Blockchain and chatbots and AI. Oh my! Those buzzwords and more were the centerpiece of a discussion around the future of government technology during the Tech Trends to Watch in 2018: Blockchain, Agile and More session of GovLoop’s recent training, “Gov Trends Virtual Summit: Looking Ahead to 2018.”
Convening a panel of government tech experts, themes about the future of government tech emerged — themes around workforce, IT consolidation, and futuristic innovations. But the biggest takeaway seemed to be that for government to truly invest and succeed in exciting and futurist technology, it’s actually the “boring” stuff that leads to the thrilling innovations.
On the GovLoop panel were Dr. David Bray, Executive Director, People-Centered Internet and former CIO of the FCC; Kirk Longborn, Chief Information Security Officer, State of Illinois; Ed Toner, Chief Information Officer, State of Nebraska; and Dr. Craig Orgeron, Executive Director, Dept. of IT Services, State of Mississippi. Though the panelists have served at different levels in government and are all over the country, they shared plenty of common successes and challenges in what they were doing in government IT.
One of the biggest takeaways was that in order to succeed in pushing government IT boundaries in the future, the investments today have to be in moving away from legacy technology and consolidating services.
“For us to be innovative in the future and take advantage of tech we had to focus on the fundamentals: consolidation,” said Toner. “We consolidated state IT infrastructure and data centers. We consolidated all networks onto one, as well as all servers using virtual server technologies, eliminating more than 200 servers in that process. This means we saved the state in excess of 10 million dollars in operating costs.”
Bray agreed. “2017 was year of getting off of legacy investments,” he said. “Now, networked devices are increasing, data is increasing, and it’s massive change. Government will be drowning in data, as well as dealing with third wave of artificial intelligence and machine learning and the Internet of Things.”
Bray also noted that the reality of automation and technology will affect the government workforce. “Government getting off of legacy IT and moving to SaaS and streamlining how public sector delivers results is the ‘appetizer’ of the future,” he said. “The main course is how we begin to address getting freed from rote work. What do we do with that creativity? And what do we do with the job displacement caused by automation? We are experiencing 100 year of the industrial revolution in 10 years.”
Over in Illinois, Kirk said that Illinois is making these same considerations, and also testing plenty of innovations. “In Illinois, we’re underoing a digital transformation,” he said. “We’ve consolidated 63 agencies and assets together, and we’re also working on smart cities, smart state initiatives, blockchain and more.”
Orgeron said Mississippi is also moving at a fast pace, and trying innovations left and right. “We’ve been pretty busy,” he said. “In 2017 we focused primarily on citizen outreach through our government portal. We looked at augmented reality, chat bots, digital voice assistants. We created a chatbot. What we are asking ourselves now, is as devices get more ubitiquitous and cheaper, how can we get real functionality into the hands of our citizens?”
But all agreed that basic building blocks of process improvements, workforce, and consolidation were the real keys to an innovative future in government technology.
“We’ve put the fundamentals in place in 2017 in terms of workforce and consolidation,” said Toner. “Now, in 2018 with those fundamentals in place we can look at SaaS, agile methodology, and more innovative technologies. You have to get the basics right before moving on.”