Will 2020 Be the Year of Data?


Agencies across the federal government are beginning to recognize the importance of data and data-driven decision-making.

As we charge ahead into the ‘20s, I imagine I join many of you in looking back on the past decade and ahead at what the coming years hold. One of the most remarkable stories is perhaps the incredible progress the federal government has made in IT modernization. With major acts and laws such as the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, FITARA, Cloud First and more, all taking place in the last decade, it is exciting to think about what the years ahead will now bring.

Yet, even with those initial inroads towards modernization, agency IT environments remain an intricate mix of technologies, policies, procedures and people that can stymie continued progress. As the world grows more digitally entwined, complexity will only intensify. With that reality in place, be ready for 2020 to be the year of data.

Indeed, we’ve already seen this progress of late with agencies across the federal government beginning to recognize the importance of data and data-driven decision-making. For example, the Census Bureau is leveraging data to power the 2020 Census and manage expected mis- and dis-information campaigns by those who wish us harm; Sandia National Labs is utilizing an automation-driven collaborative framework to create a next-generation cybersecurity tool.

Moving into 2020 we will see even more agencies begin to leverage data at a deeper level and use the enhanced visibility and insight in new ways to drive innovation, efficiency, and mission outcomes.

Specifically, here are my predictions for what federal IT will see in 2020:

1. Data will provide enormous value to government’s core missions, well beyond IT.

Data touches all aspects of an organization and has far-reaching benefits. We’re getting to a point where agencies see data as a real asset – the more data an agency has, the more it’s able to understand potential vulnerabilities, as well its own operational efficiency. Understanding the value data holds will elevate the role of the chief data officer (and others like it). However, to stay innovative, agencies will need to tear down silos created by outdated legacy systems within their IT environments to gain better visibility and reduce the risk of cyberattacks, as well as organizational barriers that can impede progress. All agency business units and mission areas must engage, asking new questions of data that might not be apparent. Removing organizational barriers will allow agencies to interrogate datasets for insights that otherwise might not be evident, and which can transform everything from cybersecurity to citizen experience to warfare. 

2. Malicious actors will attack machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are not just buzzwords. Government agencies are leveraging them to sift through hordes of data and provide fundamental analysis to better guide strategy and mission success. Attackers are well aware of this. I predict we will see a return to data poisoning attacks in 2020 that will threaten government agencies’ use of AI and ML algorithms. Manipulating data creates an opportunity for attackers to quietly overload a system with inaccurate data and disable the effectiveness of a learning model. Agencies should leverage solutions capable of providing full visibility into data sources and any third parties tapping into datasets.

3. Government will seize the opportunities of virtual and augmented reality. 

While virtual and augmented reality technology has created a significant footprint in the consumer and gaming industries, moving into 2020 it will expand into government agencies. Healthcare providers and other organizations will begin to leverage AR and VR in new ways, from training to telemedicine. The VR/AR market is expected to reach $210 billion by 2022, with AR making up a significant portion. Look for government agencies to find ways to incorporate this technology into manufacturing, logistics and other work environments to transform and create a more data-literate workforce.

4. New year, new uses for blockchain.

Many people instantly associate the word “blockchain” with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. In 2020, uses for blockchain will finally evolve beyond cryptocurrency, as agencies will realize advanced use cases to disrupt industries like security, governance and industrial environments. Agencies relying on blockchain will operate more efficiently with a higher level of confidence in their data. Because blockchain enables parties to share data securely, expect the technology to take a more significant role in agency conversations about modernizing citizen experiences for tasks like registering vehicles, filing taxes and more.    

IT leaders at federal agencies are well aware of the need to constantly innovate and are looking to data as the fuel to drive modernization. In the new year, it will be even more important for agencies to fully access and embrace the data at their disposal. By seeking platforms capable of providing real-time, data-driven insights, agencies will be able to make confident decisions and decisive actions in 2020 and beyond, staying in front of the trends above and bringing data to everything.

Juliana Vida is chief technical adviser for public sector at Splunk.