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Why Digital Government is Gaining New Momentum

"Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises to drive growth of the United States economy, enhance our economic and national security, and improve our quality of life. The United States is the world leader in AI research and development (R&D) and deployment." Those words are from the U.S. President's executive order issued on February 11, 2019.

Will the U.S. government's IT organizations be ready to play their part in assuring the nation's eminence in cognitive computing? Clearly, they must evolve. By 2023, about half the roles that government CIOs will oversee do not exist in government IT organizations today, according to the latest market study by Gartner.

Digital Government Market Development

Meanwhile, the transition to digital government is slowly gaining momentum. Gartner analysts also found that 53 percent of digital initiatives in government organizations have moved from the design stage to early stages of delivering digitally-driven outcomes. This is up from 40 percent last year.

Additionally, 39 percent of governments expect cloud computing services to be a technology area where they will spend the greatest amount of new or additional funding in 2019.

"These findings demonstrate that leadership has become more comfortable with cloud delivery models and has moved away from concerns regarding security and data ownership," said Cathleen Blanton, research vice president at Gartner.

The move to digital business means that government IT organizations must adapt to new skills requirements. For example, as cloud computing services become more prevalent, the number of data center management roles will decline. Furthermore, the emergence of digital business is changing how governments think about new IT services.

In the future, government IT will also accomplish more diversified tasks than today. Public sector agencies will rely on government IT services to address inclusion, citizen experience and digital ethics. Those fields require new types of skill sets such as researchers, designers and social scientists.

Government CIOs must employ experts to model and explain how citizens and businesses will need to respond to regulations and policies, and what impact that will have on society, the global networked economy and government revenue.

At the same time, government IT will need to assign new roles to support their digital transformation and introduce emerging technologies in diverse businesses and mission areas. As artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) advance, machine learning trainers, conversational specialists and robotic process automation experts will replace the prior experts in legacy IT.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, over 80 percent of new technology solutions adopted by government agencies will be delivered and supported using an anything-as-a-service (XaaS) model.

XaaS summarizes several categories of IT, including those delivered in the cloud as a subscription-based service. It also encompasses managed desktop, help desk and network services, voice over IP and unified communications.

Adoption of XaaS models is increasing globally -- primarily driven by cloud services -- and the government is no exception. The model offers an alternative approach. It’s an effective way to scale digital government because it can provide localized offerings as well as nation-wide services.

Outlook for Government Application Innovation

The XaaS model also creates new challenges for government CIOs. In the early stages of adoption, agencies may turn less to their IT department to deliver solutions, as they are now able to acquire XaaS solutions without the involvement or the resources of traditional IT employees.

Gartner believes this is potentially dangerous, as agencies often lack the knowledge to negotiate complex contracts and individual groups may be independently acquiring duplicative capabilities already offered centrally. Furthermore, XaaS contracting is still immature and often offers weak service levels.

For this reason, CIOs must educate agency leaders about the risks associated with this type of contracting and need to take an active role in negotiating these contracts wherever possible. Without the support and experience of their IT organization, a XaaS solution can create significant risks to the government organization and the citizens it serves.

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