The 60s are calling …They want their tech back!

Photo credit: Clemson University Library

As previously published on LinkedIn

In 1968, McDonalds sold its first Big Mac for 49 cents, 911 service started in the US and the crew of the Apollo 8 mission entered lunar obit. The Graduate played on movie screens and The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys played on AM radio.

It’s also the year some of our US government infrastructure came online … infrastructure that’s still patched together and running today.

There’s a time and a place for vintage, but it’s not in your IT infrastructure. After all, I might enjoy cruising in a vintage ’68 Shelby, but I wouldn’t the trade modern safety features of my mini van (or its rear seat DVD player) when it comes time to cart around my four kids.

It’s Time for IT Transformation and Modernization

Passage of the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT) in December holds tremendous potential for our country. It has freed up funding for many of our government agencies to forge the path of their own digital transformation.
“The MGT Act is a powerful incentive for federal CIOs to update their legacy IT systems, some of which are 50 years old,” says Dan Helfrich, a principal and Federal Government Services leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

It’s a major opportunity for advancement, but like many businesses around the world, government agencies will face challenges as they transform their IT infrastructure … and while the road might be long and winding (even bumpy in some places), the long-term gain will be big.

“These aging mainframes often prevent federal agencies from taking advantage of new technologies. Modernization can enable federal leaders to enhance security and better harness the power of digital, mobile, and cloud,” adds Deloitte’s Helfrich.

A report on government spending found that 75% of government IT budgets were spent to maintain outdated hardware (including some that still use floppy disks!) Few of us would continue shelling out money on plumbing or wiring in our homes that cost more to repair than replace, so why is our government?

As one of the world’s leading economies, we must leverage modern tools to continue to prosper and remain in a global leadership position. I truly believe the passage of the MCT Act by Congress will help move the government’s critical IT environment into the 21st century … and it’s long overdue.

An Eye to the Future

So where do the opportunities lie for the US government? The list is not unfamiliar to any company that’s embarked on its own digital transformation journey.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Harnessing the power of AI could aid public servants to make welfare payments and immigration decisions, detect fraud, and even plan new infrastructure projects. With advances in voice technology and chatbots, AI can also help answer citizen queries, route applications and more. It’s estimated AI could free up 30% of the government workforce. And, just imagine how much better it could be to work with government officials if we didn’t have to waste so much time on hold or scouring outdated websites for answers!

2. Machine Learning – Can handle tasks that involve lots of data, complicated calculations, or complete repetitive tasks that have clear rules more accurately than humans. Governments have defined processes and requirements for many complex multi-agency programs, so automation of those tasks could free up resources for more citizen-facing activities, and it could be faster and cheaper.

3. Hybrid Cloud – Using existing on-premise solutions for mission critical workloads, while moving non-critical items to a public cloud, while binding cloud-based entities together by standardized or proprietary technology for data and application portability, offers many benefits including lowering costs, accelerating deployment, and improving disaster recovery.

4. Blockchain – Viewed as unhackable, blockchain’s distributed ledger technology could transform how we account, audit and do business, and for governments has the potential to benefit everything from land records to tax records. The US Government Accountability Office says the Federal computer systems are at “high risk” and “need transformative change.” While progress is being made in many areas, the governent data and computer systems remain at significant risk.

5. Smart Cities – Increased use of sensors and smart devices will help us create smarter cities and the data collected by the increasing number of online devices can help with infrastructure planning and proactive alerts to increase public safety (think about flood monitoring). I think we’re just starting to see the potential for IoT. Gartner expects to see 20 Billion internet-connected devices by 2020 with 65% of businesses adopted IoT devices.

6. 5G – Exponentially faster data processing, low latency, and capability for network slicing, 5G provides the foundation for the smart cities of tomorrow where devices can talk to each other securely, in near real time. For citizens, the move to 5G unlocks the future of mobile connectivity, and provide a secure, rapid platform for the evolution in online self service that’s ready for the generation that doesn’t distinguish between touchpoints and wants all interactions to be on seamless and frictionless.

Let’s leave the 60's behind and get ready to celebrate our Independence… from the limiting, outdated technologies of the past. The future’s never been brighter (than our drone fireworks display)!

Happy 4th of July.