I'll be honest. When I wrote about last month's summit conference that brought together federal government officials and executives from technology-savvy firms like Southwest Airlines, I wondered if anything would come of it. The idea was for the private companies to impart some of their hard-won technology wisdom in hopes of making government agencies more efficient and responsive to constituents' needs. I wrote:
While these kinds of forums are a good step, they obviously won't solve the government's technology ills. Still, government officials who attended the event promised to keep in close contact with their private-sector counterparts, and the feds plan to launch a Web site to collect the public's ideas for improvements, both of which seem like promising developments.
At least some of what was said apparently made an impact on government officials, judging by some of the suggestions for government IT in President Obama's 2011 budget proposal. The budget would increase government IT spending by 1.2 percent, to $79.4 billion, reports InfoWorld. Among the cost-cutting suggestions included in the proposal: Close some of the fed's 1,000 data centers (though no target number for reduction is given) and use cloud computing technologies to centralize some IT services for multiple federal agencies.
At the same time, the budget calls for exploring the use of Web 2.0 tools to improve communication between federal agencies and their constituents.
The emphasis on cloud computing isn't a big surprise. Consulting company Input, which follows government spending, predicted in July that federal spending on cloud computing would grow by 27 percent over the next five years. Plenty of private companies are looking at cloud computing as a way to cut costs and boost efficiencies as well.
While President Obama employed social technologies in his presidential campaign, at least some government agencies may not readily take to Web 2.0. Still, the fact that there's a place for it in the budget proposal is a good sign for those agencies open to the idea. And just as in the private sector, success stories from early adopters will bring more organizations on board.
What about the cultural issues mentioned in my post on the summit event, including a lack of communication between IT managers and agency leadership? Deniece Peterson, an Input analyst interviewed in the InfoWorld article, thinks the IT dashboard introduced earlier this year, which tracks the progress of IT projects at federal agencies, will help by shedding light on poor organizational practices. In the past, struggling government IT projects generally didn't get any attention until they went wildly off the rails.