Public-Private Partnerships for Innovative Information Technology Solutions

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When taking a look over the current information technology (IT) landscape, it is clear IT will be integral to any business solution. According to both Gartner and Forrester Research, during 2009, the United States (US) will spend over $600 billion. The total global IT spend is $3.2 billion which makes the US 20% of the total global IT spend. If you look at the GDP of the US, it is $14 trillion which makes IT 4% of the GDP. However, IT is driving almost all contributors to GDP and providing for some of the highest paying jobs. IT will play an important role in the economic recovery of the nation.

The challenge will be in the financing of these solutions. Sure there are venture capitalists (VCs). VCs will fund the IT leap ahead solutions in the areas of nanotechnology, health IT, cyber security, and wireless apps…the next killer app!! We will use it too…just like we use Google Search, iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But, what about the back office operations? Especially in the public sector?

In order to look ahead, let’s take a look back. On June 28, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote a memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies clearly stating the value of computing. Included was the following:

The electronic computer is having a greater impact on what the Government does and how it does it than any other product of modern technology.

The memorandum states his commitment to manage the huge investment efficiently and the Federal Government must give priority attention to:

  • Establishing better and more effective procurement methods
  • Making fuller use of existing facilities through sharing and joint-use arrangements before acquiring additional equipment
  • Re-utilizing excess equipment whenever feasible
  • Achieving, with industry cooperation, greater compatibility of equipment.

The investment in IT is now nearly $75 billion for the Federal Government which is not necessarily inclusive of all mission funding. Just during my tenure, the investment grew from $63 billion to $71 billion. Sure, there was better reporting but there was also the recognition of the importance of IT to the departments’ and agencies’ missions.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 and the E-Government Act of 2002 codified many aspects of the federal IT management practices as well as the promise of properly managed and implemented IT initiatives.

The current Administration will be releasing their budget soon. All of us are anxiously awaiting the Analytical Perspectives Chapters to read the future directions for management performance and IT. We have seen definition of initiatives beyond what was included in Fiscal Year 2010’s Presidential Budget Request. These initiatives included Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Work at Distance and Procurement Reform along with meeting the objectives of Transparency and Accountability. In order to implement these initiatives, the departments and agencies who propose solutions which define the funding mechanisms should be a better investment.

And what will these funding mechanism be? Always getting appropriations? Establishing a “fee-for –service” model? And where do state and local governments fit in? Maybe it is time to re-look at the “public-private” partnership models and government-to-government models? The federal government has matured and has greater information now about their operations. Maybe the “share-in-saving” model could actually be implemented now. The E-Government Act of 2002 included in Section 210:

The term `share-in-savings contract’ means a contract under which– “(A) a contractor provides solutions for– “(i) improving the agency’s mission-related or administrative processes; or “(ii) accelerating the achievement of agency missions; and “(B) the head of the agency pays the contractor an amount equal to a portion of the savings derived by the agency from– “(i) any improvements in mission-related or administrative processes that result from implementation of the solution; or “(ii) acceleration of achievement of agency missions.

Wouldn’t this be a true a partnership if these objectives could actually happen? The time has come for innovative solutions and partnerships really need to mean something for the American people. As we close out this decade, we need to look back to the LBJ memo for lessons learned. He laid out the same objectives which are needed today. The “business as usual” model should be replaced along with what we traditionally called “public-private partnerships.” Congress should consider new funding authorities for the federal government which will allow for new partnership models to develop. These new partnership models need to meet the challenges of improved services along with accountability and transparency while reducing overall operating costs. IT continues to evolve…Federal agencies continue to evolve…their partnerships need to evolve…..and this includes their ability to fund their services. So, let’s look back…in order to move forward.

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