In Spring 2008, our The Public Manager article reflected on the
progress of e-government under the Bush Administration and what it
portended for the future of the new administration beginning
January 20, 2009. While many of the themes and challenges cited
then were relatively accurate, our self-congratulations is tempered
by the realization thatin the words of that great philosopher Yogi
Berra The future aint what it used to be.
As we end the first year of the new administration, it is fitting
to compare our past observations with the changes now upon us in
the world of information technology (IT) and related governance.
We begin by revisiting the macro trends of e-government
(recognizing that this terminology is no longer in vogue); moving
to the critical drivers of Web 2.0 technologies; and examining the
changing role of the federal chief information officer (CIO).
Before we address the three macro trends driving IT that our TPM
article cited last spring, it is important to note that the speed
of innovation has had an impact on developments. The traditional
model of developing policy by crossing ts and dotting is, followed
by scaled pilot programs, is less of a priority. Speed to market is
now the main driver. Policy, regulatory, and even security concerns
are running secondoften they are struggling just to catch up. This
is an important change, one that has the advantage of speeding
technology implementation while opening the possibility of
Funding Pressures Require Greater Returns on IT
No one needed a crystal ball for this prognostication. But no one
knew the extent funding pressures would take as a result of the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The expenditures
resulting from ARRA intensify and increase the priority to maximize
the return on more than $70 billion of IT investments.
The good news is that mitigation strategies are in the wings to
lower IT costs through such emerging technologies as virtualization
and cloud computing and the continuing commoditization of IT. In
fact, cloud services are essentially a way to provide shared
services from a single provider to multiple customers on a scale
not bound by a business parameter. Thus, shared service is now an
even more viable strategy to lower IT costs.
Global Challenges: The War on Terrorism and Competitive
Markets Will Demand Leveraging Information Sharing and
This challenge is even more relevant today, resulting in an
intensified focus on cyber security, an explosion in information
sharing, transparency, and a proliferation of Web 2.0 tools for
citizen access. New ways of collaboration are driving the social
networking trend and changing policies, as well as the business of
Constituent Demands for Transparent, Secure Online
Services that Ensure Privacy Continue to Grow. Will Government Be
Part of Web 2.0 and Attract the New Generation Of
This trend is central to the new administrations IT strategy.
Nearly 10 years ago, John Sindelar met with his friend Frank
McDonough to discuss how society and governance would change over
the next decade as a result of the Internet. While they barely
scratched the surface, it was clear even then that government at
all levels would need to change significantly to embrace new
technology, meet citizen demands for services, and counter negative
uses whether by an individual or an adversarial government.
This administration has not only embraced emerging technologies, it
is making data available through multiple channels and developing
policies that reflect an open government accessible by a growing
list of Web 2.0 tools. It is making mountains of data transparent
and providing it to citizens for many usesthe most important being
to drive innovation through information and solve problems
government cannot on its own.
To this administrations credit, they have not dismantled the
so-called E-Gov Initiatives or the lines of business from the
previous administration. They see the continuance of these
initiatives (as we suggested in spring 2008) as compatible withbut
more narrowly scoped thannew, broader plans. So the IT evolution
continues into what is often characterized these days as Government
2.0. With this evolution springs many questions and issues that
need to be explored.
Government 2.0 Revisited
Our 2008 article used the historical analogy of the move from radio
to television. We said then: Over time, everyone realized that
Radio 2.0, or Television, was not radio with pictures, but
something entirely different. Television had a different
relationship to its viewers, with a different method of
participation and experience. None of that was obvious when it
Similarly, what Government 2.0 will ultimately become and how it
will affect government is only dimly understood today. It is likely
to have a major impact on how government services are delivered,
how government is organized, and ultimately how it relates to and
with the American public.
Government 2.0 is a fact, not fiction. It will have an increasing
presence in the next administration and will affect us all in ways
barely imagined today.
Our two points in the 2008 article were 1) Government 2.0 would
play out unpredictably and 2) it would have a large, not yet
understood, impact. We believe both predictions are true today.
For example, the number of government blogs and Facebook pages are
in the thousands. Even the formerly mystical realm of Twitter has
many government participants. There have been practical uses of all
of these social networking services; supporting emergency services
is one example.
The Obama Administrationunder the leadership of Chief Information
Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra and Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Aneesh Chopra, along with an active social networking community in
the White Househas made it clear that these tools will be
considered normal and used to the maximum extent possible.
Transparency of data in the form of dashboards or in raw form made
available to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other
interested parties to make use of as they will is an important
pillar for the current administration.
Tradeoffs in the Offing
Such activities show that power in the future will result from
interconnections as the end-points of information. Power will be
associated with those who learn how to share as opposed to those
who only focus on what they know. These developments will likely
lead to uncomfortable tradeoffs between privacy and sharing,
between risk management and risk aversion, and between the
simplicity of hierarchical organization and the seeming chaos of
We should keep in mind that such changes will continue whether we
resolve them or not. An example of this conflict includes the
Department of Defense continuing to wrestle with what social
networking services should be allowed and which ones should be
avoided. The recent announcement from the intelligence community
that it will shut down its unclassified email system, u-gov, even
while pushing other collaborative tools such as Intellipedia, is
The first generation of the web was passive; you accessed a website
and retrieved information. The second generation of the web was
interactive; the website would modify itself based on what
characteristics you indicated about yourself or a website actually
could be a service that would allow a user to interact with it.
The third generation of the web is self-defining; it answers your
search with what you meant to ask, not what you actually asked.
This last version is often referred to as the Semantic Web, because
it would understand meaning, or semantics. However, it turns out
that with more than 100 million webpages already in existence,
coding those meanings (by way of metatagging them) may not be
practical or even possible. And automated interpretations of
meaning arent working so well either.
Enter Clouds and Fast Sensors
There is much to be done with the current generation of 2.0
technologies. It will take years to implement many of the changes
that are already on the table from the Obama Administration. The
difference is in how the government will need to plan for, secure,
and implement data collection. Exposure in the land of transparency
and in the not-currently-well-defined cloud will continue to be
disruptive and likely inevitable.
Also, the full potential of fast sensors in our networks is waiting
to be tapped. However, it is already happening in a variety of
When drones send missiles into Afghanistan while the pilots are
based in the United States, sensor technology is hard at work. In
everyday life, sensor technology is used when you access map
software with your cell phone or a GPS location in your car or when
a nurse or doctor notes readings from a wireless device attached to
The Changing Role of the CIO
As we grapple with the implementation of 2.0 technologies and
revising business processes, the role of the CIO is going to
change. That change is already underway. The Obama Administration
has identified technology approaches to solve government issues.
CIOs now have responsibility for their agencies business success
and therefore must partner within their organizations to facilitate
outcomes such as enhanced e-customer and Internet service. New
technologies such as unified communications present some of the
most exciting opportunities for expanding collaboration inside
agencies and hold tremendous potential for supporting mission
strategies that rely on increased self service, enhanced employee
productivity, and streamlined processes.
As noted above, agencies are accumulating massive amounts of
information, supported by speedier processing and new technology
tools. Exponential growth is projected in the amount of data that
organizations will collect, store, access, and exchange over the
next decade. In addition, government executives outside of the CIO
office can now buy many solutions directly from vendors and skip
formal decision-making efforts.
Agencies will be successful only if they view IT (and the CIO) as a
full partner in planning and executing government mission
strategies. But today, many federal CIOs are not leaders; they are
technical managers of their information environments.
The Problem: Vertical Stovepipes
The current vertical CIO organizational model supports a
hierarchical approach. It can promote strong management of IT
projects and implementation that is on budget and on schedule. But
the execution can be linear and one-dimensional because this model
generally carves out IT projects as separate from business change
Performance evaluation tends to focus primarily on tactical
measuresoutputs rather than outcomes. In this model, the CIO
manages IT investments as technology projects. Further compounding
this challenge, a recent Forrester survey found that a large
percentage of operations wanted to make more contribution to the
delivery of IT services. So how do we best add IT and business
productive capabilities for delivering stronger IT solutions?
The Solution: Letting Go, but Collaborating
In a collaborative governance model (see Figure 1), CIOs would be
more effective in driving business change throughout the
organization. Once the agency head determines the vision and
strategy, the CIOs role is to translate the use of IT
collaboratively and horizontally across the organization.
In this scenario, the CIO becomes a business leader who understands
technology. No longer a functional leader focused on technology
deployments, the CIO is able to translate the vision into a
business strategy without organizational bias. She would work
across the enterprise to foster collaboration throughout the
execution and evaluation process.
As the model suggests, the CIO builds the governance and
accountable organizations to assure delivery. This requires strong
support from the top executive while also requiring new
organizational skills from the CIO. With this new model, there will
be an emphasis on four related areas: strategy, with the top
executives; enterprise architecture; overall IT security; and
capital planning and budgeting.
Technology can foster this new approach to CIO collaboration
through the use of Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, blogs, and
Twitter, as well as new communications platforms (unified
communications being the most promising). Organizing communication
technology in this way enables people to get information in the
form of voice, video, or data, both instantly and simultaneously,
thus moving the agency down a productive path faster.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and many agency CIOs
recognize that these new technologies are part of the answer. CIOs
must let go of downstream IT delivery and help OMB drive a new
vision in order to deliver both government and national
competitiveness in the years to come. It will require knowledge,
faith, and courage.