GovTech Metamorphosis: Agile, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud & Open Source

DC CloudWeek, a SXSW-style, citywide festival presented by fedscoop demonstrated the progression of government information technology practices in the United States. Attending these events felt like a cross-section snapshot, like an MRI, of the state of practice modernization. Although US-focused, there were many lessons for other countries. And, many lessons beyond cloud.
Many government organizations suspect newer IT practices and techniques.  Public cloud computing, open source, and agile processes can be seen as risky. These ideas have become mainstream in American government organizations:

  • Agile-first: government organizations focused on security like the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security, mandate agile processes like DevOps, and DevSecOps
  • Open source-first: security organizations in the American government see open source middleware as more secure, while organizations focused on science see open source as enablers of innovation
  • Cloud-first: civilian organizations at all levels of government are moving to the public cloud to improve citizen services, flexibility and predictability while security-focused organizations are building robust and elastic private cloud implementations to improve flexibility and quality

The digital divide problem was discussed in one of the sessions. Large developed countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia suffer from rural-urban and demographic digital divides. New technology adoption threatens to expand the digital gap.
Curated tweets from the sessions follow.

Agile enables innovation in government

Governments are learning to use agile techniques effectively. Human-centric design improves citizen services. IT outcomes improve by tracking progress more scientifically than traditional waterfall methods. The US federal government leverages modern agile procurement to acquire innovative and inexpensive solutions from startups and small business. That’s a shift away from favouring large providers. And, it’s a shift away from burdening government to operate legacy technologies.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning maturity improving

Government use of cognitive technologies is moving beyond the experimentation phase. Increased data collection enables algorithms to leverage far more factors to provide insight than previous methods. The drop in processing and storage costs, the use of cloud computing, the improvement of algorithms, and open source machine learning tools makes insights more effective and less expensive.

Government reap cloud benefits

Public cloud computing drives government innovation. More and more public cloud infrastructures have achieved government certification. Cloud-first approaches enable government organizations to more easily deploy mobile-friendly applications for citizen services. Cloud flexibility reduces unnecessary code customization. This has resulted in a cloud-first approach for many American government organizations.
There remains some areas of concern. Cloud does not eliminate the need for information governance. And, cloud certifications need examination to understand applicability depending on context.
Observers differ on whether public cloud computing reduces government IT costs compared to on-premises in the long run. Yet, there was a consensus that the public cloud provides more value.

Open source enabling government innovation

Cloudweek presentations and panel discussions highlighted the contribution of open source technologies for innovation. Open source for cloud computing. Open source for machine learning. Vendors in both highlighted the use of open source in technology stacks.

Digital divide threatens to expand

Will cities and affluent communities reap bandwidth benefits of 5G at the expense of the disadvantaged? The digital divide remains a concern because the disadvantaged most need government services.