2019 Will Be The Year For Building Trust in Government IT, Says Federal CIO

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As more services are automated, agencies must keep the public’s trust by being transparent about the algorithms and data being used.

The Trump administration’s tech leaders were on a mission last year to update the various policy documents that underpin the federal technology ecosystem. With 2018 gone and those policies either revamped or in progress, the administration is looking forward to the next big task: building trust.

“Last year you heard me talk a lot about updating policies. The reason we did that was to get rid of the barriers and unlock the ability for agencies to aggressively pursue” digital transformation, Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said Monday during a keynote at the ServiceNow Federal Summit.

“But at the same time while we’re doing that, we have to foster public trust and confidence in how we’re applying analytics, automation, natural language processing and artificial intelligence,” she said. “And over the next few months, we’re going to be very focused on how we use those automated technologies in the federal government.”

Kent noted that trust can be built quickly through solid service delivery. For example, backup cameras on cars are a relatively new technology. But consistency in the technology built trust over a short period of time. For many, that established trust was enough to help them get behind self-parallel-parking cars.

“Those are examples of how quickly we can become comfortable and iterate and improve the experience,” she said. “Driving, moving, getting comfortable with the technology.”

In the federal space, building trust will mean introducing more transparency into the process, particularly around algorithms and data, Kent said.

“I’m going to spend time … improving the data quality and applying modern technologies to protect civil liberties and privacy so that we can make more data available, whether it’s for all the things we want to do better inside of government to serve citizens or for research for supporting the economy and the nation,” she said.