Part of the President's Management Agenda (PMA) calls out leveraging data as a strategic asset for more effective government. In support of this, several pieces of legislation and policy have been created to better enable and even incentivize agencies to make their data available and open for use across government and by citizens.
Federal CIO Suzette Kent recently said that the Federal Data Strategy will be released soon and will prioritize datasets that could help stimulate the economy, protect the nation, and continue important research. The guidelines will present principles that prioritize data security, privacy, and transparency.
This Federal Data Strategy follows the passage of the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act at the beginning of the year. This law requires that all non-sensitive government data be made available in machine-readable formats by default. It also creates a Chief Data Officers Council that will address data governance across agencies.
Even before these laws and guidance were released, we've seen how access to data can impact communities. For example, in Asheville, NC, BeLoved Asheville, an activist group of homeless people, launched the Homeless Voice Project. This project filters public crime data using arrestees' addresses. They were able to show that the homeless population was being disproportionally targeted and arrested by highlighting the number of homeless shelter addresses being used. In Norfolk, VA, community groups are using data to show the impact of re-development on communities, highlighting the size of population displacement that would come with gentrification. These groups are finding there is less "shouting across the table" and common ground is easier to find when arguments are backed with data. Continue reading
Local governments are quickly becoming home to some of the most innovative applications of big data, analytics, machine learning, IoT, and artificial intelligence. This embrace of new technology is borne out of necessity. Local governments have had to get creative to meet the needs of citizens, demanding a more digital government, while dealing with tight budgets. Cities have introduced apps that allow citizens to report potholes, they have installed "smart" lighting to conserve energy, government organizations have opened up data to allow people to apply for permits online and see the status of their case, and so much more. Additionally, local governments are taking a new look at how to better use and correlate all of the data they hold to enhance city and public health planning.
In the midst of these exciting applications of new technologies, there are challenges. Privacy is a huge concern, both from a data perspective as well as images and information captured from IoT devices across a city. There's also a communication and publicity challenge. Citizen-centric apps and services do no good if people don't know they exist or don't use them. Similarly, there is a learning curve for employees and citizens, and developing the right training to encourage new technology use is critical. Continue reading
Given that we all walk around with a device in our pockets that has more computing power than it took to put a man on the moon, mobile is a key channel for government to use to reach citizens and get work done. This ubiquity has led to mobile being an integral part of every agency's IT strategy. While this has opened a new medium for citizen interaction, it also raises issues around security and privacy. Today, agencies are looking to balance the opportunities presented by mobile with implementation challenges.
Mobile devices are quickly becoming a channel of choice for emergency communication and coordination. Many in the DC area experienced this firsthand with the Wireless Emergency Alert System test in April. This is in addition to regular use of mobile messaging for localized missing child Amber Alerts nationwide. To support this type of alerting and collaboration the FirstNet network was set up to be a wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. A recent hack-a-thon helped encourage the development of new applications on the network.
Around this same time last year we wrote about the federal government's focus on consolidating data centers for better IT efficiency. The Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) that is driving changes across government has extended its deadlines for agency compliance. Originally, agencies were to meet a variety of consolidation, energy efficiency, and cost reduction goals by the end of calendar year 2018. With fewer than one in five Federal data center leaders saying that their data center was on track to meet their DCOI goals, an extension seemed inevitable. Now, agencies have until 2020 to install energy metering tools, use automated monitoring and operations, maximize floor space use in existing data centers, reduce data center costs by 25%, in addition to a number of other cost savings and efficiency goals.
In addition to DCOI, agencies are also looking to comply with the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT) that looks at government IT as a whole, incorporating data centers into the overall plans to modernize how government procures and uses technology for citizen service.
A third driver for modernizing the data center is the desire to do more with the data we have. No longer is a data center a place to store information, it is a place to interact with information. Continue reading
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer just a plot line for science fiction movies. The reality of AI is not walking robots threatening to take over human tasks, but instead it is being implemented in our daily lives to complement the way people work and learn. For example, known by their first names Alexa and Siri, these AI figures will soon overtake Cher and Madonna as the most famous one-named women in the world (if they haven't already). AI is also what enables the instant customer service "representative" to pop up on a website to help answer basic questions. With its commonplace use in the commercial market, AI and machine learning are making their way into agencies across government.[Tweet "AI and machine learning are making their way into agencies across government. #GovEventsBlog"]
AI is becoming a key tool to help streamline response to citizen questions as citizen (customer) service has become a top priority across all government agencies. The IRS is beginning to use chatbots to help manage the 75 million phone calls, and 500 billion website visits from taxpayers each year (a number that will likely grow with tax changes). There's also interest in how AI can improve cybersecurity posture by automating more and more cyber monitoring so that systems are responding to threats at machine speed. AI also holds the answer to many big data challenges. The speed of automated machine processing can help agencies get more value out of the massive amounts of data they own for improved service, programs, and mission achievement. Continue reading