At its core, government’s purpose is to serve its citizens. Sure, that’s a simple idea, but our world isn’t static. With increasing global interconnectivity, cultural and societal revolutions, and technological advancements, governments must constantly evolve the way they do business if they’re going to succeed in their mission. In this era, that means they need similarly dynamic technology underlying its services so they can adapt quickly and economically.
This past July, the U.S. Department of the Interior released an IT Transformation Strategic Plan outlining how the government intends to leverage technology to save up to $500 million in taxpayer dollars by 2020. Through an IT transformation, they expect to deliver better services at less cost by greatly reducing the number of data centers and servers, switching to a single email system, and transitioning to the cloud with internet-based content management and electronic forms and records.
The Interior’s plan addresses the fact that though demands on government technology continues to increase, the government’s capacity to respond hasn’t. Lack of resources forces reactive IT solutions to simply maintain current systems, rather than drive innovation. Now more than ever, governments have to find ways to do more with less. They can do their job – a better job – despite the economy, if they shift to IT infrastructures designed to handle the never-ending churn of technological and societal change. How? By choosing and investing in the right technology for the job.
If the Department makes the right choices as they follow their plan, they’ll be able to meet growing demands, while unleashing innovation for large-scale change, all at a cost-savings. Across the country, local public organizations have already seen this benefit and we can learn from three key ways they did it:
Designing for Big Data
Whether distributing Medicare benefits or reacting to a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, the government can’t make quick, smart decisions, without the most relevant, accurate information. Government needs to collect, store, manage and secure all available data, in all forms to build a birds-eye view across institutions and sectors. From this vantage point, all the information around us can be put to use, helping government better collaborate internally and with public and private partners to improve existing services and pioneer new ones that improve the way we live.
Look at Alameda County Social Services Agency in California. They architected a system that can look across all their data so they can clearly see what benefits they are providing and to whom. Now, the agency saves almost $25 million annually through reduced benefit overpayments.
Tuning to the Task
Not all tasks are the same; the IT that supports them shouldn’t be either. The mass transactional needs of a subway fare system are different than the in-depth analytics of crime prediction – the first has to handle varying volumes of use and never fail, while the other has to shift through ever growing volumes of data. Government IT must support specific services, but also be flexible enough to respond to changing needs, such as normal versus peak demand. This requires aligning each IT component so it can benefit from unique features.
For example, Norfolk, Virginia had power-hungry data storage facilities that were quickly running out of space. By consolidating to a single, optimized system, the city nearly doubled its storage performance and cut power consumption in half.
Managing in the Cloud
Because the exponential growth of data around us is primarily digital, cloud computing is essential to making big data useful for government. Cloud furthers efficiency with the freedom to use service providers or perform work internally, or both depending on the situation. Either way, government can have real-time access to information and services, making collaboration and sharing easier for new and improved services.
North Carolina State University, for instance, adopted cloud technology when they faced unexpected demands on their resources. Through the cloud, they were able to support all their students as well as others in schools across the state, increasing the average number of students served 150 percent without incurring additional expenses.
Now is the time for governments to get smarter about IT. To succeed during times of financial austerity, governments must transition to smarter computing with optimized systems that leverage big data, tune to specific tasks, and provide quick and easy access through the cloud. As outlined in Smarter Computing to Support 21st Century Governance, IBM believes that with these characteristics, governments can work in concert with each other and the broader world to meet the growing demands of those they serve.
Read more about IBM’s view on Smarter Government
To effectively compete in today’s changing world, it is essential that companies leverage innovative technology to differentiate from competitors. Learn how you can do that and more in the Smarter Computing Analyst Paper from Hurwitz and Associates.