Report: Many Feds Don’t Believe the Hype About Emerging Tech

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Researchers found federal techies look at government IT the same way many see the Star Wars franchise: the newest installments might get tons of hype, but nothing can quite match the original trilogy.

Similarly, today’s tech gurus make headlines evangelizing blockchain and artificial intelligence, but most government technologists think more traditional IT delivers the most bang for the buck, according to a report published Wednesday by SolarWinds.

When asked what five technologies are most important to their agencies’ mission today, 97 percent of government IT specialists said hybrid IT and cloud services, and more that 70 percent pointed to automation and big data analytics. By comparison, roughly a quarter said artificial intelligence and machine learning, and just 4 percent included blockchain.

Even three to five years down the line, feds think mainstream tech will continue serving a major role in their agencies’ digital transformation.

More than 90 percent said their organization will rely heavily on cloud in the coming years, while 75 percent pointed to analytics and 65 percent to automation. Though roughly one-third of respondents said artificial intelligence and machine learning would become IT priorities, only 7 percent see blockchain as central to their organization's long term goals.

Cloud, analytics and automation were also voted the three technologies that would deliver the most return on investment.

“While today’s industry hype cycle focuses on technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain, in many cases it is possible that more traditional solutions—and more basic problems—are the most urgent priorities,” researchers said.

The survey, conducted by C White Consulting in December 2017, included 102 government IT specialists in the U.S. and Canada.

Despite their enthusiasm for traditional IT, most feds think their organization will have trouble putting the tech in place.

Cloud might be the tool that makes the biggest impact on government, but it’s also the one that’s most difficult to implement. More than 60 percent of respondents said their agency faces significant challenges rolling out cloud, and roughly half expressed similar concerns about automation and analytics tools.  

Few feds think their organizations are fully utilizing existing technology—just one-quarter of respondents reported their IT infrastructure was performing at optimal levels. Inadequate infrastructure, ambiguous modernization strategies and sparse investments were the top three barriers to improving performance.