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What's driving government tech strategy

The intrinsic synergy between policy goals, business needs and digital transformation is a central theme underlying the 10 technology trends Gartner analysts identified as crucial to governments' ability to optimize the services they offer.

“Now more than ever, technology priorities must be established in the context of business trends such as digital equity, ethics and privacy, widening generational chasms and the need for institutional agility,” said Rick Howard, Gartner's research vice president and lead analyst for the “Technology Trends in Government, 2019-2020” report the firm released Sept. 16.

“Public sector leaders expect government CIOs to find ways technology can reduce costs, create efficiencies and improve outcomes for citizens and businesses. They also expect CIOs to consider the social, technological, economic, environmental and political trends that impact the constituents they serve,” he said.

The trends -- adaptive security, citizen digital identity, multichannel citizen engagement, agile by design, digital product management, anything-as-a-service, shared services 2.0, a digitally empowered workforce, analytics everywhere and augmented intelligence -- serve as a list that government policymakers and IT leaders should include in digital government strategy planning over the next 12 to 18 months.

“It’s not enough any longer to pass the law and say, ‘Technologists, you figure it out and tell me when it’s all done,’” Howard said. “They’ve got to be there throughout the implementation of the technology that enables that policy or they’re at risk of seeing those [programs] undermined.”

The report also identified macrotrends that tie the tech developments to government business trends. For instance, the macrotrend of perpetual austerity -- or the idea that there will never be enough funding to support all the activities government must carry out -- illustrates that an IT investment portfolios must balance risk and innovation, Howard said. One way to achieve this balance is by investing in cloud and as-a-service offerings, which enable CIOs to show how they’re not necessarily doing more with less, but doing better with the same.

“It’s just having that mindset of ‘This is what I have to work with, and I have to get more value out of it to support the outcomes that citizens expect from government,’” he said.

Several tech trends address challenges related to perpetual austerity. For example, agile by design is about resilience and ensuring that an agency remains responsive to a changing environment, Howard said. It prevents agencies from getting locked into existing applications by shifting to cloud-based services, which supports another trend: everything-as-a-service.

Shared services 2.0, as the report calls them, are also a response to perpetual austerity in that they shift the emphasis from centralized services that save money to those that deliver high-value capabilities like enterprisewide security, identity management, or business analytics.  The focus becomes better performance management, Howard said.

“It is about moving up the stack in terms of business services, so you’re really focusing on these emerging technologies and then offering those services to the organizations at a price point they’re willing to pay,” he said.

Another way agencies could achieve savings is through a digitally empowered workforce, , Howard explained. Agencies must get rid of outmoded hiring, procurement and salary structures that don’t bring out the best in new workers.

“Regardless of the circumstances dictating government spending, CIOs can expect relentless public scrutiny of the cost of government services and the demonstrated value (or not) of those services for the foreseeable future,” the report states.

Another macrotrend the Gartner analysts monitor is social instability that can result from the public's mistrust of the accuracy and validity of public information. CIOs can increase the value of data and technology assets through adaptive security, which continually changes along with the environment; citizen digital identity, a mechanism to prove identity through any government digital channel; and the use of analytics at all stages of service delivery to support autonomous business processes and data-driven  decisions, according to the report.

The aging population, which is causing a demographic shift that makes dependence on a shrinking pool of foreign workers more important, is the third macrotrend. To cope, the report recommends agencies factor a digitally empowered workforce and augmented intelligence into their digital strategy.

A fourth macrotrend is rising populism. As movements affect countries worldwide, government leaders must bridge growing citizen distrust while fostering social cohesion necessary for solving systemic problems such as environmental justice, the report states. The technology trends that promote citizen trust include adaptive security, citizen digital identity and multichannel citizen engagement.

Last is sustainable systems, or those that “can emerge when public- and private-sector leaders work in partnership to integrate the goals of economic growth and community development with protecting public health and preserving the environment,” according to the report. All of the technology trends support this foundational macrotrend.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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