Key technologies in digital strategy have one thing in common

The innovative technologies that will form the foundation for the administration’s digital strategy aimed at giving citizens access to information from anywhere, anytime and on any device will ride on the cloud, a former federal CIO said.

“The cloud is the enabler for the digital revolution,” said Gregg “Skip” Bailey, now director and federal cloud lead for Deloitte Consulting LLP. As a result, the administration’s Cloud First policy, Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program, and the digital strategy are interconnected, Bailey, a former CIO with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in an interview.

Five technologies will drive the post-digital world: analytics, cloud, cyber, mobility and social media. People are seeking out analytics software, mobile devices and social media platforms to access and make sense of information. They are not necessarily seeking out the cloud, yet cloud infrastructures are what these other technologies will ride on, he said.


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The Office of Management and Budget laid the foundation for this digital push with the Cloud First policy, a component of the 25-point IT reform plan issued in December 2011. The policy basically stated that agencies had to consider cloud computing, an on-demand model for provisioning computing resources, for new IT projects and required agencies to identify and move three applications to the cloud over an 18-month period.

“Cloud First started to get people to step out of their old ways of doing things and got them to start thinking of cloud offerings,” Bailey said.

FedRAMP, an integral part of the federal cloud computing strategy, was designed to change how federal procurement works, Bailey said. The cloud is supposed to enable agencies to operate in a more agile and rapid way, but one of the biggest resistance points to cloud adoption is security.

FedRAMP is a governmentwide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. The approach uses a “do once, use many times” framework that will save on the money, time and staff required to conduct redundant agency security assessments, said officials with the General Services Administration, which manages the program.

GSA recently released the names of third-party assessment organizations that will audit cloud service providers and ensure that they are in compliance with FedRAMP security requirements. FedRAMP’s initial operation capability is slated for June 2012.

And now the administration has put the other piece of its open government and transparency strategy in place with the release of its digital strategy for government May 23. The strategy outlines a concept for a governmentwide architecture that can leverage innovative technology to make more government information and services available to citizens.

“Mobility rides on the cloud," Bailey said. "The cloud provides value by enabling something else,” although it can also provide cost-savings to agencies.

A good example in the digital strategy document about the speed of the digital information age and the coming together of various technologies in the cloud came with the earthquake of August 2011 in Virginia, Bailey said.

“When a 5.9 earthquake hit near Richmond, Virginia on Aug. 23, 2011, residents in New York City read about the quake on Twitter feeds 30 seconds before they experienced the quake themselves,” the strategy states.

The digital strategy, which is intended to shake up the way the federal government provides services and access to data, contains a series of objectives and milestones to be completed over the next 12 months.

Meeting the time frame is where some of the challenges may arise, Bailey said.

The Cloud First adoption rate among agencies is much slower than former federal CIO Vivek Kundra and others had thought. Probably the adoption rate for this digital plan will hold true as well, Bailey said.

Procurement is always a problem. FedRAMP will probably help in this regard, observers said. However, a whole generation of procurement people will have to think differently. Security is a problem that can be overcome, Bailey said. In this area, though, the fear might be greater than the reality, he added.

The big challenge will be how agencies can leverage new ideas into something that is useful. The power of social media has been demonstrated in the Middle East uprisings for change and democracy and the Haiti earthquake relief efforts, he said.

The next step is determine how can agencies such as the Energy or Justice departments use these emerging technologies to make decisions and provide meaningful information to citizens.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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