There’s a paradox at play when it comes to technology and the U.S. Federal Government. Many advances, such as the internet, Google search, artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition, smartphones and more, were initially supported by the Federal Government in some form.i In addition, according to the latest National Science Foundation “Science and Engineering Indicators” report, which tracks the worldwide science and engineering landscape, the United States is still the global leader in science and technology.ii
Yet, when it comes to the state of in-house government IT, the picture looks a little different. The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 notes that Federal agencies have struggled with modernizing legacy IT systems and transition to cloud and shared services remains slow.iii Federal Chief Information Officer, Suzette Kent, echoed this sentiment at a tech event last year. She said, “We still have many things to do just to be current in the 21st century.”iv
The good news is that modernizing IT and advancing technological innovation are a major part of recent Federal mandates like the President’s Management Agenda, the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act and Executive Orders on Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence (AI).v Collectively some of the key areas these mandates focus on include:
Cloud: The Federal Cloud Smart strategy was established to help Federal agencies adopt cloud solutions that streamline transformation and embrace modern capabilities.vi Hybrid cloud architectures enable agencies to keep sensitive data in existing IT infrastructure while tapping into the cost-effectiveness, efficiency, scalability and agility of the cloud. By migrating high-risk legacy systems to a shared services model in the cloud, agencies aim to reduce cost and improve citizen services.
Data: When it comes to data, the cross-agency Federal Data Strategy is designed to manage government data as a strategic asset (including expansion of open data for private sector and AI innovation), improve government effectiveness, facilitate oversight and promote transparency. Increased information sharing between agencies and the mandate for more open data models means agencies need to be able to access, exchange and move large volumes of data in a secure and compliant way. One of the Data Strategy’s core tenets that will help enable this is the use of a common “Platform”, defined as governance organizations and a suite of tools and applications available across agencies that will serve the needs of diverse users and facilitate data integration, exchange and use.
Security: Maintaining regulatory compliance and security as IT architectures change and workloads shift to the cloud is a chief concern. Federal agencies must still protect IT and data from unauthorized access and other cyber threats, as well as detect and mitigate anomalies. The new Federal cybersecurity strategy calls for agencies to transition to security at the data layer, improve governance of systems, maintain comprehensive visibility to data and perform continuous monitoring to detect malicious activity.vi
AI: Maintaining U.S. leadership in AI innovation and applications is a national priority, outlined in the government AI mandate. It not only requires sustained investment into AI research and development, but also the removal of barriers such as access to high-quality data, models and computing resources. To succeed, agencies will need to deploy data sharing models that interconnect people, locations, clouds and things while maintaining safety, security, privacy and public trust. That will require integration with other digital capabilities such as cloud, data management, analytics and security.
For Federal agencies accustomed to building their own, independent IT shops where data is siloed to each agency, these mandates may be a tall order to fill. So how can they succeed?
Accelerating the move to modern IT
To attain these mandates, Federal agencies need to shift their focus from agency-specific IT systems toward a shared services model that can improve cross-agency collaboration and citizen user experiences while advancing national strategies. This requires a distributed IT architecture that can address agency needs for security, scalability and omnichannel connectivity at the digital edge. To achieve this, the U.S. Federal Government digital edge playbook outlines three simple steps that Federal agencies can take to accelerate their digital transformation:
1. Re-architect information exchange: Re-wire network to strategic interconnection control points
2. Integrate capabilities with multicloud: Solve multicloud, application and data complexity with local integration.
3. Enable digital government: Scale global awareness and dynamic response with trust.
Become agile and fast, provide world-class services and innovate at the edge.
Innovating at the edge with ecosystems
Innovating at the digital edge requires more than just technology. Policies, people, processes and digital ecosystems all play a part in breaking down the silos that can inhibit innovation. Advanced public projects, such as those initiated through ai.gov, sponsored by the White House, are highly dependent on open data flows and cooperation between citizens, industries, public agencies, lawmakers and other players to make it work.
An interconnected ecosystem like Platform Equinix® can help break down the barriers to integrated data exchange and technological advancement. As the world’s largest interconnected ecosystem of organizations from every industry, Platform Equinix includes more than 9,800 companies, 2,900 cloud and IT providers and 1,800 network providers across the globe. Government network providers that provide contract vehicles such as GSA EIS, Networx and WITS are also part of the Equinix ecosystem. The diagram below highlights a few of the players emerging in the interconnected government ecosystem at Equinix.
Advancing to the next level of innovation in Federal digital government and maintaining global AI leadership will depend on collaboration and information exchange between agencies, industry, academia, IT providers, clouds and more. Leveraging the power of an interconnected digital ecosystem of world-class providers and organizations like Platform Equinix can help pave the way to success.
Learn more about enabling an interconnected government.
[iii] ITdashboard.gov, IT chapter from The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2019.
[v] Performance.gov, President’s Management Agenda: 2018 Full Agenda; Executive Office of the President, Implementation of the Modernizing Government Technology Act Memorandum, Feb 2018; Whitehouse.gov, Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure, May 2017