Tech Briefing

By John Zyskowski

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5 tech shockwaves still felt today

In an upcoming special anniversary issue of FCW, we will take a closer look at five information technologies or technology trends that have had a significant impact on government in the last twenty-five years – that would be back to 1987 for the mathematically challenged among us.

Impact can be measured by the degree to which it transformed how government works, how government serves citizens, or how agencies acquire and manage the IT resources needed to perform their missions. Moreover, we want to single out those technologies whose impact is still felt today in one or more of these areas.

Of the following list of technologies, tell us which five you think had the greatest impact as defined above? Do you think we missed any?

Internet – There really isn’t an argument here, is there?

E-mail – Electronic messaging is such an integral yet glamour-less part of our current work lives, it’s hard to remember a time when we actually had to talk to each other or commit ink to paper to communicate. How much of the worker productivity gains in the past twenty-five years can be tied to e-mail?

Geographic information systems – Being able to answer the “where” in ways that are instantly understandable to the human eye (and thus brain) has opened the door to countless public policy and governance applications, from health to law enforcement and well beyond.

Global positioning system – So much of the U.S.’s modern military superiority, and all that has meant for the world, rests on this one technology. If that doesn’t work for you, just think of all the lost drivers there would be on the roads, contributing to global warming. 

Desktop computing – The democratization of computing began with the personal computer. Who needs those pompous twits in the IT department when you can just gin up something with the spreadsheet software purchased using petty cash. Desktop computers also got the great pendulum swinging between centralized and distributed computing, a dynamic that serves as a never-ending job stimulus plan for those previously mentioned hordes back in IT.

E-commerce – It started humbly with electronic data interchange (quick, X12 or EDIFACT?), got sexied up big time when the Internet took off, and is now just the way business gets done. 

Commoditization of computing – Originally designed for personal computers, commodity chips from Intel and others climbed the food chain and helped break the grip of traditional big system vendors in the datacenter. Enterprise computing has never been the same.

Mobile computing devices – This one is still very much a work in progress, but it’s nearly off the charts in potential impact on all three scores: how we work, serve citizens and manage it from an IT perspective.

What do you think? What are your top five game changers?

Posted by John Zyskowski on Apr 05, 2012 at 12:20 PM


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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 SoutheastUS

SourceForge and other repositories for Open Source development. Without these public repositories, the democratic, bazaar (NOT bizarre) development of reasonable good to very good FREE software (albeit with little to no direct support - unless you buy it from a "sponsor" company that sells support for the systems they help to develop in the Open Source community). Lots of applications that were not major game changers, but were useful to millions, could not have been developed otherwise.

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