Department Spotlight ~ U.S. Department of Agriculture: Harvesting Crops and Innovation

Fall visits to the farmers market take us back to simpler times when people lived off the land. Today's farmers may provide the same "output" of food, but how they manage the growth and distribution of it has changed dramatically.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established in 1862 and was nicknamed "The People's Department" by President Lincoln because of its mission to support the farmers that feed the nation. Today, the USDA is focused on providing "leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management."

In achieving this mission, the USDA has become a hub for innovation. It was chosen as the first host agency for a modernization Center of Excellence (CoE). Spearheaded by the General Services Administration (GSA), the CoE at USDA was established to accelerate IT modernization across government to improve the public experience and increase operational efficiency. The CoE centralizes top government tech talent and combines it with private sector experts and expertise to implement best practices to move processes and technologies ahead. The CoE is focused on five functional areas: Cloud Adoption, Contact Center, Customer Experience, Data Analytics, and Infrastructure Optimization.

By all accounts the CoE concept has been a success at the USDA and there is an effort to expand it to other agencies. One program that proves this success is the digital government effort that resulted in Farmers.gov, an online hub that has become a customer service portal for farmers. This portal even has online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities, and business tools to increase efficiency and productivity.

Another innovative program is a recent hackathon that challenged participants to use the USDA's soil, geospatial, and water forecasting data to develop innovative new products that confront issues around water access use and to support the viability of agriculture.

Of course all of this innovative work with technology has had a real impact on the workforce of the USDA. The department is working to recruit the best and brightest technology minds to help move CoE forward.

We wanted to harvest a list of events that are applicable to the technology work happening within the USDA.

  • Digital Transformation Conference Washington, DC (October 24, 2019; Washington, DC) - This event brings together leaders spearheading digital initiatives (such as farmers.gov) in their organizations to offer insights, education and case studies on what can be a confusing environment.
  • USDA Cybersecurity Expo (October 29-30, 2019; Washington, DC) - With a theme of "Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.," this event will provide information and resources on today's vulnerabilities, incidents, security lifecycle, risks and mitigations. It will also identify ways to work together and build a solid security foundation program to meet future challenges and trends in cybersecurity.
  • DC5G (November 4-5, 2019; Arlington, VA) -- Attendees will dive into case studies, explore public-private partnership strategies, and hear success stories from cases on the cutting edge of 5G. Adoption of 5G holds promise for connecting rural, underserved areas of our country. DC5G is a problem-solving show that will give attendees clear actions they can take to build, adopt and/or enable 5G.
  • LEAP HR: Government (November 6-7, 2019; Washington, DC) - This event brings together "disruptors rethinking HR at all levels of government" to share stories of HR transformation delivering a measurable ROI. This is applicable to the work happening at the USDA to recruit and train a workforce to support CoE and other digital government initiatives. Attendees will walk away with the practical, truly transformative people strategies they can replicate in their organizations.
  • Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference 2019 (December 9-12, 2019; Las Vegas, NV) -- Guided by the latest impartial Gartner research and input from infrastructure & operations leaders, this event explores what makes a successful strategy for cloud, IoT, artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning. Learn how to accelerate innovation and agility in a hybrid world and enable your organization's digital future.
  • Cloud Computing Conference and Expo (December 11, 2019; Washington, DC) - This event will review the variety of platforms and solutions available as well as highlight federal government success stories. This conference provides a roadmap of how those responsible for implementing cloud-based technologies can evaluate the options and choose the best solutions for their agency.

Let us know what other events you are finding valuable for people who serve the USDA. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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