What Does the Digital Government Strategy Mean for the Future of Gov 2.0?

Twenty-one months ago, I outlined four scenarios for the future of Gov 2.0. Here is a brief recap:

  1. SteamGov – The Federal government still uses large, centralized IT architectures and the average Federal worker’s work technology is less capable than the worker’s personal technology.
  2. Google.Gov – The Federal government is greatly reduced in size while almost all government services are provided through contractors.
  3. LabGov – State and local governments take the lead in using the latest open-source technologies, agile project management, and other innovations to more effectively and efficiently deliver government services. This causes a shift in the balance-of-power between the Federal government and the states as citizens demand the Federal government allow the states to provide services that once were the purview of the Federal government.
  4. InnoGov – The Federal government establishes a DARPA-like institution to seek out innovative Gov 2.0 projects and accelerate the adoption of new open-source technologies and agile management techniques. By 2014, the Federal government is the leading innovator in IT and management practices and helps to revitalize the private and non-profit sectors with its technology/best practices transfer programs.

Two months ago, the Federal CIO released the Roadmap for a Digital Government which details a “comprehensive strategy to build a 21st Century Digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people.” Along with the announcement of the Digital Government Strategy, the Digital Services Innovation Center was established at GSA and the Presidential Innovation Fellows projectwas launched. It looks as if the InnoGov scenario is the direction the Federal government is going.

Not so fast, though. There are still large parts of the Federal government that are in the SteamGov scenario and, with the looming IT budget cuts, many agencies will struggle to fulfill the Digital Strategy. This is frustrating because adopting the Digital Strategy can help agencies meet the challenges of lower IT budgets. The Digital Strategy could also push agencies into the Google.Gov scenario as agencies rely on open source/agile consultants to help fill in the skillsets that are lacking in their own workforce. Which scenario (or combination of scenarios) is fulfilled depends on how successful the Digital Government Strategy is in the next 6-to-12 months.

Also, can we still count LabGov out? There is a quiet revolution (not so quiet for GovLoop members) among the state and local governments as they adopt open-source technologies and agile management to better deliver their services and better enforcement. I am not sure that this currently exists in the Digital Government Strategy program but if not, there should be a formal program of knowledge sharing between the Federal government and state/local governments on digital government innovations.

So, what do you think?

  • Is the Federal government moving toward InnoGov?
  • Or will it go toward SteamGov? Google.Gov?
  • Are the scenarios even valid in light of the new Digital Government Strategy? What new scenarios would you propose?

Disclaimer: All opinions are solely mine and do not reflect the views of my employers or any organizations that I am member of and should not be construed as such.

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Chris Cairns

I like the Digital Gov strategy, but we need to look at this from an IT portfolio management perspective. My biggest concern is the Federal governments capacity to innovate. A lot of dollars and resources are tied up in keeping the lights on. There’s hardly capacity to engage in new, innovative projects. The federal government needs to focus on driving down IT operational costs over a period of several years, then that should put IT departments in a position to accelerate innovative.


I like the 4 buckets – hard part is often driving the innovation from OMB and White House to deep in agency IT shops. That’s where I’d love to see some more effort and research

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@GovLoop – Exactly! In my humble opinion, I think that OMB should create a second track of Presidential Innovation Fellows who would be exclusively Federal employees who are doing innovative projects in the various agencies. There are many pockets of excellence that just need some exposure and support.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@Chris – That’s the Catch-22 of this. Agencies could save so much by adopting innovative strategies and technologies but they are prevented from adopting the cost-saving solutions because of lock-in to pre-existing solutions.

Did you see the article about the government wasting $14 billion on unneeded buildings? Imagine if that money could have been freed for truly innovative projects?


NASA’s IT Strategy looks a lot like google.gov now. Would be nice to see us move towards InnoGov internally, not via a separate institution, but via new organization that bridges the research and IT worlds – more along the lines of Apple’s now defunct ATG:


I think we need a new organization to really do this well. The Chief Information Officer focuses more on IT Services, not so much on next-gen development or cutting edge systems. I was just reading about a new concept for a Chief Innovation Officer. That would make more sense for what I would like to see for NASA…