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What’s the Status of Emerging Tech in Government?

At this point, it’s widely understood that technology is changing the way government — and the world, for that matter — operates. Sometimes the advancements feel like a flood.

How can agencies stay abreast of the changes? What exactly should they focus on developing? And how?

These were the questions explored in April’s edition of the DorobekINSIDER Live, “Spotlight on Emerging Tech in Gov,” which brought several experts together to discuss the topic. Nicole Blake Johnson, GovLoop’s Managing Editor, discussed GovLoop’s recent guide, “Emerging Tech in Government: What It Means for Your Career,” before Craig Fischer, Innovation Program Manager at the U.S. Treasury Department, and David Jones, Director of Product Marketing at Nuxeo began a panel discussion with host Christopher Dorobek.

Blake Johnson began by explaining that leaders in government and industry defined emerging technologies differently. “For the purpose of this guide,” she said, “we defined emerging technologies as new and older technologies that are transforming the way that agencies operate and serve citizens.”

That distinction is a helpful one, according to Jones. Too often, he said, we think this field only includes the far-off technologies that feel more like sci-fi than present reality. You’ve probably heard the buzzwords: blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things.

“It’s also about making better use of technology that already exists within organizations and within government departments,” Jones explained. “There’s a lot of talk at the moment about things called legacy applications. So, applications that were maybe deployed five years ago, 10 years ago, that are doing very valuable jobs, but aren’t necessarily doing it in what you’d call a modern way. They’re maybe not cloud-enabled or mobile-enabled or not able to integrate with other tools within the environment.

“A lot of the time just using different ways and different views and different approaches to solve longstanding problems within the overall environment is very useful.”

On this note, agency change agents should understand that emerging technologies can’t be successfully implemented without support from higher-ups. It must be clear to leaders that these changes will improve agency operations.

“There’s a lot of time that you have to invest in briefing your leadership … to really show that there’s value in moving either your issue forward or solving some sort of problem,” Fischer said. “Otherwise you’re just not going to get the buy-in to go forward.”

Jones and Fischer also explored what effect implementing new technologies would have on the workforce. With each new advancement comes a fear of layoffs. That doesn’t have to be the case, Jones said. In some situations, emerging technologies can actually make jobs better without downsizing the number of employees at all.

As long as the implementation of technology is focused on improving the quality of life for the citizens an agency serves, there’s no reason to worry about what the future holds.

“It’s not about trying to get rid of jobs by any means,” Jones said. “It’s not about trying to get rid of staff. Those staff can actually be used to do much more beneficial tasks within the organization, tasks quite frankly that aren’t so mundane and boring to the individuals themselves.”

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Profile Photo Nya Jackson

It’s always cool to hear how agencies are implementing new tech but I always wonder how did they get started. I like that the panelist addressed that during the discussion and the guide you mentioned list some government user groups where you can connect with others that are exploring or currently using the technologies.