Jonathan Bruehl, IBM Center for The Business of Government

Jonathan D. Breul
Executive Director
IBM Center for The Business of Government, and Partner, IBM Global Business Services

  1. Predictive forecasts and models.

Information overload is increasingly visible in daily life - cell phones, PDAs, e-mail and instant messages, for example. The overload is happening in government, with hundreds of surveillance cameras in airports, a flood of weather and climate information, increasingly granular census data and real-time news events. The threats of information overload and the possibility of missing important information needed to make informed decisions has increased.

However, breakthroughs in data capture, data standards and data storage have created opportunities for large-scale analysis. These new systems can extract the knowledge needed to create strategy-based solutions. They can also be used to create predictive forecasts and models that improve governmental responsiveness to future events - even non-routine events such as natural disasters, crime waves or terror attacks. The challenge will be to develop governmentwide, as well as mission-specific, information and analytic functions.

  1. Standardization and integration.

Using information technology is no longer about doing the same things better. It is about recognizing that commonality between agency programs, eliminating redundance and embracing a customer-centric view.

Technology makes it easier to move, manage, and manipulate information anywhere on earth. It makes everything more visible. The technology part may be difficult, but the really hard part will be working across different agencies to support the common customers of government. In this second wave of innovation, we will be challenged internally to work across agencies and we will be challenged externally to redesign programs from the customer viewpoint. This is more of a cultural challenge than a technology challenge. Public managers will need to embrace the long hard slog to standardize and integrate their operations. They will need to re-frame service delivery around the customer. They must do this in an environment where all their actions are more visible and the nature of work and who does it is changing.

  1. Security and privacy.

Security and privacy issues need to be explicitly factored into any technology decision. The Internet, cheap data storage, wireless capabilities and a host of other technologies have helped fuel a decade of economic growth and governmental innovation. Yes, these technologies potentially carry many risks. Since we depend on them more, they matter more. Since they tend to be the same everywhere, vulnerability in one place tends to mean vulnerability in all places. Since they reach everybody, they require that we distinguish between who to let in and who to keep out. Finally, they make it hard to forget. As we use the Internet or text on a phone, we leave behind digital "crumbs" that others can follow. Risks need to be assessed and addressed. Policies need to be developed. In some cases, the most efficient solution must yield to the more secure solution. For security, this is primarily a need to resource and plan for known risks, and hedge against unknown risks. Privacy issues raise concerns about the role of government. As a society, we have the choice of allowing technology to help the government watch over us (with all its good and bad connotations) or using technology to help us watch government.

   4. Forward-looking information to set the stage for early warnings about emerging threats and to make informed choices.

Government proved no match for Hurricane Katrina. The country can't afford any more fumbled responses to catastrophic or non-routine management challenges, whether caused by natural or human means. In the coming years, public leaders can count on more than their share of catastrophic and non-routine management challenges - for example another breakdown in the food safety system, a pandemic, a West Coast earthquake, or bio-terrorism in a major urban area. Responding to such challenges with traditional management approaches will only produce the same results seen in Hurricane Katrina. With government facing an array of complex challenges and opportunities for improvement, a strategic, long-term view is critical. Government must carefully consider how to best design programs to manage effectively across boundaries and meet the nation's needs and priorities today and in the future. Policy makers will need forward-looking information to set the stage for early warnings about emerging threats and to make informed choices about effective governmental responses.

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