Feb 22 2008

Next-Generation Government

Serving citizens and improving services into the future is beyond e-gov, Web 2.0 and LOBs — it’s about the data and exposing it securely.

Just mention data sharing and most feds start snoring, but it’s at the heart of citizen-centric, transactional government, says CIO Council Vice Chairman Dave Wennergren.

The use of service-oriented architecture is improving the ability of agencies to exchange information within their organizations, with other government organizations and with organizations and people outside of government, says Wennergren, deputy CIO at the Defense Department.

But agencies have simultaneously reached a place where administrative technology, systems security and work-flow applications intersect. To make the next leap forward to solve problems — by changing the way feds collaborate and tap knowledge —requires a focus on data, he says.

The CIO Council and the Office of Management and Budget both view the evolution of the e-government initiatives as more than just the use of technology within the information technology department. At issue is how to extend transactional IT use securely to government business processes. That’s why Wennergren and OMB’s E-Government and IT Administrator Karen Evans shun the terms Web 2.0 and e-gov 2.0 in favor of Gov 2.0. “The next e-gov is really IPv6,” Evans says.

Don’t use these terms as limiters, Wennergren suggests; instead, use them as excuses for IT to create collaboration tools and systems that support continuous services.

Speaking at a recent fiscal 2009 budget briefing held by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Wennergren and Evans were among a group of feds discussing what comes next for federal IT services.

“What we are doing will go on,” says Michael Duffy, Treasury Department CIO. There’s really no alternative because the government needs to provide services that are “convenient and easy, but still secure,” he says. From the Treasury perspective, that means making all federal financial services available all the time, electronically, just as they are in the financial industry.

Data That’s Secure

5% worldwide: That’s the number of environmental professionals that the Environmental Protection Agency represents. “What that means to me is that we need these collaboration tools to tap that experience out there” to get help solving environmental problems, says EPA CIO Molly O’Neill.

Wennergren offers the following mantra about what agency IT shops must encourage from all program managers: Make data visible, accessible and understandable. To do that and create secure collaborative networks, agencies need to focus on three areas:

  • identity: certifying who gets in;
  • attributes: validating each user (whether from inside the government or out) and their privileges;
  • tagged data: what can be exposed, by and for whom, and for what purpose.

These efforts all intensively involve IT, Wennergren says. On the cultural side, agencies still must break down barriers about sharing knowledge. On that front, he recommends that agencies track the government’s work on the Information Sharing Environment, which focuses on intelligence and homeland security exchanges, for ideas that civilian programs can piggyback on or borrow.

So what about security? It’s a fine line, says Evans, because “you can’t shut everything off and provide the services to the citizens.” Instead, agencies must leverage all the cross-agency initiatives — Internet Protocol Version 6, the Trusted Internet Connections program, the E-Gov initiatives and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 — to weave in security.

Security will become more collaborative, too, Wennergren says, with the focus moving away from intrusion detection and perimeter controls to resiliency and sustainability.