Government transparency exposes new IT challenges

GSA's McClure outlines IT issues requiring added attention

 The push for collaboration and information transparency in government has also brought about a new set of challenges for federal information managers, said David McClure, associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

Balancing demands to make information more readily accessible while also respecting privacy and security concerns – especially as more information makes its way onto the Internet – requires a new degree of focus and flexibility, McClure said.

Speaking at the 2009 American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference Monday, McClure likened the onslaught of new information technology demands as a form of change management.

McClure, who was a managing vice president for Gartner Inc.’s government research team before his GSA appointment in August, also served on the Obama-Biden Transformation, Innovation, and Government Reform Transition Team, which examined federal agency IT plans and status for the incoming administration.

McClure laid out eight challenges, or areas requiring special attention, as government IT professionals grappled with issues surrounding collaboration and transparency:

1. Disclosure management. While a significant amount of government data being posted to the Web isn’t considered sensitive, often times, there is sensitive information embedded in that data, McClure said. “It’s going to elevate the need to review information — sometimes instantaneously,” he said, requiring a new discipline for disclosure management that is “somewhere between Web management and privacy management.”

2. Data sharing. The exponential growth of machine-readable data increasingly requires new and more sophisticated analysis tools to share data in meaningful ways. That will also mean devoting new attention not only to where the data comes from, but also who owns it. 

3. Data quality. The “old data quality issue” that has been a recurring concern in government remains of “paramount importance” as the amount of information being pushed out onto the Web continues to grow, McClure said. “If we’re pushing out unreliable data, we’re defeating the purpose” intended by transparency, he said.

4. Multichannel service delivery. Agencies need to think about interacting with citizens, business and other constituents in “three screen environments — mobile [devices], netbooks and big screens,” McClure said. “We need to figure out engagement” and connectivity within each of these environments, he said.

5. Data analysis. “We’re about to enter a new era of knowledge management,” McClure said. One area he and GSA will be studying is the nature of queries by citizens and how they use government sites, to provide new tools for improving information services.

6. Disruption. “Cool, innovative technologies are very disruptive,” said McClure. “In government, we tend to circle the wagons. But markets will change, applications will change, and providers will change,” he said, requiring even greater amounts of flexibility by agency executives.

7. Measuring impact. It’s critical, McClure said, for the government IT community to “get it right” in determining how best to measure IT performance.

“It’s all about change management on steroids,” McClure said in summary. And in the face of rapid changes now buffeting the government IT community, that requires added leadership, he said.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.


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