Critical Update: Peering Into the Agriculture Department’s Digital Transformation

One of the Agriculture Department’s top officials talks about how the agency is using technology to serve its customers better.

Technology's evolving ubiquitousness is forcing federal agencies to strategically rethink their legacy systems to better serve their increasingly tech-savvy customers. The Agriculture Department is embarking on an epic journey toward IT modernization and digital transformation to confront this issue head on.

In the latest episode of Critical Update, USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, Bill Northey, highlights how the agency is leveraging new technologies to enhance its service to farmers and producers across America. And to Northey, such an endeavor—continuing to operate while simultaneously making improvements and introducing new tech—is “like driving a car down the road 70 miles an hour and changing your tire at the same time.”

The undersecretary reflects on change management and highlights some of the agency’s key learnings drawn from its ongoing rollout of, a one-stop digital resource built around the needs of both customers and thousands of field employees through a streamlined, farmer-centered approach.

He also illustrates how the agency is harnessing technology to engage customers across multiple generations, including appealing to younger digital natives without disengaging customers who prefer legacy-based and internet-free interactions.

But digital transformations also require strong top-down leadership. In government panels hosted around Washington, there’s a sort of prevailing notion that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is effectively setting the stage for innovation across USDA and its thousands of field offices—and other agencies are taking note. Northey dives into the secretary’s unique leadership vision and concerted efforts to implement new technologies to make USDA workers more available to those they serve.

Tune in to the full episode below, or download and subscribe to Critical Update in the App Store or Google Play.

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