The Obama administration improved government technology, but the Trump team must push it further forward.
When President Barack Obama officially took office in 2009, the first iPhone had been on the market for a scant 18 months, cloud computing use was non-existent and a social networking site called Facebook was starting to gain steam.
Technology moves so fast it's sometimes hard to think how far we've come in just a few short years. The past eight years has seen the federal government take major steps forward in different aspects of its technology use, but as we look today, government still lags far behind the private sector in how it utilizes modern technology.
The Obama administration took some crucial first steps, including promoting the Cloud First policy, focusing more on Bring Your Own Device initiatives and empowering CIOs. But much more is needed -- the President Donald Trump's administration must not only continue this positive use of technology in government, but accelerate it. Let's look at five possible Trump administration initiatives to enhance government technology use.
Increase trust in government
With almost eight in 10 Americans expressing dissatisfaction or anger with the way the federal government is working, there is much work to be done to improve confidence. One important way that technology can help is to continue to focus on transparency. Since so much of any organization's business is digital, continuing the Obama administration's push for open data and access to government data sets will help. Specifically, programs such as Data.gov and the DATA Act have shown promise, with agencies such as NOAA, Interior and NASA leading the way in government data transparency.
That said, more can be done to release key strategic and operational data in addition to the primarily-scientific data released today. Further, simply releasing data is necessary but not sufficient. Without the proper analytics to make sense of the information, data holds little value. The next administration must push harder for agencies to release data, but also facilitate proper analytics tools to make sense of it. By releasing more data and making it better understood, government will increase transparency and continue to increase trust.
Budget pressures will continue to influence decisions, and agencies will keep being asked to do more with less. In a resource-constrained environment like this one, analytics can shine. Analytical tools can help agency leaders with everything from detecting and preventing fraud in government benefits (which adds up to $124 billion every year) to optimizing the use of constrained resources, whether it be information technology, staffing, equipment, program management or resource planning. With the right investments in analytics, the Trump administration can make the most out of what will certainly be ongoing budget challenges and continue to improve government efficiency.
Mobile technology has changed the way consumers act. A few years ago, Americans had to go to their bank, or at least an ATM, to deposit a check. Major banks now allow customers to make deposits from their phones, simply by snapping a photograph of the check.
This type of consumer experience has quickly become the norm. Government must continue to find ways to provide citizens with an analogous connected experience. With "Citizen Intelligence," agencies can learn exactly what their customers -- the American people -- want from their government.
To make this happen, the Trump administration must commit to a dedicated expansion of mobile services, but in a secure way that maintains privacy. This will require new approaches in technology leadership, procurement and implementation to avoid the security pitfalls seen in a number of previous attempts at creating more accessible citizen tools. Government must ensure citizen services are as secure as they are convenient.
Speaking of security…
Cyber is not going away. With so much valuable personal and private information stored across the government on its citizens, criminal enterprises and adversarial states make the government a prime target for attacks. The Office of Personnel Management breach is the pinnacle example of just how valuable that personal information is as an asset. Protecting this data, especially as the network endpoint becomes innocuous with BYOD and the internet of things becoming more common and mainstream, will be an increasingly challenging, but critical focus area to ensure the government remains a credible and trusted source. Without that credibility, citizens' faith in government will continue to drop and may reach a level where it cannot recover.
Battling asymmetric threats online
At the beginning of the War on Terror, Al-Qaeda had a central office in Afghanistan to which recruits could travel for training. Today, however, terrorists (particularly ISIS) use the internet to inspire, recruit, train and operationally execute in new ways. People no longer need to leave their home, let alone their country, to become radicalized, or connected to the operational implementation of an attack. The Trump team must set up technology systems that can better combat these efforts, including adopting text analytics capabilities that can mine public information to provide more advanced intelligence into the inner workings of online recruitment and training efforts.
It's crucial for the Trump administration to empower agencies to use technology to battle modern asymmetric threats; to increase transparency and better connect to citizens; to drive efficiencies; and to work towards building the trust of the American people in their government.
In these early days of the Trump administration, details on the technology agenda and priorities are still sparse -- but it is a certainty that technology will need to be a critical element of the 45th president's agenda.
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