Public Sector IT Trends for 2017

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Not surprising, 2016 was a big year for cybersecurity at the state and federal level.

Tom Ruff is vice president of public sector at Akamai.

The government landscape is shifting, not just when it comes to technology, but culturally as well. Regarding technology, the increasing digital demands of the public are coming at the same time as additional technological guidance from the federal government.

On the cultural side, an incredible increase in young workers is coming at the same time as a decline of older workers facing retirement. All of this impacts the business of government and will be top of mind for agencies as they plan for the new year. But before we get into the specifics of this coming year, let’s take a look back at 2016, as some of the most compelling trends will likely carry into 2017 as well.

Biggest Changes in 2016

Not surprising, 2016 was a big year for cybersecurity at the state and federal level. The number and sophistication of breaches that occurred in 2015, along with distributed denial-of-service attacks that made headlines, brought to light what was previously an unfunded mandate. And everyone knew that had to change in 2016. Between the creation of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan and the federal chief information security officer, the government has put in place the first blueprint and budget around how it will deal with the increasing cybersecurity threat.

This will continue into 2017. The federal government is investing more money in cybersecurity, likely because of the continued frequency and scale of cyberattacks. This will lead to new and innovative approaches to address the problem in 2017, such as what we witnessed with the Defense Department's inaugural Hack the Pentagon program.

Another great trend in 2016, which is more of an evolution than a revolution, but applied to all levels of government, was the continued move towards digital. Government agencies embraced the mobile tsunami in 2016, putting more of a focus on the internet, mobile devices and social media to communicate with citizens and provide better services. And for good reason; 80 percent of traffic to government websites comes from mobile devices. They also adopted the BYOD culture and put in place the tools and systems to make it work.

Along the same lines, 2016 was a great year for government transparency. Agencies did a significantly better job of communicating their priorities and showing where they were spending their money.

Finally, in 2016 agencies made a big movement to the cloud and consolidating data centers and applications. Agencies began to see other agencies have a more consistent, manageable, secure experience in the cloud, some while saving money too, and felt comfortable to take it on themselves.

And the backing of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program helped make the transition easier for agencies. Technology providers did a great job of communicating the advantages of cloud and agencies realized these benefits, becoming more efficient, more agile and more secure. In fact, government spending on cloud went up, over 8 percent, up from 5 percent from the previous year.

Looking Ahead to 2017

Cloud adoption, particularly public cloud adoption, by government IT will continue in 2017. According to a recent General Services Administration report, 82 percent of government cloud adopters say they will spend more on cloud in 2017. But agencies are largely still invested in private cloud. In 2017, we’ll see that start to shift to public cloud, at least for non-mission-critical information.

A new trend for 2017 will be the prioritization of the internet of things. From a security perspective, after recent high-profile breaches, the federal government will up the ante in ensuring connected devices are secure. For state and local governments, IoT will come into play in helping agencies improve the services they provide to their constituents.

As agencies prepare for the administration transition and the new year, they should reflect on the progress of 2016. Agencies not only caught up with the unprecedented technological growth within the government, but found new ways to leverage this technology to engage with constituents. Expect agencies to take a big leap forward in 2017 as they get even more serious about cybersecurity, particularly related to IoT, and take a bigger chance on the cloud.

It’s promising to watch this progress—every advancement of public sector IT can yield benefits throughout the world. A technologically advanced U.S. government that is secure and efficient can advance innovation across all sectors around the globe.