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Video Interpretation Solutions Help Ensure Equality in the Justice System

While I was thinking about the topic of my second post in the court series leading up to the CTC conference in September, I came across an interesting news article. The state of California just announced that it will now provide court interpreters for free in all court cases. In the past, the state – along with many others – has only provided interpretation services in criminal cases. However, ensuring that everyone understands what is going on in the courtroom, no matter the case, is critical to making sure justice is dispensed fairly, efficiently and accurately. This means that court interpretation services are a crucial part of the justice system.

While this move by California is great, it is a bit behind the times. Back in 2010, the Department of Justice issued guidance on the issue of interpreters within the judicial system, noting that a particular concern was, “limiting the types of proceedings for which qualified interpreter services are provided by the court.” The letter went on to state: “Some courts only provide competent interpreter assistance in limited categories of cases, such as in criminal, termination of parental rights, or domestic violence proceedings. DOJ, however, views access to all court proceedings as critical.” This means that all states have had five years to expand their court translation services to cover all types of cases, in accordance with the Department of Justice’s standards.

However, states have been slow to take on this expansion, largely due to the high costs. California, for example, has the nation’s largest court system, spread out across a huge state. They also have about seven million residents with limited English proficiency, who speak over 200 different languages. The cost to provide translators in those locations for these residents is huge; in 2010, California spent nearly $93 million on court interpretation services. So in order to reconcile the challenge of fixed budgets with the increased demand for interpreters, state and local governments need to rethink their manual processes for deploying these services and look toward technology instead.

One major way to reduce the cost of providing interpreters and ensure that all citizens participate in a fair and balanced judicial process is using video services. To address the rising demand for interpreters and to help streamline court procedures, Cisco has developed a Connected Justice™ Video Interpretation solution (CJVI). CJVI allows interpreters to virtually join court proceedings using the high-quality video and audio features of Cisco® Unified Communications Manager and Cisco TelePresence® end-points. Read More »

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Harford County Unveils Countywide Broadband Network (HMAN)

On May 22, Harford County, Maryland held a press conference to announce its high-speed fiber optic based network, which will connect government buildings, schools, and libraries while reducing costs. The fiber optic cable, known as HMAN, or Harford Metro Area Network will allow greater broadband access to residents. According to Ted Pilbil, director of the county’s ICT department, the HMAN will “upgrade the county’s computer network and serve as a communications backbone” for Harford.

Since its conceptualization five years ago, HMAN has grown both from the efforts of the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN) – a consortium of six Maryland counties – and a federal grant under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).HMAN press conference

As part of the fiber optics solution, Cisco helped guide the County into a design that was within its budget and met all its technical needs. More than 100 miles of fiber optic has connected approximately 100 institutions around the county. The design included a Metro Ethernet solution based on the ASR9K platform, which has allowed the County to replace its expensive leased lines with a wholly owned fiber optic network managed by the county. The network has the ability to add Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DMDW) optical technology to further expand the network capacity by a factor of 40x with additional equipment. Cisco’s flexible design allowed the County to reduce costs while providing high-speed connectivity to local schools, libraries, public safety offices, and economic development zones.

The HMAN has great potential to provide economic opportunities and bring business into Harford County. One such opportunity is the presence of “dark fiber.” In essence, dark fiber is when cables are not activated, which can allow a company to create its own private network. Furthermore, business that could not previously access broadband service from traditional carriers – whether due to location or cost – can now buy into a cost-effective, high-speed network. The data will move faster and with greater reliability and flexibility.

Alongside businesses, city and county government will also be linked on the broadband highway, offering endless possibilities for teleconferencing, data sharing, and video communications. Furthermore, HMAN will open opportunities for additional infrastructure for primary, secondary, and higher education.

By providing high-speed access to video, voice, and data for county organizations and residents, the HMAN will catapult Harford County into a technology center of the future.

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Cloud for Local Government Global Blog Series: State/Local Government & the Internet of Everything

There’s an increasing drumbeat of news about the “Internet of Everything” (IoE)— the confluence of people, process, data, and things that makes networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before.

IoE comprises the ubiquitous ways that billions of people and numerous devices on the Internet communicate and report on their status and location. This covers everything from the location of your smartphone, to where a package might be, to the rate of your pulse or your arrival on a street corner, to the condition of a highway.

The Internet of Everything isn’t way off in the future. Today, the number of physical devices connected to the Internet is already six times the number of people on the Internet, even though there are 2 billion of those people. By 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices.

These devices will come to dominate the “cloud.” Of course, the complexity of a global system that connects all these devices and people is mind-boggling. This global system has the potential for unpredictable and perhaps disastrous behavior. That alone should get the attention of public leaders.

Read More »

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