E-government marches on

A number of flourishing long-term trends will keep federal e-government efforts on track regardless of who emerges as the presidential campaign winner in November, said Mark Forman, former administrator of e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget.

No one knows for sure what Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) or President Bush might do with e-government after the election, Forman said, speaking at an Oct. 6 conference hosted by PureEdge Solutions Inc. But e-government "has to grow, regardless of who the administration is," Forman said.

The growing deficit, current IT resources, technology and governance frameworks are several drivers that ensure the inevitability of e-government advancements, he said.

E-government progress cannot be derailed, Forman said. "It's so interwoven into the budgetary documents, into the guidance today that [to stop the growth of e-government,] you really need some ignorant people coming in that wouldn't take advantage of that."

A number of opportunities in technology are also crashing together to create critical mass, he said. They include the spread of Extensible Markup Language, Web-enabled services and commoditization of hardware and software.

The government leads in Web services — a reality made possible by a move away from Unix server environments to Intel Corp. servers, Forman said. "It hasn't hit the government as a wall yet, but if you look at the end of year buying, it's in the multibillion dollar arena."

That in turn has lead to the commoditization of operating systems and the run-time environment. Web services can cross traditional agency boundaries.

"We found out in the e-gov initiatives that you couldn't actually migrate across agencies very easily in Unix," Forman said. "But with that quality computer passport with Web services as the open standard, that migration becomes easier."

The future will also see the automatic management of IT management, he said.

"Tomorrow, autonomics starts to kick in, and the monitoring turns into management," he said. "And the software becomes self-healing, self-configuring, self optimizing."

Since leaving government, Forman has become a vice president for Cassatt Corp., a start-up targeting autonomic computing.

Asked if there were things he would have done differently as IT administrator, Forman said he would have worked harder to establish centralized IT services. "We planned two years to get the initiatives done, ... and then we found we needed another year to do the migration."

Also, "I would have beaten up a few people I did not," although what was accomplished was made possible by a very dedicated staff. "The desire to really do great things in government, ... we leveraged that to the hilt," Forman said.

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