Wyatt Kash | The next horizons

Editor's Desk'commentary

WERE A GOVERNMENT Computer News reader of 25 years ago transported into the future, circa 2007, he'd marvel at the changes.

Some familiar names ' IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola, even Apple ' are still around, but their product advances are stunning. Supercomputers capable of nearly 500 trillion calculations per second? And how did Microsoft get so big? Two billion people can talk wirelessly anywhere in the world via a device smaller than a pack of cigarettes? Incredible! And you get how many electronic messages ' e-mails ' a day? And what is Google? Java? XML? And this YouTube thing: Anybody can post this stuff on...the Internet? And what's all this about cyberwarfare? You mean that project the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was working on turned into this? You get the picture. Technologically, much has changed since GCN began chronicling the government computer market 25 years ago.

Many would argue the same can't be said about the bureaucratic ways of government, especially in Washington, during that same period. That, of course, belies what progress has been made ' notably, the emerging role of chief information officers (thanks to the Clinger-Cohen Act), the rise of egovernment and efforts to create a federal enterprise architecture.

Nevertheless, many technologies ' and the government policies that guide their use ' are now at pivotal points in their evolution.

The miniaturization of microprocessor chips is reaching physical limits.

Traditional operating systems are in transition as open and Web-based applications gain wider acceptance. The convergence of voice, video and data, in addition to the massive shift to wireless communication, is putting huge stresses on available bands of electromagnetic spectrum. Meanwhile, the volume of federal records that must be managed is escalating exponentially toward petabyte proportions.

As GCN wraps up 2007 and our 25th anniversary, we took a look at these and a variety of other technology issues looming on the horizon. In doing so, we opted to invite many of the experts among our readers to reflect on which factors have had the greatest impact on the past 25 years in government IT, and, more important, what will be needed to overcome the many challenges that lie ahead.

Whatever happens, GCN looks forward to reporting the outcome.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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