Wireless e-Government:

Maximizing the Productivity of Citizen to Government Interface



Dr. George Kostopoulos

American University of Sharjah

United Arab Emirates

Dr. Eduardo Rivera

Saint Edward's University

Austin, Texas

This paper has been prepared for presentation at the GIS 2002 International Conference and Exhibition, March 11-13, 2002 Bahrain.



Abstract



In this paper projections of e-government uses of the wireless LAN technology are being presented. Application of this technology will enable citizens visiting government facilities to wirelessly access documents that are available on the web. They may be laws, cases, or other reference material that may be needed in that public place. Citizens may even access their own, or other, websites to download something that they may have forgotten to bring. The concept of wireless Internet access availability at public places applies to all locations where the public interacts with government representatives, and at any level, let it be municipal, county, state, federal or the United Nations. Presented in this paper are the prevailing wireless networking technologies and their potential deployment in e-government. These technologies are the Bluetooth used in intra-office and intra-computer system ergonomics, and the Wireless Fidelity, which supports LAN communications in inter-office environments. The paper describes several cases of successful wireless LAN applications in Government offices, and concludes with thoughts on the new role of wireless Internet in the government to citizen interface.



1. INTRODUCTION



3. TECHNOLOGIES



3.1 Bluetooth

3.1.1 Protocol

3.1.2 System



3.2 Wireless Fidelity

3.2.1 Protocol

3.2.2 System

4. WIRELESS AND GOVERNMENT



4.1 Wireless in Government

4.2 Wireless in e-Government



6. CONCLUSION



Appendix A Bluetooth Specifications

Appendix B Wi-Fi Specifications

Appendix C Acronyms

References

1. INTRODUCTION



Advances in wireless network technologies are offering solutions to every communications infrastructure, regardless of its application or size. Wireless network technologies, thanks to the early establishment of standards, are being adopted by numerous major chip producers and telecommunications equipment manufacturers. Collectively, they produce an avalanche of products and services that were unthought of before [1].



The same way stationary telephony is being progressively replaced by the wireless, cabled networking will be replaced by wireless networking, using short range, medium range and long range technologies.



When it comes to drawing benefits out of technology advances, government agencies should be leading in the use of technology, not only as a way to save money, but also as a way to better serve the citizens. We should not believe in the use of technology for technology's sake, but we must recognize that good use of technology can substantially improve the services as well as the function of the government.



2. BACKGROUND

Long time ago, wireless technologies were introduced as a way of promoting workers mobility, using wireless LANs and specialized handheld devices. The paradigm of change that wireless technology can bring is the any place, any time connection. This is indeed a radical change! However, "Information Technology is not a cure-all, high priced technologies generally add unnecessary costs to otherwise poorly managed organizations" [1].



Wireless technology deployment is being delayed in many projects in an effort to amortize already made wired technology investments. Nevertheless we can say that many CIO's, network administrators, network designers and network technicians, dream about the wireless solution since network cabling installation and maintenance is a major cost center in any organization.



The most common problem in networks is cabling, which wireless communication now eliminates. As for the common devices to interconnect are available in wireless: such as hubs, bridges, and routers. Security was a major concern as if it is true that you can hear easily the electromagnetic waves than tapping a cable; new technologies such as spread spectrum radio in which the signal broadcasts over a range of frequencies encoding the signal and switching of hop channel in a synchronized way but following a security algorithm.



Finally, the distances and other physical obstacles in wireless communication are no problem with a combination of technologies using packet radio communications, cellular networks and satellite stations. Distance in a city can be overcome using the extended wireless bridge that can bridge up to 25 miles [2], substituting advantageously in many cases a T1 connection. Techno-economic studies are demonstrating that in many instances the mere cost of the annual cabled network maintenance is more expensive than the installation of a wireless equivalent.

With the new short and medium range wireless technologies the concept of wireless data transfers will extend even to the home computers where all devices (keyboard, mouse, joystick, printer, scanner, headset, microphone, cellular phone, PDA, etc) together with the computer will be forming a "cableless" wireless Personal Area Network, PAN. The PDA revolution is an opportunity to government agencies to connect easily to different networks and exchange information useful for the different duties.



It is still a problem to justify an investment in a new technology. As an organization introduces and implements a new technology, especially in data communications, it must be recognized that the technology despite its present high cost to benefit ratio ". . . has a lifespan of three to five years." [3]. Nevertheless one of the advantages of wireless technologies is then that it is easier to change or to move from one technology to another rather than changing cabling.



"The U.S. cell-phone system is optimized for voice communication, not for data" [3], so it will take time to pass into the so-called third wireless generation that allows packet switching and all the advanced features that come along with it [4].

In new network architectures the first question now is wireless or cabled access? The mere cost of a laboratory initial cabling deployment, material, installation and testing, may easily reach $1,000 per computer station, while the cost of the best Wi-Fi Access Point servicing up to 128 users is less than $1,000.



Even if the costs were reversed, only the convenience of the wireless access would fully justify the expense. As the Internet is revolutionizing the way services are being delivered, the wireless networking is revolutionizing the way we access the services.

3. TECHNOLOGIES



In this paper, We are concerned with short and medium range wireless networking technologies, and how they can be deployed for intra-office and for inter-office and inter-buildings use.



The industry has developed two standards, that are globally recognized, and fully supported by numerous manufacturers. They are the Bluetooth and the Wi-fi.



Bluetooth is the short range, up 30 feet, wireless micro LAN technology, while the Wi-Fi is the medium range, up to a mile, wireless mini LAN technology. Both technologies use the same unlicenced frequency spectrum of 2.4 GHz, and are both supported by organized industrial-business consortia that promote their orderly and continuous enhancements. While transmissions do not reach great distances, they do however penetrate through non-metal walls and floors.

3.1 Bluetooth



Bluetooth is the commercial name of a data communications protocol developed by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and it is technically known as the IEEE 802.15.1 - 1Mbps WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network) Protocol. Its current (2001) version is Bluetooth 1.1. The protocol's aim is to provide ". . . standards for low-complexity and low-power consumption wireless connectivity." [5].

In May 1998, the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) was formed to supports its evolution [6]. The Group was founded by industry's telecommunications and microchip giants including 3Com, Erickson, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba, and it is now a consortium with a present membership of over 2,100 [7]. It is estimated that this year's delivery of Bluetooth devices to applications developers will reach 55 million, while the forecasters project a continuous annual doubling of the demand [8].

The Bluetooth has come to the rescue of the intra-office ergonomy, eliminating the inconvenience of cabling maze that is currently prevalent in the workplace.



3.1.1 Protocol

The Bluetooth protocol operates at an unlicenced portion of the ISM (Industrial Scientific Medicine) frequency spectrum and its regulatory range is 2.4000 to 2.4835 Ghz. The specifications provide for three power classes, allowing maximum power outputs to the antenna of 100mW, 2.5mW and 1mW, which translates to a range of about 30 feet. The data transmission rate is at about 1Mbps with optional encryption. Bluetooth provides two connectivity modes. The point-to-point is for exclusive data communication between two units, and the point-to-multipoint connectivity is for limited networking [9].



3.1.2 System



The Bluetooth system is made of a server and clients, and is designed to meet the needs for short distance secure communication. There is a wide range of applications for Bluetooth. An example is headset to handset communication in cellular telephony, where the two units may be only a foot or two apart [10]. Another one is intra-office wireless networking, where the desktop computer wirelessly communicates with all devices, such as keyboard, mouse, printers, scanners, laptop, cellular phone, etc. Such networks can have one master and up to seven slave units. In the Bluetooth lingo they are called piconets and can operate in clusters forming a scatternet [9].

Bluetooth will undoubtedly find wide application in access control, and it is now being embedded in other devices, such as cellular phones, pagers, as well as in automobiles. Presently, the Bluetooth technology comes in a chip set, but it is expected that within 2001 it will be integrated into a single chip opening up an even wider range of applications. It is believed that "2002 will be the year of Bluetooth" [8].



3.2 Wireless Fidelity

Wi-Fi, Wireless Fidelity, is the commercial name of a data communications technology developed by the IEEE, technically known as the IEEE 802.11 - Multi-rate DSSS (Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum) Protocol. Its current (2001) version is 802.11b HR (High Rate). Wi-Fi is the wireless equivalent of the IEEE 802.3 wired Ethernet protocol [11].

Interested parties, such as, technology developers and OEM companies, have formed the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, WECA, to supports certification of Wi-Fi equipment. The alliance was established by industry's network and microchip giants including 3Com, Cisco, Sony, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba, and it is now serving as a Wi-Fi equipment clearing house with a present membership of over 100 [13].



3.2.1 Protocol



The Wi-Fi protocol's aim is to provide a universal standard for a wireless LAN infrastructure, creating an industry in itself producing unified, at least when it comes to standards. Through Wi-Fi ". . interoperability with other Wi-Fi certified products. . " is guaranteed [12].



Similarly to the Bluetooth, the Wi-Fi, also, operates at the same unlicenced portion of the ISM frequency spectrum and its regulatory range is 2.4000 GHz to 2.4835 GHz. The specifications provide for four data transmission rates, namely, 11 Mbps , 5.5 Mbps, 2 Mbps and 1 Mbps. The corresponding operating ranges, which are inversely proportional to the data rates, respectively vary from 600 feet, or less for the highest rate, to up to 1,500 feet for the lowest one. Plans are underway to increase the data rate to 22 Mbps [14].

Communications privacy is supported by mainly two options the silver, which implements a 64bit-encryption key, and the gold, which implements a 128bit key. Some Wi-Fi manufacturers, however, produce equipment with a 40bit-encryption key, which is sufficient for low security data transmissions. Although Wi-Fi is at its infancy, the next generation of Wi-Fi Wireless LAN equipment are already being promoted. They will operate at 5 GHz and will support data rates of 54 Mbps [15].



3.2.2 System



In a wireless Wi-Fi system there are three components, which thanks to the followed standard, they offer interoperability, although there are developed by numerous different competing companies. These are the Access Point, AP, the wireless card and the associated software.





3.2.2.1 Access Point

The Wi-Fi system's central component is the Access Point. This is the unit that interfaces the "wired" world with the wireless one. On one side, it communicates with the organization's network, while on the other side, it serves as a router meeting the data needs of the mobile units. The AP can provide shared Internet access using Network Address Translation, NAT. It takes the size of a textbook, and may be found in a single or in dual antenna configuration.





3.2.2.2 Wireless Card



On the other side of the air space is the mobile unit interface. This is a complete data transceiver card that is packaged in the PCMCIA format for interoperability. The card simply enters the notebook computer PCMCIA slot, from where it interfaces with the various applications. In the case of desktop computers, the network card has a PCMCIA slot connector mounted on it for the insertion of the wireless interface PCMCIA card. Some cards also provide wired network connection for dual access flexibility.



3.2.2.3 Software



The Access Point and the Wireless Card are both accompanied by driving software that support almost all general purpose operating systems, from Linux to Windows and Macintosh. Then you can run your usual applications from Databases and Data warehouses to simple Scheduling.



4. WIRELESS AND GOVERNMENT

There are numerous government applications where wireless networking has been introduced to various extends, with the consensus being the same - there is no way of going back to cable. Below is token representation of the wide government use of wireless technologies.



4.1 Wireless in Government - Presently

Nevada. "Nevada offers (wireless) laptop computers to its 63 legislators and many of their staffers. Most take advantage of that during legislative sessions." [16]. In Nevada the state Capitol has been wirelessly networked, thus offering the lawmakers the benefits of high technology, while preserving the interior design of the historic building.



North Carolina. The state Capitol of North Caroline is similarly wirelessly networked, but partially. Its House of Representatives is utilizing wireless access, but its Senate does not. The Senate is still debating whether the wireless concept is appropriate [16].

Virginia. "Virginia made federal and state election results available via PDAs". In addition, the state agencies calendar of meetings is also wirelessly accessible [17].



Kansas. "Kansas offers legislative-tracking services via cellular phones". [17].



Arkansas. Arkansas provides its legislators with access to legislative sessions via wireless PDAs [17].



Illinois. Illinois has deployed a wireless inventory control system, similar to those of the major courier services, which along with a resources database keeps track of the location of state equipment. It is expected that the system's full implementation will ". . . . simplify the internal duties of Secretary of State employees, giving them more time and resources to devote to the citizens they serve." [18].



4.2 Wireless in e-Government in the Future



As familiarity and confidence with wireless technologies increase within government agencies, applications addressed to the public will flourish. There are numerous potential uses of wireless LANs that can make the government-citizens interface and interaction more efficient and effective. Below are some examples.



Information. In all areas where the public comes to a government representative for information, there can be Wi-Fi LAN Internet wireless access through which the information can be obtained. The representative only needs to provide the appropriate URL.





Office Support. Again while in government premises the need often arises to print, scan or fax a document out of a computer laptop. A Bluetooth PAN (Personal Area Network) wireless access can provide a connection to an available printer.



Accessing. In courts, there can be designated areas, where lawyers using their laptops may wirelessly access the Internet. Laws can be instantly viewed, cases can be examined, and documents from lawyers' Intranet can be retrieved.



There can be numerous additional applications, limited only by the imagination of the wireless minded systems analyst.



5. MINOR CONCERNS



Being new technologies, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi come with a variety of concerns. The most discussed ones are security, privacy, cost amortization and dead spots.



Security. With a physically unsecured medium - the air - intrusion is an issue. However, smart firewalls should be able to accommodate any level of desired security.



Privacy. Both protocols, especially the Wi-Fi, do provide strong encryption capabilities, and their use could offer as close to absolute privacy as possible.



Interference. This is a somewhat difficult issue because the 2.4 GHz frequency band is unlicenced, and no one can be prohibited from using it. However, restrictions on the use of this band in the immediate vicinity on competing equipment or services should be able to minimize this possible problem.

Cost Amortization. Although there are significant savings derived from the replacement of cabled networks by wireless ones, schools do benefit from the opportunity and charge technology fees.



Dead Spots. Physical obstructions like walls, metal furniture and human beings do absorb or reflect the signals causing undesirable signal attenuation. However, a diligent selection of Access Point locations, along with a liberal policy as to their number would alleviate the problem.



6. CONCLUSION



Today's mobile business world demands access to information that is immediate, reliable and free of time or place constraints. This level of expectations has also moved into the government, where it is realized that a fast moving world calls for an at least equally fast public service. A process where the transfer of data and ideas takes place at electronic speeds, and it is uninhibited of place and time.



Wireless LANs and the Wi-Fi technology have come to the rescue giving government agencies unprecedented opportunities to provide the public with service of increased efficiency and effectiveness.



Surprisingly, wireless LANs not only do they offer superior service compared to the wired one, but also cost far less.



Although we are not proposing the scenario of wireless only, wire and wireless have their own advantages. We underline the many possible applications of wireless in a government environment and the feasibility to implement it.



Generally, there is a strong resistance to change technology in the government world, and although there are significant economic benefits in going wireless and high-tech there is reluctance to such transitions. The timing is ideal for wireless LAN developers to take bold initiatives and encourage government agencies into turning wireless, by educating the cognizant officials in the associated technologies.



In closing, the first decade of the Millennium will be identified as Introduction to Wireless, offering unprecedented productivity increase in the business world as well as in government.

Appendix A. Bluetooth Protocol Basic Characteristics

Compliance IEEE 802.11b Data Integrity Forward Error Correction, FEC
Data Rate 1 Mbps Networking Ethernet equivalent performance
Frequency Band 2.4 GHz to 2.4835GHz Power Classes 1mW 2.5 mW 100mW
Data Channels 1 UsersUsers Up to 7 simultaneously
Range 30 feet to 50 feet Chip Cost $5 to $10
Privacy 40 bit WEP encryption

Appendix B. Wi-Fi Protocol Basic Characteristics

Compliance IEEE 802.11b
Data Rates 1 Mbps, 2 Mbps, 5.5 Mbps, 11 Mbps and soon 22 Mbps
Frequency Band 2.4 GHz to 2.4835GHz
Data Channels 11
Range 600 feet to 1,500 feet depending on the employed data rate
Privacy 40 bit, 64bit or 128 bit WEP encryption
Authentication DHCP
Networking Ethernet equivalent performance
Users Up to 128 simultaneously
Access Point Cost $250 to $800
Mobile Card Cost $50 to $200
Operating Systems Linux, Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME Notebooks Mac PowerBooks









Appendix C. - Table of Mentioned Acronyms

AP

CIO



DHCP

DSSS



FEC

GHz



HR

IEEE



ISM

LAN



ME

mW

Access Point

Chief Information Officer



Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol

Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum



Forward Error Correction

Giga Hertz - 1,000,000,000 Hertz



High Rate

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers



Industrial Scientific Medicine

Local Area Network



Millennium

Milli-Watt - 0.001 Watt

NAT

NT



OEM

OS

PAN

PCMCIA





PDA

SIG



WECA

WEP

Wi-Fi

WPAN

Network Address Translation

New Technology



Original Equipment Manufacturer

Operating System



Personal Area Network

Personal Computer Memory

Card International Association



Personal Digital Assistant

Special Interest Group



Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance

Wired Equivalent Privacy



Wireless Fidelity

Wireless Personal Area Network



REFERENCES



[1] Wireless Campus: From Vision to Reality. http://64.225.110.191/drkostopoulos/

[2] The Powers that E. http://www.cio.com/archive/031501/re.html

[3] Microsoft, Networking Essentials, Microsoft Press, Redmond, 1998.

[4] Wireless Campus: IT Vice President Warner looks forward

http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/rvp/pubaf/chronicle/v8/s3/warner.html

[5] 802.15 Working Group for Wireless Personal Area Networks

http://standards.ieee.org/wireless/overview.html

[6] Bluetooth Special Interest Group

http://www.bluetooth.com/sig/sig/sig.asp

[7] Broadcom Unveils Bluetooth Radio Chip for Cell Phones

http://www.mobilecomputing.com/shownews.cgi?1582

[8] Bluetooth and Beyond

http://www.mobilecomputing.com/showarchives.cgi?106

[9] Bluetooth 1.1 Specification - 22 February 2001

http://www.bluetooth.com/developer/specification/specification.asp

[10] Voice over Bluetooth: Getting Its start as a Wireless Accessory foe a Wireless Handset

http://www.rfglobalnet.com/content/news/article.asp?DocID=

{83682EAF-0E5C-11D5-A770-00D0B7694F32}

[11] 802.11 Working Group for Wireless Local Area Networks

http://standards.ieee.org/wireless/overview.html

[12] Wireless Newsfactor.com/perl/story/4805.html

http://www.wirelessnewsfactor.com/perl/story/4805.html

[13] Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance

http://www.wi_fi.net/index.html

[14] The Survivor's Guide to 2001: Mobile and Wireless Technology

http://www.networkcomputing.com/1125/1125mobile1.html

[15] Testing the Wireless LAN Waters

http://www.crn.com/components/search/Article.asp?ArticleID=21246

[16] Legislation with no Strings Attached by Gwen Cruz Government Technology Magazine, May 2001.

[17] Government to Go by Shane Peterson

http://www.govtech.net/magazine/sup_story.phtml?magid=

1505000000000021&id=2530000000001896&issue=5:2001

[18] Twenty-First Century Tracking by Kendall Person

http://www.govtech.net/magazine/sup_story.phtml?magid=

1505000000000021&id=2530000000001897&issue=5:2001



[a] New York Gov. George Pataki (Interview) Government Technology Magazine, May 2001.

[b] Wireless Enters The Mainstream by Steve Towns

http://www.govtech.net/magazine/sup_story.phtml?magid=

1505000000000021&id=2530000000001878&issue=5:2001

[c] A World Without Wires by John Marcotte

http://www.govtech.net/magazine/sup_story.phtml?magidy.phtml?magid=

1505000000000021&id=2530000000001892&issue=5:2001

[d] = [16]



Dr. George Kostopoulos, as of September 2001 will be a Professor of Information Systems with the College of Business Management of the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Currently, and since 1995, he has been a Professor of Information Systems with the College of Business Administration at the Texas A&M International University. He holds degrees from the Arizona State University, Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, the California State Polytechnic University, M.S. in Economics, and the Pacific States University, B.S. in Electronics Engineering.



After his first graduation in 1962 and until 1975, he served in the defense electronics industry in various capacities holding research and development positions that progressively ranged from engineer to principal scientist. His engineering activities were digital systems design in the areas of phased array antennas, missile, torpedo guidance, radars and sonars systems.



His academic career started in 1974 when he joined the California State Polytechnic University. Since then, he has been a faculty member in numerous universities around the world including the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the Algerian National Institute of Electrical Engineering (INELEC), the Florida Institute of Technology, the Florida Atlantic University, the Boston University, the University of Heidelberg, the University of LaVerne (California) Athens campus, the Greek National University of Ioannina, the Texas A&M International University, and the Instituto Tamaulipeco de Investigacion Educativa y Desarrollo de la Docencia of Victoria, Mexico.

Dr. Kostopoulos' professional interests are in the use of the Internet for education, commerce and government.

Dr. Eduardo Rivera is Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at the St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. He is the Chairman of CIS and MIS within the Graduate School of Business. He holds a Ph. D. in Computer Engineering from National Polytechnics Institute at Grenoble, France, his M.S. is in Computer Sciences from the Scientific University of Grenoble, France and a B.S. in Physics from the National University of Mexico.



He has been project leader and researcher at the Future Center of Fundacion Barros Sierra in Mexico, Director of Technology Promotion and Deputy Director of Computer Policy with the Federal Government of Mexico.



He has been Vice-president of Technology Transfer International a consultant and training firm in Telecommunications in the Caribbean. He was also consultant or associate researcher of many organizations among them: UNESCO, Aeromexico, Oracle Caribbean, INDUNIV, and Caribbean Central University.



In the academic world he has been professor of several Universities: Doctoral Program in Administration, the System and Applied Mathematics Institute and the School of Engineering at the National University of Mexico, the National Computer Center at National Polytechnics Institute in Mexico, Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico and Inter American University of Puerto Rico, where he was also the Coordinator of Graduate Programs.



Dr. Rivera's professional interests are in On-line Learning, Business Intelligence, and Telecommunications. He is the author of several books and numerous papers in journals and technical conferences.