Reader survey: Feds identify hot technologies

When GCN launched in 1982, there was no Internet'at least not as we know it now.

So it's not surprising that today, when it seems online government is everyone's goal, government IT workers consider the Internet the greatest technological advance in the last 20 years.

In a special 20th anniversary survey of readers, nearly three-quarters'73 percent'of those GCN talked with agreed that the Internet was the most significant development in the last two decades.

Almost as many readers, 72 percent, identified desktop computing as a major advance over the last two decades, and 66 percent cited e-mail as a crucial development.

Almost a third of those polled, 32 percent, said the Internet will still be the most significant IT advance 20 years from now.

'The Web is the emerging technology,' said an Air Force software development engineer in Atlanta.

More than three-quarters, 78 percent, said technology had made their jobs easier, and 35 percent named desktop computing as the primary reason; 30 percent identified the Internet and 16 percent named e-mail as having helped lighten the load.

Some 12 percent cited the increasing sophistication of software applications and improvements in hardware. For instance, a Navy nuclear reactor representative in Newport News, Va., said that spreadsheets, office suites and data processing programs had most helped him in his job.

Asked what IT advances they would like to see in the next 20 years, readers offered a variety of responses, many related to visual, voice and wireless technologies.

Here's a sample:
  • 'All things by video,' said an Army supply sergeant at Fort Wayne, Ind. 'It means less travel. Videoconferencing works nicely for us now.'

  • '3-D data visualization available to more people,' said a Food and Drug Administration chemist in St. Louis.

  • 'Wearing tiny portable communicators like wrist watches,' said an Energy Department general manager in Washington.

  • 'More voice-activated computing,' said a NASA engineer in Cleveland.

  • 'More talking technology, like speech recognition,' said an Agriculture Department research scientist in Fargo, N.D.

  • 'Total smart-card use,' said an Air Force IT specialist in Altus, Okla. 'Everything in one card.'

Asked what technologies they would like to get rid of, more than half'54 percent'said none or that they couldn't think of any. But 9 percent were tired of using e-mail, and 3 percent were tired of getting spam. Four percent said cell phones had become a nuisance. Others named Microsoft Windows applications and NT systems, and fax machines. One identified typewriters.

'I would get rid of paper and go strictly digital,' said an Air Force assistant administrator in San Antonio.

Many of the readers we surveyed have been in government IT during GCN's publication life: 65 percent have worked for the government for 20 years or more. And 74 percent have spent at least 15 years in government service.

When asked how GCN had been personally useful to them, most of the readers, 80 percent, had a story to tell.

GCN 'gives me insight into other agencies and [IT] paths not to go down,' said an Energy Department general manager in Washington.

'I read it all the time, especially the [technology] reviews,' said a Navy program manager in Norfolk, Va. 'I use it to help me make decisions about the kinds of technologies or programs I should use.'

'GCN is a great way to keep up with current news,' said an Agriculture Department assistant director of rural development in Washington.

And perhaps the ultimate compliment: 'GCN helps me find out what's going on at my own agency,' said a computer specialist at the Social Security Administration in Baltimore.

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