.


To help explain the impact of Yahoo!’s newfound success, Mayer said that “the company receives 12,000 resumes a week” and that the company only has 12,000 positions—this means that every week, Yahoo! gets a resume for every possible position. In addition to this boom in potential employees, 10% of the company consists of boomerangs—employees who left and then returned to Yahoo!. She also mentioned that Yahoo! has 800 million users worldwide, and that value does not include Tumblr as well. To drive home the point that Yahoo! is still a strong contender, she asked the audience show how many used Yahoo! for any of its services in the past month; over half raised their hands.


The discussion then drifted towards her plans for Yahoo!. Arrington asked what changes she was planning, especially considering her prior position as vice president of Google. Mayer touched a bit upon Yahoo! mail, stating that its simpler design offers faster speeds than Google. She also plans on growing her mobile team by a factor of 10. After all, the mobile market is booming—a lot of people are using their smartphones to get information that Yahoo! already offers: mail, news, finance, sports, communication, etc.


Arrington then shifted the topic towards one of the two questions he always asked at the event: Who should be the new CEO of Microsoft? Mayer never did give a direct answer. She started off by saying that she admires both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and continues off by stating her observation of Microsoft being strong in the enterprise area, so it should look for someone who’s strength is in enterprise. Arrington then built upon her comment, asking about the weaknesses of CEOs. She said that there is actually a community of CEOs and that “they want to see each other succeed,” but what is most shocking about being a CEO is that there are so few decisions to be made, yet each of them are of the utmost importance to the fate of the company.


The second of Arrington’s favorite questions is about government requests for user data. Like Facebook, Mayer said that Yahoo! is trying to protect as much user privacy as they can from government. Unfortunately, companies cannot refuse to comply with the government, but Yahoo! plans to and does analyze and scrutinize all requests by the government, pushing them back as much as possible.


While this chat between Mayer and Arrington covered a few important topics, the conversation brings up a few key questions.  Is Yahoo!’s focus on mobile the best way to go? Who should be the next CEO of Microsoft? What should and can companies do about government requests for user? What do you think?


Top Startup and Tech News Today-7 Things You Missed Today

1. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on NSA Leaks: “The Government Blew It”


Mark Zuckerberg offered his outraged opinion when questioned about his thoughts on the fact that government is asking internet companies for user information. He says that “the government blew it” when it came to finding the balance between maintaining the civil liberties of the people and national protection. He has taken and plans to take more steps towards increasing the transparency of government requests for data.


Facebook joined a lawsuit asking the Obama administration to “allow it to disclose more details of its forced cooperation.” In addition, Zuckerberg plans on visiting Republican lawmakers in Washington D.C. and discuss the privacy issues.


2. Court Decision Means Another Look At Google Street View Case


Google has, once again, been accused of breaching wiretapping laws with their Street View car excursions. The U.S. Appeals Court in San Francisco does not plan on dismissing the lawsuit against the company which states that the Street View cars were taking advantage of unencrypted networks to collect digital conversations.


Google argues that the “internet data it was collecting was broadcast over the airwaves and was not encrypted” and that “the communications were more like radio transmissions than phone calls.” Circuit Judge Bybee stated that, while it is common for people to take advantage of neighbors’ unencrypted, they don’t normally record and decrypt the data obtained. This lawsuit could cost Google billions.


3. Five Startups to Watch From Kaplan’s TechStars-Powered Ed Tech Accelerator Demo Day


Kaplan’s one time joint ed tech accelerator with TechStars decided to run their ed tech accelerator program again with strong results. It’s no wonder—analysts have said that “venture capital deal activity remains strong in ed tech.” Five of the most highly praised startups on demo day are: Degreed, Flinja, Newsela, Ranku, Verificient.


Degreed’s goal is to provide a means of “quantifying and credentialing learning.” Flinja offers college students small projects to do in an effort to break the catch 22 of needing experience for a job while needing a job for experience. Newsela works to improve student literacy by providing stories, each of which comes in several levels of difficulty. Students will be given a version of a story that matches their reading level and they can opt for more challenging version should they choose to do so. Ranku allows students to explore virtual degree programs that is able to provide a quality education at affordable prices. Verificient is an automated proctoring system that monitors keystrokes and facial expressions to keep virtual students honest whilst taking tests and whatnot.


4. Hanoi: 200 Students Off School Because of Hacker


An identified hacker broke into the security system of Ha Dinh primary school in Hanoi, Vietnam and sent messages to the parents of students. The first of the messages informed the parents of students that there would be unexpected work and that students would not need to attend on September 6th. A following message to the parents said that the school would be upgrading its facilities for improved education and asked for a contribution of VND1.2 million along with an extra VND200,000 per child. Luckily, the school caught wind of the messages soon after the second message was sent and followed up with a message clarifying the situation.


5. How the Internet of Things is Making Our Homes Smarter (And Easier to Hack)


With everything being connected together and to the internet, the world is becoming a more convenient place. However, this comes at a price: everything becomes accessible if someone tried hard enough.


John Matherly created a search engine named Shodan. It doesn’t function the same way other search engines like Google or Bing do—it searches for things that are connected to the internet. Additionally, it can tell how secure a device is. For example, it discovered a huge security flaw in a hydroelectric plant in France. What Matherly does with Shodan is to warn people of unsecure devices. In the end though, “it’s the customer’s responsibility to keep their own homes safe.”


6. Internet Entrepreneur Believed to be First 9/11 Casualty Remembered in New Book


No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet, a book written by Molly Knight Raskin details the first casualty of the September 11 attacks. He was stabbed on the first plane that hit the twin towers, leaving behind his wife and two children.


What makes him remarkable isn’t the fact that he’s the first casualty, but, instead, that he was one of the co-founders of a company known as Akamai. He and Tom Leighton, the other half of Akamai, worked on codes to speed up dial-up internet connections. This success brought in billions of dollars overnight. While they started strongly, the company hit a wall and was losing money quickly—it was September 10 when they had worked out how to cut costs.


Though he left use early, he left behind a legacy that strongly impacted the internet.


7. Microsoft’s Concept Videos From 2000 Were Spot-On. So Why Didn’t Ballmer Build Any of It?


Back in the days of minidisc players and 9 keyed phones, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, had a vision; one where all devices within a household could be connected together. This idea came into existence before Apple, Google, or anyone else. What happened?


Essentially the company didn’t realize these aspirations due to disagreements on some aspects while other facets of the idea were before its time and, before long, the dot-com bubble burst. “Had the company executed on even a fraction of its vision, Microsoft wouldn’t be out looking for a new CEO,” stated a former Microsoft executive, Charles Fitzgerald.