3 Challenges to Modernizing Federal Government IT
Unlocking untapped potential within Federal data will help grow the economy, increase efficiency in government, and better address complex problems using data-driving approaches. To stay competitive globally, it is imperative that we make data more usable and accessible.”
Suzette Kent, Federal Chief Information Officer
The President’s Management Agenda, which calls for developing and implementing a comprehensive Federal Data Strategy, may be the start of the largest digital transformation in American history. After a year of research and development, a draft of the Year-1 Action Plan has just been released. Stakeholders from within and beyond the Federal Government are being asked to provide feedback no later than July 5, 2019.
The Year-1 Action Plan consists of sixteen objectives related to governing, accessing, sharing, collaborating, managing, and securing data; assessing training needs; and developing tools and resources to effectively utilize data. Each action step explains who is responsible; what outcome is expected; when it is due; and how success will be measured.
Achieving this objective comes with a number of significant challenges. Let’s examine three of them.
Challenge 1: Agencies have significantly different functions.
While there may be agreement that transforming the way data is gathered, stored, and shared among the Federal Government agencies will be advantageous, determining the guidelines for who will have access, and how it will be governed is much less clear. If the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Health and Human Services are to openly share their data, how will that impact the lives of Americans?
Differing purposes are covered in the Action Plan. It charges the Federal Government with establishing “a consistent framework for evaluating ethical repercussions and tradeoffs associated with data management and use.”
Challenge 2: The quality of existing agency data is not likely to be consistent.
How was the data gathered? When was it last verified? How has it been used? Might some of the parameters no longer be valid? These are just a few of the questions that will need to be addressed as government-wide data sharing becomes a reality.
The Year-1 Action Plan does include several directives to develop an automated inventory tool, data catalogs, and data strategy resources and tools.
Challenge 3: Existing agency personnel may not have the skills needed to fully execute and utilize a shared data vision.
How can I get my data into the cloud? Who will manage access control? What does ‘scrub data’ mean?
A successful transformation of government IT will necessitate identifying the critical data skills required to support high-quality analysis and evaluation, data management, and privacy protection; critical data skills among existing staff and addressing any gaps that are revealed.
To that end, training has also been addressed in the 1-Year Action Plan. It calls for the creation of a curated catalog of training offerings in data science aligned to Federal needs and a repository of tools and resources to assist with implementation and companion efforts. In addition, it calls for the creation of user-friendly interfaces that will simplify data access and analysis.
Natalie Komitsky is the Content Marketing Manager at Management Concepts and has been creating compelling content that tells a story, communicates an idea, and captivates the reader for more than a decade. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Nonfiction Writing and Editing from George Mason University.