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Big Bone for Small Businesses<@VM>Unisys Buys Datamec<@VM>Computer Viruses Costly<@VM>Striving for Best Practices<@VM>Solutions for IT Labor Shortage

The Commerce Department has awarded its $1.5 billion small business contract to 29 small, minority and women-owned businesses.

Called Commerce Information Technology Solutions, the contract is open to all agencies and will last five years. Services fall into three categories: systems engineering, systems security and systems operations and maintenance.

"This governmentwide procurement program was designed ... to create opportunities and bring the expertise of [these] firms into government information technology management," said Commerce Secretary William Daley, who announced the winners June 29.
Unisys Corp. has acquired Datamec of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a $47 million deal to enhance Unisys' outsourcing capabilities in the financial services and public sector markets in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

"Acquiring Datamec opens up significant new opportunities for Unisys to expand its services business," said Jack Blaine, Unisys senior vice president responsible for Australia, Latin America, the Far East and Africa. Datamec, which provides application outsourcing services to government and commercial customers, has been renamed Unisys Brasil Ltda. The economic impact of virus and worm attacks on information systems increased significantly this year as businesses lost $7.6 billion in the first two quarters of 1999 from disabled computers, according to data gathered by Computer Economics of Carlsbad, Calif.

The frequency of the attacks will continue at the current rate, but their nature will become more severe, according to the independent research company. Organizations will see longer periods of downtime, and a growing number of workers will be affected, the firm noted.

The firm said that prevention can be accomplished only through properly funded and staffed corporate IT security programs. However, the firm believes that very few programs are supported well, and that most budgets should be at least doubled to handle the attacks.
The Internet Best Practices Working Group, part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is working actively on a revision of recommended practices for Web page engineering and Internet security.

The working group also is looking for participants for e-mail best practices as well as physical location information, such as links to maps and proximity indexing. The group already has one approved standard related to recommended practices for Web page engineering and intranet/extranet applications.

As the group points out on its Web page (computer.org/standard/Internet), its collective work is meant to build on the efforts of the Internet Engineering Task Force, which pursues Internet standards, and the World Wide Web Consortium, headquartered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A Commerce Department report examining the national information technology worker shortage offers many suggestions, but concedes that solving the problem will not be easy.

The report, "The Digital Work Force: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation," was compiled from information gathered during a yearlong series of town meetings held across the country.

The report, released June 30, encourages businesses to tap into nontraditional labor pools, including older workers, midcareer scientists and engineers and recent college graduates trained in non-IT fields. High-tech companies were called on to provide time off for employees to teach, mentor or work on science and engineering projects with students in the local school districts.

Universities and colleges were advised to work with industry and government to develop advertising campaigns to improve the image of technical professions. Schools also were encouraged to develop an ongoing dialogue with IT business leaders and technical professionals.

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