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).

Evolution Continues

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 unintended consequences.

Funding Pressures Require Greater Returns on IT Investment.

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 Collaboration.

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 government.

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 Leaders?

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 began.

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 crowd-sourcing.

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 another example.


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 non-obvious ways.

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 their patient.

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.

Whats Changing?

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 initiatives.

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.