Many industry self-service options are available to make the process simple and safe. At the state level, citizens can access licensing, permits and case management options. By leveraging the Internet, security protocols and open standards, the government can provide greater service while reducing costs and overhead. A huge portion of government services are information based. There should be a consistent and simple method of requesting and receiving those services. Whether it’s scientific grants, Medicare payments, or military contracting, the government should look for the lowest-friction method of conducting transactions.
Additionally, many social networking tools and technologies that consumers are comfortable with could be leveraged in both running the government as well providing services. For example, using Twitter to convey important information and communicate directly with citizens during disaster relief. Or, another example is using Facebook for law enforcement to help identify suspects, etc. Social networking tools allow direct engagement with citizens, rather than relying on the proxy of government employees or elected representatives. That poses challenges, but even more it creates opportunities for engagement, responsiveness, accuracy and better services.
Set the Standard for Privacy Regulation
Today, we find ourselves facing a dual challenge. Personal privacy is protected through a combination of federal and state statutes, regulations and voluntary industry codes of conduct. However, individual information is being collected and shared, exchanged and sold legally without notice or input by citizens. The whole system requires an upgrade but, the U.S. government cannot feasibly police the entire country. The government must set the standard and create an example of industries to follow.
It must regulate the use of data to protect citizens’ privacy as government agencies and systems become more integrated. Increased integration means more controls need to be put in place to regulate the use of data and protect citizens’ privacy. While transparency is needed, data security must be top of mind.
We need to build a proof of concept using the federal government as a case study for the rest of the nation. That concept must clearly illustrate how sound, privacy policies could enable citizen control over information and create greater efficiencies—and at less cost for the government. Unfortunately, most people only assume any shared information is either bad or a violation of their rights. Unless citizens can visualize how they personally will benefit, this perception will remain.
One way to address that perception would be to identify cases that require a citizen to volunteer information that could make their lives easier. It should happen not just in one transaction (paying taxes or license renewal), but across many. For example, one compelling scenario in the business world is health care. Providing personal information to providers, insurance companies and employees can lead to better health care, reduced hassle for the consumers and save the companies involved money. Privacy becomes much less of a concern when there are mutual benefits for the parties involved and the right steps are taken to ensure security of that data.
As more and more federal systems become integrated, protecting that data becomes even more crucial for agencies and U.S. citizens.
State a Clear Business Case
How problems are solved is just as important as the solution. CIOs and CTOs at companies across the country must make the business case for their IT vision to business executives, providing rationale for recommended solutions and showing the business costs associated with them. The U.S. CIO and CTO also should provide a rationale for their plans and make a clear business case for how citizen dollars are spent to improve the government’s IT infrastructure.
As taxpayers, we’re all partial owners of the millions of government servers, applications and IT systems. It is important to explain the value of IT investments in a way that citizens can understand and support. Just as with enterprises, that value can come in many forms, but the common thread of all good business cases is that they are presented to the right people, and address a pain or need that is relevant and material.
Finally, as the new CIO and CTO create their new vision, they have the opportunity to include those of us in the private sector in the dialog and formation of this vision. The new U.S. CIO and CTO can become the ultimate role models for others in their same positions, creating a mantra for efficient business that provides secure access to its constituents.
That would be good business and good government.
Tyson Hartman is Avanade’s global CTO and VP of Enterprise Technology Solutions. Tyson is responsible for Avanade’s technology vision and R&D investments. He also leads the worldwide strategy and team driving Avanade’s business in application development, enterprise infrastructure and managed services that provide solutions across the complete enterprise IT lifecycle.
As CIO and corporate VP, Dale Christian guides the development of technical infrastructure and applications architecture for Avanade. He also works closely with Microsoft to ensure Avanade’s position as an aggressive early adopter of Microsoft enterprise technologies. Dale joined Avanade after more than 14 years at Microsoft, where he held a variety of IT leadership positions in application development and architecture. Most recently he served as general manager of application development for IT and managed solutions.