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These Are the Tech Trends Government Might Not Be Ready For

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Technology forces including the Internet of Things are changing public and private sectors alike, but governments face unique challenges in fully implementing emerging technology: outdated hiring practices and concerns about the privacy of citizen data, among others.

The federal government may soon be stymied by a shortage of young, creative IT workers qualified to design new technology strategies, according to a new Deloitte report. More than a third of federal workers will be eligible for retirement by 2017, the Government Accountability Office forecasts. Another report found that employees under 30 made up 7 percent of the federal workforce in 2013, an eight-year low. Many agencies are struggling to fill the open seats left by retirees, according to Deloitte.

A more modern IT workforce might require “fewer hard technical skills and more soft skills from disciplines like anthropology or sociology,” wrote Deloitte analysts Kristin Russell, Mark White and Paul Krein, the report’s authors. “The real work may involve bringing training, vendor management, and change management capabilities together to achieve an objective” and “not simply grinding out the work.”

The new federal IT workforce could promote application programming interfaces, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, among other new technology trends, the report said.

The chief information officer position is also evolving, according to Deloitte -- today, it is less of a technical role and more of a strategic one. Legislation including the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act authorizes CIOs to oversee more of the agency’s budget, for instance.

At the state level, lawmakers in Tennessee and Washington are working on legislation to consolidate departments, bringing processes, data and technology closer together, the report said.

The Internet of Things -- a connected network of devices, sensors and objects also known as “ambient computing” -- could be particularly useful to governments, the report said. The Department of Homeland Security already uses physical sensors at national borders that relay information back to analysts; the city of Boston uses sensors to manage traffic, among other examples.

More government groups are using APIs to connect with the public, the report said -- driven by “citizens' desire for more data, demands for improved customer service, and budget pressures to deliver more services with less funding.”

The city of San Francisco provides train routes and schedule data to developers, who have created several transportation-themed mobile apps, for instance.

But governments must take extra caution to protect the privacy and security of citizen data when providing that data to outside developers, the report noted -- a fact that could hinder government API deployment. And the legacy data systems, common in federal agencies, could make it harder for disparate data sets to come together in new ways.

Artificial, or “amplified,” intelligence is another potentially transformative technology trend, the report said. The intelligence community process calls and digital data to find potential terrorists, and NASA scientists are using machine learning to help astronauts prevent errors in space.

But “public sector organizations tend to lag behind their commercial counterparts,” the report said.

“Siloed data and data ownership can make it difficult for public sector organizations to harness amplified intelligence . . . creating a single, comprehensive data source to use as the basis for analysis might be almost impossible," the report authors noted. 

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