E-gov tops CIO challenges

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Ask federal information technology managers what their highest priority is in these post-Sept. 11 days, and they'll say building e-government. But they also express a heightened sense of urgency about security.

Eighty chief information officers and senior technology officials at federal agencies ranked "using IT to improve service" and "making the business and cultural changes necessary for full e-government transformation" at the top of their concerns, according to the sixth annual survey of top challenges facing federal IT managers, conducted by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM).

Hiring and retaining skilled workers — listed as the top challenge for the past two years — dropped to No. 3 this year, according to the survey, released Dec. 3.

The answers to five questions added to the survey after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon show that CIOs have an increased sense of urgency about "all matters related to IT security," the survey concluded.

More than 50 responses were offered, for example, to the question that asked federal IT managers about their concerns regarding the vulnerability of the IT infrastructure in their agency in the wake of the attacks.

Managers noted that they worry about "poor departmental coordination and collaboration of security initiatives," the "lack of IT security expertise" and the susceptibility of their systems to denial-of-service attacks.

Other concerns included whether enough backup power for critical systems would be available in the event of an emergency and whether federal networks are secure enough to ensure access for mobile or telecommuting workers.

"The results of the special survey questions highlight the need for a well-thought-out federal and department IT infrastructure protection policy and strong leadership," the survey concluded.

According to the survey, federal IT managers' top 10 concerns are:

1. Using IT to improve service to customers/stakeholders/citizens.

2. Making the business and cultural changes necessary for full e-government transformation.

3. Hiring and retaining skilled professionals.

4. Obtaining adequate funding for IT programs and projects.

5. Preventing unauthorized system intrusions.

6. Formulating or implementing an agency IT architecture.

7. Building effective relationships in support of IT initiatives with agency senior executives.

8. Capturing, organizing and making accessible agency knowledge and expertise (classified as knowledge management).

9. Simplifying business processes to maximize the benefit of technology.

10. Unifying "island of automation" within lines of business.

The top 10 critical technologies identified by the survey respondents are:

1. Security infrastructure.

2. Internet/intranet/Web infrastructure.

3. Knowledge management.

4. E-mail.

5. Internet/intranet/Web applications.

6. Remote and mobile computing including personal digital assistants.

7. Data warehousing/data mining.

8. Security applications.

9. Virtual private networks.

10. Wireless technology.

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