A good portion of the federal government’s current technology focus falls into four main areas: social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing. A new report released Tuesday says it’s time for those four areas to converge if feds wants to catch up with how the rest of the country uses technology.
CompTIA released its “Federal Technology Convergence Commission Report” Tuesday, which examined several different facets of how the government uses, distributes and procures technology, and issued recommendations for how the government can better take advantage of the convergence of social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing, also known as SMAC. The report is meant to provide the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy with input from various companies like AT&T Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Deloitte LLP, among others.
“The report really is the first step between industry to advance the adoption of all these emerging technologies,” said Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA president and CEO, during a briefing on Capitol Hill. “They’ve been adopted in pieces and bites, but putting them all together in applications and tools that work for everybody is really the next step.”
The report outlines a number of recommendations in areas where government technology could improve, ranging from workforce and procurement to advancing citizen services.
“The ultimate goal of the commission was to provide a clear road map for the nexus of how SMAC technologies improve the federal agencies’ mission,” said Dave Zolet, an executive vice president at CSC. “It’s increasingly important given the tough budget times we are facing.”
The recommendations put forward in the report run the gamut from actions already underway across the federal government (like having more CIOs concentrating on emerging data and mobility trends, and revising procurement methods) to actions that would be unprecedented in the way the government develops citizen services (like six agencies developing 100 citizen-service mobile apps in 12 months).
While multiple people involved with the report called the creation of 100 apps in a year’s time a “bold prediction,” it was meant to direct government leaders to think more about the speed in which they are catering to the public.
“We’re at a point of departure in the government where old waterfall approaches led to 10 months or multiyear [developments]. I think that is about to change,” said Yogesh Khanna, chief technology officer of CSC’s North American public sector.
Nick Maynard, assistant director of telecommunications innovation at the White House’s OSTP, admitted that a lot of the recommendations would be “a long road to hoe,” but agencies need to be able to identify viable opportunities and accelerate the convergence process.
“Not every emerging technology is going to have a role in the public sector,” Maynard said. “That’s going to be really challenging for the next couple of years.”
One example Maynard highlighted was NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which created a vehicle for the agency to hand off routine space flights to private companies like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. Maynard said the program allowed NASA to become an “early adopter” of new technology, which is something the administration wants agencies to mirror.
“Rather than being a laggard, [agencies] can be a leader,” he said.
Stacy Cleveland, vice president of public sector global practices for HP, said she heard too many stories about the government being a laggard, including one agency that took 90 days to procure a virtual machine that would take a private company 30 minutes to spin up.
“We are dramatically out of sync from where we need to be,” she said.
However, Cleveland later remarked that there will have to be many different approaches to solving the convergence puzzle.
“The challenge that we are going to face — and this is a great area of opportunity between government and industry — is to determine which of these problems have to be resolved by policy, what by education and changes in culture,” she said.
Read the full report on CompTIA’s website.