Digital strategy sets stage for mobile explosion

The Office of Management and Budget finally released its long-awaited digital strategy on May 23, and the analysis began almost immediately.

Although the plan was primarily about mobility and specifically about getting government information to the public via mobile devices, it included a lot more. Formally titled “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People," the strategy focuses on three objectives:

  • Enable citizens and the growing mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.
  • Institute an information-centric model for interoperability and openness to deliver better digital government services at a lower cost.
  • Update and implement policies to buy and manage devices, applications and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.

Alex Howard, writing at O'Reilly Radar, traced the strategy’s development from former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra and former chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra to their successors — Steven VanRoekel and Todd Park, respectively.

Although the plan is ambitious, its potential for being funded is uncertain, Howard wrote.

"Big visions matter, in terms of inspiring the country to action or a historic course, from building transcontinental railroads to sending men to the moon to starting up a new government agency," Howard wrote. "Implementing against that vision, however, in a time of great budget pressure, increased demands for government services online and falling trust in institutions is just as important."

The Telework Exchange, in an unbylined news update posted to its site, called attention to the fact that the plan highlights the importance of agencies being open and interoperable by asking them to develop IT infrastructures and adopt technologies that will empower the practice of access anywhere, anytime, on any device.

“Telework has a natural connection to achieving these goals and can easily be leveraged to support the provisions in the strategy that ask agencies to expand their mobile capabilities and establish secure mobile device management practices,” the Telework Exchange article states.

At NextGov, Aliya Sternstein noted the plan’s emphasis on security, saying it “attaches the word ‘secure’ to almost every activity description. A graphic visualizing the flow of digital services under the plan titles its foundational layer, ‘Security and Privacy.’”

At the same time, the strategy acknowledges that the goal of openness might compete with the need for security. “To address the conflict between transparency and security, the blueprint calls for partitioning sensitive information prior to transmission by, among other things, requiring strong identity verification,” Sternstein wrote.

The plan gives the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology responsibility for developing standards for expanding the secure use of mobile and wireless devices. Those agencies have a year to develop a set of requirements.

Although the plan clocks in at a streamlined 36 pages, it gives agencies a lot to do on several fronts in the coming months, and they will likely take a variety of routes to get there.

Milestones along the way

The strategy’s list of milestones includes directives for the General Services Administration to establish a Digital Services Innovation Center and for OMB to convene a Digital Services Advisory Group within a month of the strategy’s release. Those organizations will then take on roles of their own in moving the plan forward.

Here are some selected milestones from the strategy, along with the responsible entity and time frame.

  • All agencies: Ensure that new IT systems follow the strategy’s open-data, content and Web application programming interface policy; 12 months.
  • All agencies: Engage with customers to identify at least two existing major customer-facing services that contain high-value data or content as first-move candidates to make compliant with new open-data, content and Web API policy; three months.
  • GSA: Expand to include a catalog that centrally aggregates Web APIs posted on agency/developer pages; 12 months.
  • Digital Services Advisory Group/CIO Council: Release governmentwide bring-your-own-device guidelines based on lessons learned from successful pilot programs at federal agencies; three months.
  • Digital Services Innovation Center/CIO Council: Launch a shared mobile application development program; 12 months.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

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