smart cities

Government IT in 2014: More connections, more exposure, more risk

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to evaluate where IT trends are heading and what these potential changes might mean to government IT managers. Such examinations often fall at the crossroads of known data trends, educated speculation, and comments passed along by government IT executives. All of those sources together can help paint a fairly accurate picture of government IT trends on the horizon. Here are some we expect to see in the coming year:

A renewed emphasis on "connection security." 

As more solutions move to the cloud, end-to-end continuity and security becomes more important. At the same time, we are seeing a huge proliferation of mobile devices and the steady growth of the Internet of Things, which can range from networked appliances to smart parking meters and more. All of these systems need secure connections, often across the open Internet. 

To provide a reliable level of security, there is likely to be a 12 percent increase in authentication spending for 2014, and 10 percent to 11 percent growth for the following two years. In order to enable these types of secure connections, government agencies can either spend their money on their own hosted solution, or they can purchase it as a service. If they prefer the later, several major cloud providers now offer authentication gateways, which allow connection rules to be enforced and managed remotely.

Cloud spending will level off for fiscal 2014. 

We expect federal cloud services spending will reach $1.7 billion in fiscal 2014, which means cloud will account for roughly 3.3 percent of the federal IT budget. That's down about 0.2 percent from last year. But a recovery is on the horizon. We expect to see this market reach $7.7 billion by fiscal 2017. 

It's worth noting that across other industries software as a service is the leading type of cloud solution. But government is different. For government agencies, the top cloud solution purchased is infrastructure as a service. Between now and 2017, IaaS will grow to $5.4 billion, software as a service will grow to $2.4 and platform as a service will grow to $1.1 billion. 

As for types of clouds, federal private cloud spending currently outnumbers public cloud spending about 20 to one. Because government has unique security needs, such as FIPS compliance for civilian agencies and DOD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process (DIACAP) certification for defense organizations, agencies need to work with trusted partners in highly controlled environments. For that reason, private cloud solutions will be the clear government preference for the next several years.

More "smart city" solutions will evolve at the local level. 

Today many cities have an online 311 trouble ticketing system or citizen-complaint call center. Some originally were created to channel nonemergency calls away from 911/emergency answering systems. But some cities are realizing that these types of call centers can be expanded to transform city operations and citizen experiences while providing a way to track city performance. 

Call center or open 311 technology can be the starting point for a "no wrong door" city strategy, always channeling citizens to the correct department for specific issues. It also can help cross-reference types of complaints against neighborhoods or citizen demographics. Networked traffic signals, parking meters and other resources can help cities experiment with different models and response triggers, greatly streamlining operations and sometimes reducing accidents or tracking crime patterns. 

The IT landscape for fiscal 2014. 

The full U.S. government IT budget, for calendar year 2014, is expected to be roughly $115 billion. That includes all types of spending, including staff salaries, space and equipment rental, as well as hardware, software and IT services. But "addressable" spending — the part of the budget that goes just toward hardware, software and IT services — totals about $75.7 billion, and the budgets look like this:

  • Federal civilian - $26.6 billion 
  • Federal DOD - $24.0 billion 
  • State - $13.7 billion 
  • Local - $11.4 billion

These numbers show healthy spending for IT at a time when some vendors have indicated they are seeing a decline in their government sales. The reality is that some technology spending is being rechanneled into cloud, into consolidated data centers where more solutions reside on virtualized systems and into more powerful mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. 

The bottom line is that the IT landscape for government is shifting, and it will continue to shift in 2014. But the market itself remains healthy. It's just branching out in new ways.

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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