Grading My 2019 GovTech Predictions

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Did I pull an Icarus and fly too close to the sun?

As the year quickly draws to a close, it’s time to grade my skills as a pundit and predictor of technological and government trends. Every year I try to predict the top technologies that will be advancing in government, and a few major issues that agencies will be facing. Then at the end of the year, I take a little time to grade those predictions. 

I think I’m probably one of the only columnists who actually go back and grade their predictions for accuracy. And some years, I really wish I didn’t. Just kidding. Even for times when my predictions have fallen flat, they have at least touched the pulse of what is hot in government technology. In my excitement, I may just overreach sometimes. But I can definitely see why so few other writers bother to go back and self-grade their accuracy. And if you are keeping score, back in 2018, I got almost everything right. 

Flushed with that success, I may have gotten a little too bold with my 2019 predictions. Did I pull an Icarus and fly too close to the sun? Let’s find out.

Prediction 1: At least some government agencies will embrace containerization for cloud computing.

Honestly, I didn’t think this would be a longshot prediction. Containerization is an amazing way to both develop could-based applications and to manage cloud environments. The technology also helps to establish a defensible perimeter, something that cloud computing by its very nature resists.

I could go on and on about the benefits of containerization as I have reviewed about a dozen container utility and security related products this year. Let’s see, containerization works great for DevOps, DevSecOps and Agile computing environments. It can help to streamline digital transformation efforts. Containers are fully portable and can be dragged and dropped into new environments. They also use fewer resources than with typical cloud computing. 

Throughout 2019, Nextgov had several well-informed guest columnists from private industry write about how government could benefit from containerization. I also heard quite a few speakers at conventions address it. However, government does not seem ready to bite just yet. I couldn’t find even one success story about a federal agency using containerization to support a program or its overall mission. Government is always cautious when embracing new things, so perhaps they will eventually try containerization. But for now, this is one prediction that fell flat.

Verdict: Not true!

Prediction 2: Government CIOs Get Real, Legal Power

This prediction came from a suggestion made by Frank Dimina, vice president of public sector for Splunk. I’m not blaming him for it, because it sounded really good to me too, enough that I included it in my 2019 predictions.

The idea comes from the fact that, in both industry and government, chief information officers, or CIOs, don’t have nearly as much power as other c-suite executives. In some private corporations, CIOs don’t even get to sit on the board, only attending meetings if one of the other officers invite them. It’s not quite that bad in government, but too often CIOs are looked at like glorified technical support workers instead of equal partners for planning out an agency’s mission as it relates to their technology and capabilities.

The Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2018, also known as H.R.6901 was supposed to change that. It would have given federal CIOs more authority over their budgets and workforce, as well as more of a voice in planning their agency’s direction. At the time of my 2019 predictions last December, the bill had passed the house and was sitting at the Senate. Things looked good for a quick passage there too. Unfortunately, it died when the year ended, having never gotten acted upon.

It was reintroduced in January as the Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2019 and designated H.R.247. It almost immediately passed the House once again. Unfortunately, it’s currently sitting with the same committee in the Senate as last year. The Senate does not seem to be passing very many laws in 2019, so it looks like the Federal CIO Authorization Act will die once again. And that is too bad, because this one would have done a lot of good.

Verdict: Not true!

Prediction 3: Quantum Computing Changes the Game

Leave it up to those little quantum bits that defy the traditional laws of physics to prevent me from getting totally shut out this year. Quantum computing has been studied for quite a few years now. There are many government and private partnerships in the United States trying to engineer a powerful quantum machine, and quite a few corporations trying to develop new technology on their own. There is even a bit of a quantum arms race going on between nations. Even so, quantum computing is a new and difficult science. Advances have been slow.

Good news for this country’s efforts came early with the passage of the National Quantum Initiative Act, which added $1.2 billion into the quantum research budgets for the Energy Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA and the National Science Foundation. But that was just the start.

In October, Google, which has been working on one of those aforementioned government partnerships with NASA, announced that it had achieved quantum supremacy, a term meaning that they built a quantum machine that could solve problems faster than any traditional computer ever could. Google claims that even a supercomputer would take 10,000 years to solve the same thing its quantum machine did in just 2.5 days. Although some other firms working on quantum computers, especially IBM, disputes Google’s claim, it’s clear that their quantum machine is quite impressive, and more innovations will follow.

There are so many amazing things that our nation could achieve as a leader in quantum computing. But we had to reach the supremacy milestone first. And this year, we did. So my prediction about quantum computing changing the game was most certainly true.

Verdict: True!

So there you have it. For various reasons, my average this year was pretty dismal. Perhaps we can look at the ones that didn’t pan out as a peek at what could have been. 

John Breeden II is an award-winning journalist and reviewer with over 20 years of experience covering technology. He is the CEO of the Tech Writers Bureau, a group that creates technological thought leadership content for organizations of all sizes. Twitter: @LabGuys