COMMENTARY

Empower feds to take on the cloud

Brand Niemann is senior data scientist at Semanticommunity.net and former senior enterprise architect and data scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency.

When Mark Forman was administrator of e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget and the federal IT budget was about $58 billion, he said we would spend the money more efficiently by using enterprise architecture. "There is no way to do [more real-time distributed decision-making] without breaking the ‘rice bowls’ that ensure many federal managers' power, and those managers are going to have to accept those changes because of impatience within the administration and Congress."

Interestingly, Mark Forman recently said, “I'll be joining a colleague of mine in government reform, jumping into the cloud, with a cloud computing initiative around grants filing."

When Karen Evans was OMB's administrator of e-government and IT and the federal IT budget was about $70 billion, she said we would spend that money more efficiently by the work and performance demands that she and OMB placed on agency IT staffs.

Now Vivek Kundra, as the first federal CIO, points out that the federal IT budget has spent more than $600 billion in the past decade with little increase in productivity, and he has a 25-point plan to spend that money more efficiently by using cloud computing. Specifically, his cloud-first policy states that each agency must identify three services to move to the cloud in three months. Then agencies must move one of those services to the cloud in 12 months and the remaining two in 18 months.

So progress is being made in federal cloud computing, but not fast enough to keep pace with the world around it. What has to change to make that happen? It could be as simple as letting government workers do their own IT. In academia, if you are a biologist and want to publish your research results on the Web, you can take a course or buy a book on bioinformatics and learn to do your own IT.

More importantly, we should separate government database building from IT systems development so we get better databases from subject-matter experts that are maintained and available in open formats for use by many. Then we can tap into the innovation from inside and outside government to develop multiple creative, cost-effective applications with those databases.

In addition, government employees should become information architects and redesign existing systems. Here’s an example: The IT Dashboard took six months and cost the General Services Administration $8 million. I re-architected and implemented it in about three days for free (except for the cost of my time at the Environmental Protection Agency) by using Spotfire. Of course, part of the $8 million price tag was to build the databases, which I did not have to do.

Critics will be quick to say that the federal government has special needs for privacy, security, acquisition, etc., that preclude letting employees do their own IT. I say let’s change that knee-jerk mindset and think and act outside the box.

I have done the following:

  • In response to Kundra's call, I put my EPA desktop PC in the cloud to support the Open Government Directive and Data.gov/semantic.
  • I implemented a Gov 2.0 platform for open government in a data science library in response to federal chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra's call.
  • I built a Semantic Community Infrastructure Sandbox for 2011 to show how to make people into information architects and preservationists.
  • I developed a federal cloud computing use case and tutorial to empower others to do as I have done.

Now it’s your turn to think and act outside the box to make federal cloud computing a game changer for the government by doing your own IT.

About the Author

Brand Niemann is senior data scientist at Semanticommunity.net and former senior enterprise architect and data scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 11, 2011

Great idea! Great idea? Yeah, if you want to do as one guy said, "catch up on my reading, at taxpayer's expense."

Fri, Mar 11, 2011

If my understanding of the cloud is correct, basically a thin client with no applications and all your apps and data "somewhere" else, then I am all for it. Considering how often our network dies, freezes, or is lost, that would give me a lot of time to catch up on my reading, at taxpayer's expense.

As it was, Wednesday when I could not access my email, remote drives, or the internet for about two hours, I had full access to my data and applications and had to keep working.

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 Dave

Great article, great ideas!

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 Brand Niemann US

The links in my article are available at http://semanticommunity.info/A_Gov_2.0_spin_on_archiving_2.0_data#3._Federal_Cloud_Computing.3a_It_can_really_happen_if_we_can_do_our_own_IT!

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group