Bold visions for the next generation of e-government

davidwray.jpgBy David Wray, Chief Technology Officer, HP Software Federal Professional Services

 

Recently I was encouraged to see two exciting developments in federal IT. First was the release of the Federal IT Shared Services Strategy, which lays out a plan for federal agencies to use a shared approach to IT service delivery as a way of innovating without raising cost. Then came the Digital Government Strategy, which seeks to build a 21st century digital government, creating an information-driven government accessible to employees and citizens anytime, on any device.

 

If agencies can implement the recommendations put forth in these plans, federal IT will take a huge step into the future. But, great as these plans are, I think federal IT can go even bigger and bolder. I’m talking about defining the next generation of e-government in a way that’s only now possible because of the cloud.

 

The evolution of e-government

Let me back up a little bit. Over a decade ago, when we were going through the dotcom boom, Mark Forman who was associate director of IT at the OMB helped formulate its e-government initiative. This was the first time that anyone looked at the overall federal IT picture. And they saw that they could innovate, save money and increase citizen participation. One idea was to create government-wide shared services for LOBs that could save the government a lot of money. Agencies actually contributed money for these services, some of which are still in development.

 

In my previous blog posts, I’ve talked about what individual agencies, departments or groups can do to reform their IT and innovate despite reduced budgets. But what about the entire federal government? Can the federal government capitalize on shared services and cloud? In other words, is the time right to realize the original promise of e-government?

 

A government-wide cloud?

Last year, we saw the OMB announce its Cloud First policy, requiring agencies to go with a cloud option whenever a secure, reliable and cost-effective one existed. These efforts will certainly help with the OMB’s goals for data center consolidation.

 

But why create a cloud for Homeland Security and a cloud for Treasury? For true savings on data center consolidation, why not consolidate at a government-wide level? For example, the Census Bureau needs its horsepower only when the census is going on. Why can’t they share it with other agencies when it’s not in use, perhaps for a fee?

 

A true shared services vision

As with the government’s cloud strategy, the new shared services strategy has the potential to really transform federal IT if it’s implemented government wide. Let’s look at common federal processes such as acquisition. GSA (the U.S. General Services Administration) helps with acquisition. But the whole process around acquisition (planning, management of the RFP, etc.) should be shared as a service.

 

Another area that is ripe for government-wide shared services is technology. For instance, why should each agency have its own infrastructure for testing? Wouldn’t it be simpler and more cost-effective if there was government-wide testing as a service (TaaS)? That way, when you’re ready, it’s easy to provision the environment automatically, you give them your application, they could stage it in a secure environment and you could get those test results back in a timely fashion. Instead of every agency having its own client image, why not standardize across the federal space? You could have different ones for civilian agencies, defense and intelligence, but you could still go a long way to getting rid of redundancies.   At HP, we offer a center of excellence for Testing, as well as a test governance portal and Testing as a Service (TAAS) to make it extremely easy, cost effective.

 

Shared services and data center consolidation have brought huge benefits to commercial enterprises. I’m hoping federal IT can realize the same gains.

 

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Labels: Federal IT
Comments
Nadhan | ‎09-25-2012 04:31 PM

Great post, David.  Security is one of the key challenges in public sector -- especially in the context of a cloud-based solution.  Have shared my thoughts on this in Combating Enterprise Security Challenges in the Public Sector.

 

Connect with Nadhan on: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Journey Blog.

dwray | ‎09-28-2012 10:47 AM

Thanks Nadhan,

 

Yes, security is a very big challange within public sector, especially for the Feds.  In fact, the IT Reform plan published by OMB has assigned responsibility for cloud security to the Department of Homeland Security.  They are ultimatly reponsibile for providing a solution for securing the cloud for other Agencies.   You can see the plan on www.cio.gov, some progress has been made but no Federal wide solutions are available to my knowledge.

 

Your post outlines many of the challanges that apply and outlines how HP can help.   I think the testing of cloud applications for security is one area that could benefit many Fedeal Agencies today, especially if they provide a government wide service.    

 

I believe if public sector partners with private sector solution providers for cloud,  like HP, many of the challanges can be resolved.  The trick is making changes to how the they procure, govern and evaluate/enhance cloud services to assure results.  

 

 

 

 

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