Report recommends IT priorities for second term

The Obama administration could save hundreds of billions of dollars by following some recommendations from ACT/IAC, says the group.

concept image for data analytics

Data analytics turn large volumes of data into information that agencies can use to cut costs, ACT/IAC says. (Stock image)

Post-reelection, the Obama administration is getting plenty of recommendations on national policy challenges. One set of ideas worth a second look is the newly released compendium of tips on how IT can help slash the federal deficit by more than $200 billion annually.

The American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Institute for Innovation released its 2012 Quadrennial Government Technology Review on Nov. 13. By applying IT to improve the performance of government, the QGTR committee says the recommendations could reduce the deficit by $220 billion yearly. 

“Today’s government leaders face unprecedented challenges, from the climbing deficit to declining job growth to rising health care costs,” Molly O’Neill, co-chair of the 2012 QGTR Steering Committee and vice president at CGI, said in a statement. “In this time of diminishing resources, government must undergo a transformation through the strategic use of technology to meet today’s mission challenges of increased scale and complexity. As we addressed each challenge, it became clear that strong leadership—armed with the right technology tools—can begin to provide solutions.”

More than 100 volunteers from the public and private sectors alike contributed to the recommendations. A summary and six reports, each addressing a different challenge comprise the QGTR: budget deficit reduction, health care, science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] education, citizen-driven government, national security and business and IT management alignment.

For IT use specifically, the report, titled “Unleashing the Power of Information Technology Innovation to Reduce the Budget Deficit,” offers the following recommendations:

Fast-track data analytics to cut costs. The federal government produces and stores massive quantities of data. Matching this data with analytics would provide new opportunities to create actionable information and insight for better decision-making across federal programs. The information created can help unearth inefficiencies and pinpoint operational redundancies. Citing numbers from the McKinsey Global Institute, the report said the use of big data could create an annual 8 percent savings – or $200 billion – in federal healthcare costs alone.

Invest in technology to increase productivity. Taking note from the private sector, the federal government should make a move on investing in IT and business process innovation, which could potentially save up to $100 billion a year in federal outlays. The private sector has plenty of lessons learned to share when it comes to applying innovation, and some agencies have taken those to heart. For example, the Veteran Affairs Department’s Blue Button Initiative and other efforts to improve processes have successfully streamlined veteran patient care and facilitated information- and data-sharing with other agencies.

Use technology to combat fraud, waste and abuse: In recent years, the government has made strides in  decreasing improper payments. Yet more work remains to be done: The FBI estimates healthcare fraud cost between $70 billion to $234 billion of U.S. healthcare expenditures. The good news is that technologies exist to help identify and prevent waste, fraud and abuse. For example, the Internal Revenue Service reports the “tax gap” of uncollected taxes to be $385 billion and improper payments made by the federal government to exceed $100 billion a year. But the use of the right IT tools to help identify waste, fraud and abuse could slash these losses by 10 percent. 

“Technology is not the whole answer to these national challenges, but it can be a significant part of the solution in restoring confidence in the federal government,” said Anne Reed, co-chair of the 2012 QGTR Steering Committee and president at Anne Reed Consulting. “As a public-private partnership, ACT-IAC has served the government for more than 20 years as a trusted adviser and go-to source for collaboration, education, training and action. Our commitment to a vendor-neutral environment brings a unique value to our recommendations.”

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