FedStats experimenting with P2P

FedStats.net — a peer-to-peer technology test bed — may be off-line, but it's not going to go away, proponents say.

"It will have a role and be back online sometime this summer," said Valerie Gregg, program manager for the Digital Government Consortium at the National Science Foundation and co-chairwoman of the FedStats Interagency Task Force. Gregg said FedStats.net, which uses Extensible Markup Language and P2P technology to enable data-sharing and collaboration, will be among many topics discussed at this week's Digital Government Workshop in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Fourteen principal agencies are involved in FedStats.net, and the task force is a partner in nine grants from the NSF's Digital Government program (www.diggov.org).

"It was always a proof-of-concept prototype," Gregg said of FedStats.net, which was taken off-line April 20. "It's helping define a research agenda for agencies that have data sitting behind firewalls." The FedStats.net P2P project began receiving increased attention April 16, when one of the companies involved, NextPage Inc., stated in a press release that the site "delivers a single point of integrated access to statistical data from 70 federal agencies."

Some people misinterpreted the statement to mean that more than 70 agencies had signed on to use the system. In fact, data from 70 agencies was available, but the agencies themselves were not paying for or endorsing the technology.

Marshall DeBerry, FedStats co-chairman and a survey statistician in the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, said the task force was "already planning on spinning it down, but the press release accelerated that."

"We were surprised, as others were, when the site was shut down," said Bruce Law, vice president of corporate marketing at NextPage. "It had been successful since it went live in November, and we still believe that other government agencies can take advantage of the technology."

Gregg and DeBerry said the P2P work has paid dividends. It spawned a new project to examine how agencies that use firewalls can conduct "technology transfers," and it provided an example of what is needed to balance collaboration and security among statistical agencies.

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