The technologies of e-gov

Five years ago, who could have imagined the current landscape of technology?

From Internet- enabled cellular phones and wireless personal digital assistants to up-to-the-minute election coverage on the World Wide Web and instant "dot-com" millionaires, the impact of technology on our economy and our daily lives has been nothing short of astounding.

I wouldn't be so bold as to predict what the landscape will look like five years from now, but I do have some thoughts on which technologies will have a significant impact in the federal community in the coming year.

It should come as no surprise, but the shift from traditional IT spending to spending on e-government initiatives should be much more pronounced in 2001. In particular, look for a dramatic shift in application development from traditional client/server applications to Web-enabled applications. Major software vendors are shifting their emphasis from traditional desktop-installed software to fully featured, Web-enabled versions of their applications. Similarly, Web application servers should also see strong support as the development of applications is focused around the browser rather than the desktop.

Strong security will be key to the success of any e-government initiative, so look for a plethora of security products to be hot in 2001. As the need for agencies to securely share data with other agencies, businesses and citizens increases, tools such as digital certificates and virtual private networking should continue to draw customers. The convenience of digital certificates has improved dramatically, and they have gained much acceptance. Similarly, performance and security improvements in VPN products should provide a valuable instrument for government agencies to share data across federal, state and local boundaries.

Look for wireless and handheld computing to play a growing role in federal computing as well. Consumers have been disappointed with the usefulness of Internet-enabled phones, but handheld computers are much better suited to delivering wireless Internet access and applications in a convenient, user-friendly manner.

As processing shifts away from the client system, probably the most important product in the e-government environment is the server. Whether it is a database server, Web server or application server, the server and its components will be the cornerstone of the e-government transformation. High-performance storage technologies, processing power and software for the server will be in great demand as agencies try to meet the expanding capacity demands of Internet traffic.

Although many would find the growing importance of these technologies self-evident, the real question is the extent to which they gain acceptance in the federal government. The rate at which they are adopted may provide a good indication of the progress made by the federal government in transforming to an "electronic government."

Plexico is vice president and chief technology officer at Input, an information technology market research and marketing services firm in Chantilly, Va.

Other Plexico columns

"Keeping C first in CRM" [Federal Computer Week, Oct. 16, 2000]

"Wireless Web needs work" [Federal Computer Week, Aug. 28, 2000]

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